Quilts And Art In 2

Quilts And Art In “Everyday Use” Essay, Research Paper

Quilts and Art in “Everyday Use”With her story, “Everyday Use,” Alice Walker is saying that art should be a living, breathing part ofthe culture it arose from, rather than a frozen timepiece to be observed from a distance. To makethis point, she uses the quilts in her story to symbolize art; and what happens to these quiltsrepresents her theory of art.(thesis) The quilts themselves, as art, are inseparable from the culture they arose from. (topic sentence) Thehistory of these quilts is a history of the family. The narrator says, “In both of them were scraps ofdresses Grandma Dee had worn fifty and more years ago. Bits and pieces of Grandpa Jarrell’sPaisley shirts. And one teeny faded blue piece . . . that was from Great Grandpa Ezra’s uniform thathe wore in the Civil War.” So these quilts, which have become an heirloom, not only represent thefamily, but are an integral part of the family. Walker is saying that true art not only represents itsculture, but is an inseparable part of that culture. The manner in which the quilts are treated showsWalker’s view of how art should be treated. Dee covets the quilts for their financial and aestheticvalue. “But they’re priceless!” she exclaims, when she learns that her mother has already promisedthem to Maggie. Dee argues that Maggie is “backward enough to put them to everyday use.”Indeed, this is how Maggie views the quilts. She values them for what them mean to her as anindividual. This becomes clear when she says, “I can ‘member Grandma Dee without the quilts,”implying that her connection with the quilts is personal and emotional rather than financial andaesthetic. She also knows that the quilts are an active process, kept alive through continuousrenewal. As the narrator points out, “Maggie knows how to quilt.” The two sisters’ values concerning the quilt represent the two main approaches to art appreciation inour society. Art can be valued for financial and aesthetic reasons, or it can be valued for personaland emotional reasons. When the narrator snatches the quilts from Dee and gives them to Maggie,Walker is saying that the second set of values is the correct one. Art, in order to be kept alive, mustbe put to “Everyday Use” — literally in the case of the quilts, figuratively in the case of conventionalart. Alice Walker is using the quilts, and the fate of those quilts, to make the point that art can only havemeaning if it remains connected to the culture it sprang from. Her story itself is a good example:Walker didn’t write it to be observed under a glass case, judged aesthetically, and sold to thehighest bidder; she meant it to be questioned, to be explored, to be debated — in short, to be put to”Everyday Use.”


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