Literary Essay Example: Parent-Child Relationships in Everyday Use and Marriage is a Private Affair

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Pages:  4
Wordcount:  1094 Words
Date:  2021-03-24


In Everyday Use, the characters are portrayed as individuals with different preferences and choices in life. The two sisters, Maggie and Dee's characterization possess some central differences between them. Maggie's character in Everyday Use is portrayed as shy, passive and reclusive. The narrator says she will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars The narrator also describes how Maggie has always thought her sister has held life in her hands. The description of Maggie in Everyday Use depicts her to be someone with a low sense of self worth and no confidence. On the other hand, her sister Dee is described as ambitious, outgoing, and confident as well as someone determined to make something good out of life. The narrator says that hesitation was no part of her nature. Her ambition was strong enough that she could stare down any disaster, and by the age of sixteen she already knew what style was as well as her own style.

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Relationship Between Mama and Dee in Everyday Use

In terms of relationship ties, Mama relates to her daughters in a lovely way. She strives to show fairness with her daughters without discriminating against any of them. It is for this reason that she does not give into Dee's request as she understands Dee is incredibly self assured and will stop at nothing to get whatever she wants. Mama's refusal to give Dee the quilts characterizes her as one who values family heritage and history which is symbolized by the quilts. The narrator upholds her heritage and culture although her daughter Dee has moved against traditions and heritage of her family; her mother does not approve of her physical appearance as well as her dressing. Dee is on a mission to link herself with her African roots to the extent of changing her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. In doing this, she has denied her immediate heritage that is shared by her mother and sister. She also has a partner from the Muslim community who the mother does not seem to approve.

Parent/Child Relationship in Marriage Is a Private Affair

In Marriage is a Private Affair, the relationship between Nnaemeka and Okeke is quite amicable. Nnaemeka is a faithful son who falls in love with a girl who Okeke does not approve of. This is where the father-son relationship begins to be portrayed openly. It is very clear that there is a generational and cultural conflict between parents and children. Okeke being from a small village in Nigeria expects his son to marry a girl of his choosing from Ibo village. Nnaemeka wants to marry a girl of his own choice without being subjected to the social norms of the community. In both of the books, it can be depicted that heritage and culture are the main themes. In both, children want to make their own choices of who to marry, what to wear and where to live. They are tired of being controlled by their parents; therefore they want their choices respected by the parents.

Central Conflict of Marriage Is a Private Affair and Everyday Use

In both books, conflict between parents and children is seen due to the generation gap. In Marriage is a Private Affair, the relationship between Okeke and Nene is that of marriage. They are related by marriage, as Okeke is Nene's father-in-law. The marriage between Nnaemeka and Nene is a source of conflict between Nnaemeka and his father. Okeke disapproves of this marriage as he believes his son should not marry out of his ethnic group. He also has a wife he has planned for his son. Okeke believes that women should not be teachers. He is in shock and exclaims, Teacher you say? He later disowns them after their marriage. In Everyday Use, conflict is also depicted between Dee and Mama due to the generation gap. Dee has changed her physical appearance and her mother is not happy about it.

Meaning of Heritage in Everyday Use and Marriage Is a Private Affair

The meaning of heritage is viewed in both books by both parties. Dee is angered by the oppression of the culture and therefore has created her own heritage and rejected her own heritage. She takes on a new name failing to see the family legacy of her old name. She does not understand that the new name and the African clothes as well as jewelry are all useless. What she considers as African heritage is actually false and empty as she has little understanding of Africa. Similarly, Nene does not understand and is angered by the fact that Okeke has to choose who Nnaemeka should marry. She does not understand why such practices should exist yet the centuries have changed. Marriage is an understanding between two people committing to one another and it should not be an arrangement between parents. Nnaemeka did forsake his culture and heritage and went ahead to marry the girl of his choice, without his father's approval.

Setting of Everyday Use and Marriage Is a Private Affair Setting

On the contrary to the setting in Marriage is a Private Affair, through the setting in Everyday Use the narrator takes us to her backyard and helps us familiarize ourselves with the place. The yard is comfortable like an extended living room. As the story continues, it is hard to tell exactly where in the World the place is, but we can guess the house is in a pasture as the narrator said she raised money to take Dee to Augusta. So, if we are betting on the location, the place would probably be in rural Georgia rather than Paris. The time would be the 1960s thanks to Johnny Carson reference. The setting of Marriage is a Private Affair takes place in Nigeria on Continent Africa. To be more specific, the relationship between Nene and Nnaemeka takes place in Lagos at 16 Kasanga Street. When Nnaemeka visits his father, the setting then changes to Ibo Village, Nigeria. We are not old of the time but we can guess it is a fairly modern setting. Due to the narrator's writing, we can assume it is in the 1950s.


In conclusion, people have different views and beliefs. Whatever beliefs they have be it marriage, love heritage and culture, their beliefs and choices should be respected. We are in the 21st century and people are now allowed to make their own choices. Our dressing styles should be our choices, who we marry should be our own choices but not compelled to do so. Therefore everyone's decisions should be respected despite their tribe or culture.

Works Cited

Walker, Alice. Everyday Use. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 8th ed. New York: Longman, 2002. 88-95.

Kelly, Judith. Marriage Is a Private Affair. New York: Harper, 1941. Print.

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Literary Essay Example: Parent-Child Relationships in Everyday Use and Marriage is a Private Affair. (2021, Mar 24). Retrieved from

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