Sites of Resistance in Alice Walker and Leslie Silko

Seminar Paper, 2010

17 Pages, Grade: 3



1. Introduction

2. Theory Part

3. Comparative Analysis of ‘‘The Storyteller’’ and ‘‘Everyday Use’’
3.1. Homeplace
3.2. Community
3.3. Cultural Survival

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

6. Appendix

1. Introduction

'’...It will take a long time, but the story must be told. There must not be any lies.''

[Silko.’’The Storyteller’’:26]

’’In both of them were scraps of dresses Grandma Dee had worn fifty and more years ago. Bits and pieces of Grandpa Jarrell’s Paisley shirts. And one teeny faded blue piece…that was from Great Grandpa Ezra’s uniform that he wore in the Civil War.’’

[Walker.’’Everday Use’’:56]

At first glance, these two quotations taken from ‘’The Storyteller’’, written in 1981 by Leslie Marmon Silko and ‘’Everyday Use’’ written by Alice Walker in 1973 might not have anything in common, but after reducing the above described activities to their marrow we can discover similarities between them.

In both short stories ‘culture’ is an important theme, which on the one hand creates a strong feeling of community and on the other hand plays a decisive role for the characters to escape from troublesome realities. Before examining and comparing the different elements that can be encountered, I would like to define my own understanding of the term ‘culture’, since it connotes a very subjective and broad spectrum of meanings. In this paper I will therefore assume ‘culture’ as the inherited traditions within a certain ethnic community that have been passed on from generation to generation in order to retain special values and beliefs of this respective community, which can also share language, class or gender aspects. However one must bear in mind that there are several more meanings and understandings for the word ‘culture’ and one might never really find a perfect definition that comprises all facets.

While in ‘’Everyday Use’’ quilting acts as the tradition that builds up a common element for the African American community, the element of cultural heritage in ‘’The Storyteller’’ is the oral transmission of stories among the Inuit community. These traditions not only form essential elements in the respective communities, but also help the characters to overcome certain pain or unfulfilled wishes. In the comparative analysis of this term paper the two short stories will be examined by means of investigating three important aspect, firstly the ‘’home’’-element, as well as the ‘’community’’-element and lastly the ‘’cultural survival’’ at parts emanating from the two previously mentioned elements.

The title of this paper originates from the text ‘’Homeplace’’ by Bell Hooks, who accurately states that the ‘’homeplace’’ can act as a site of resistance and survival.

This term paper therefore aims at finding parallels by comparing the two short stories ‘’Everyday Use’’ by Alice Walker and ‘’The Storyteller’’ by Leslie Marmon Silko in a way that will prove that in both texts simple traditions generate a sense of community, amount to essential elements of cultural heritage and develop ‘homeplaces’ into sites of resistance aspiring to cultural survival of heritage and the community values.

2. Theory Part

When we think of different concepts of ''Home'' in American feminist scholarship, we result in a distinction of four theoretical concepts that will be presented on the basis of four texts which support and develop quite different ideas and understandings of ''Home''.

The first concept is presented in Betty Friedan's ''The Problem that has no Name'' which depicts the role of women in the post-war era of the 1950's in the United States. This era became known as the baby boom Generation, in which women for the first time after the war were granted the luxury to stay at home and give birth to many children instead of being dependent on hard work. This freedom was not only available to the upper class anymore, but it was also the beginning of the US middle class which could afford this kind of lifestyle. The idea was that everybody was able to own their own home. People believed in the ideal picture of a perfect family with loads of children living in a perfect house preferably somewhere in the suburb in a nice neighborhood and enjoying a certain wealth. In this picture the woman's occupation was ''housewife'' and she was expected to lead the perfect household. This new cult of domesticity developed a new ideology about home, family and work- therefore also a new ideal of womanhood. At that time women were taught by magazines and television shows how to act and how to be a good woman, mother and wife. Friedan describes that these values of domesticity were assigned to women by society and gave them their identity. This meant a cultural revolution to the people, which contrasted with the technological revolution that took place during the 1950's. For the first time in history devices such as a television or a fridge were affordable to everybody. Successful life was desirable and free time was used to socialize with other people on occasions like housewarming or tea parties. However the huge problem of this ''idyll'' was that women had no possibility to develop their own personality, could not be themselves, felt alone and empty and not worth anything because their roles were predetermined. The woman was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question: 'Is this all?'“ (Friedan: 1) Friedan tries to explain that women have been encouraged or even forced to learn a very narrow definition of “true” womanhood: education and career aspirations were totally put behind the „wish“ to be a loving wife and caring mother. This resulted in the total loss of individuality-women were no longer ''women'' but ''mothers'' and ''wives''. Women could not get together in order to talk about this ''Problem'' that gave their lives no fulfillment and most notably they could not name it, as we learn from the title of the text. In society there was no room to discuss these problems, especially since women did not even know what it exactly was that made them feel so discontent. It was seen as women's fault because there was no logical way to make sense that somebody in this situation, who can afford to stay home, can be unhappy. Friedan's final message in her text is that, after women have fought for equal rights such as the right to vote, the right to own property and the right to education, staying at home is a disgrace. She believes it means a step back in the evolution of feminism, which in her opinion is not an achievement.

The concept of ''At Home'' is a very different one in Virginia Woolf's ''A Room of One's Own'' due to the fact that she describes the prerequisites of a home for a female author. In the title the main message can already be encountered. Woolf argues that ‘’…a woman must have money and a room of her own in order to write fiction’’ (Woolf:4). The difference to other women is, that they normally run the entire household and do not have their own room, although the house is their ''working place''. This privilege to have an own room and lock all the others away with a key was only granted to men. For her this freedom is essential for the act of writing and she explains that a female writer needs enough money to ''think about a metaphor for a whole day''(Woolf:11) and a room of her own. She states that women are able to produce creative work as effectively as men, if they had the same opportunities. Even something primitive like an own room, a private space, a refuge where your personal ideas can develop is given to men without questioning but refused to women. The criticism on this concept however is, that women who have a family and children to look after, are not included in Virginia Woolf's vision of a ''Room of one's own''; in a broader sense this means that the entire working class of women is not part of this picture. This raises the issue of money because most of the women simply did not have the luxury to write. The problem with this concept is that Virginia Woolf speaks as if this was true for everybody.


Excerpt out of 17 pages


Sites of Resistance in Alice Walker and Leslie Silko
University of Graz  (Amerikanistik)
Literary Proseminar
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ISBN (Book)
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sites of resistance, Alice Walker, Leslie Marmon Silko, home
Quote paper
Mag. Katharina Kirchmayer (Author), 2010, Sites of Resistance in Alice Walker and Leslie Silko , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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