Everyday Use of Symbolism
A symbol is a person, object, action, or idea whose meaning transcends its literal or denotative sense in a complex way. Symbolism is the use of symbols to denote a deeper meaning in a story. Symbolism in stories can show or relate to many things. Some symbols relate to the theme, or themes, of stories. Other symbols relate to the characters and their personality. Alice Walker uses both types of symbolism in her story, “Everyday Use”. Symbolism is used in the scars on Maggie’s arms and legs, with Mama’s hands, and with colors of Dee’s clothes.
Walker displays symbolism in regards to Maggie’s scars. Maggie is a quiet person. She was always a recluse, of sorts, due her appearance. She is not as pretty as her sister Dee and that low self-confidence is shown with her outward actions. This is further magnified after the other house burned down. Walker exemplifies this when Mama says, “Have you ever seen a lame animal, perhaps a dog run over by some careless person rich enough to own a car, sidle up to someone who is ignorant enough to be kind to him? That is the way my Maggie walks. She has been like this, chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle, ever since the fire that burned the other house to the ground (518). Her scars are an outward showing of the way that Maggie feels inside. She is not very attractive, not very smart, and now is externally scarred, causing her self-esteem to be severely low. Another example of physical properties being used as a symbol would be Mama’s hands.
Walker has represented Mama’s personality through her very rough and firm hands. This is understandable because she has been both parents for her children. Maggie and Dee’s father is never mentioned; he obviously was not there to help raise Maggie and Dee causing her to be more firm and less prim and proper like Dee would have wanted her. His absence also caused her to have to take on jobs that were more suited for men. She began to...