Comparison of Two Short Stories

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Everyday Use by Alice Walker and A Clean, Well-Lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway are stories which pack a lot of meaning into a short space. Skilled short story writers carefully select every word and construct every sentence with the purpose of achieving a specific effect and reinforcing a particular theme.


To a person who understands and truly lives their heritage, such as Maggie Johnson, cultural items are for every day use. For others, such as Dee Johnson, these items are related to a culture she believes she has lost, and not to the reality of her life. Dee struggles with the apparent incompatibility of her family heritage and the Black heritage that is filtered through the context of American life, while Maggie has already successfully integrated her life and her culture. This is made apparent by the way in which the two sisters view their mother's quilts - Dee wants to use them as decorative pieces, while to Maggie the quilts are things to be used for their intended purpose, and more importantly to evoke memories of the ancestors who created them.
In A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, Hemingway turns the story's setting into the theme of the story itself, in contrast to Walker, who exposes her story's theme in the way her characters interact with and attach meaning to everyday objects. In Hemingway's story, the caf is a "clean and pleasant" (Hemingway) place where consolation and comfort is provided for a few hours to the people who come to it. The light of the caf is comforting and welcoming and drives out fear and dread, and for a few hours, an old man who lives in dark and despair can feel dignity and peace. ...
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