Cultural Trauma's Influence on Representations of African American Identity in Alice Walker's "Everyday Use"

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in English


Department of English


Advisor: Thomas Morgan


This analysis employs Ron Eyerman's Cultural Trauma: Slavery and the Formation of African American Identity as a conceptual lens to analyze representations of African American identity in Alice Walker's "Everyday Use." In Cultural Trauma, Eyerman implements two narrative frames, the tragic/redemptive and progressive, to explore how cultural trauma has influenced the identity formation of generations of African Americans from Reconstruction to the present. This literary analysis uses those narrative frames to investigate why the characters in "Everyday Use" form conflicting cultural identities and interpretations of heritage despite sharing racial and ethnic ties. Moreover, this study reveals that the contrasting representations of African American identity presented by the characters in "Everyday Use" are a result of the variance within the tragic/redemptive and progressive, narrative frames that shaped their respective worldviews. The fundamental differences between the progressive and tragic/redemptive frames lies in how they regard the African and the American, and how they interpreted the meaning of slavery. By examining "Everyday Use's" characters in the context of cultural trauma, this piece presents a balanced interpretation of the opposing two energies in "Everyday Use." Particularly, instead of offering a one-sided interpretation of the characters, as other critics have, this analysis focuses on the complexities within the diverse representations of African American identity presented in the story.


Literature, African American Studies, Cultural trauma, Everyday Use, African American identity, African American heritage, Alice Walker

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Copyright © 2019, author