Two Interpretations of the Conflict of Generations

Compare and Contrast Essay Introduction

Edgar Allan Poe and Alice Walker have not so much in common except that they both are American writers. In the same way, Three Sundays in a Week by Poe and Walker’s Everyday Use share some details despite the fact that both stories describe people from different cultural, economic, and educational groups, and even from different epochs (Poe lived in XIX century, while Walker – in XX).


Such convenience allows to provide a deep analysis of both stories and compare their main points. The common motifs of the stories give enough basis for their comparison, and their differences help to interpret difficult aspects of one story through the vivid details of another. Both Poe and Walker show the problem of the internal contradictions within a family as the result of the conflict between generations. Besides, Poe makes an accent on the personal motif, while Walker emphasizes the theme of common tradition.

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Similarities of Edgar Allan Poe and Alice Walker Stories

Both stories show the relationships within one family. Thus, for a higher degree of realism, Walker and Poe tell their stories using the first-person point of view. The main characters are members of the families and their friends (Mama, Maggie, Dee, and Dee’s boyfriend Hakim in Everyday Use; Uncle Rumgudgeon, Bobby, Kate, and two captains in Three Sundays in a Week). Furthermore, the action takes place only inside the house of the particular family. In such a way, a closely connected collective of relatives and their contradictions are in the center of narration. The differences in the socialization of the characters caused various disagreements.

Apparently, both Mama and Uncle Rumgudgeon belong to the previous generation, while Walker’s Maggie and Dee, and Poe’s Bobby and Kate are young. The conflict between two generations appears through their inability to understand each other. Thus, Bobby’s phrase about his grand uncle: “my own inkling for the Muses had excited his entire displeasure” (Poe) is equal to what Dee said to her old-fashioned sister: “It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live you'd never know it” (Walker). Both Bobby and Dee consider the previous generation to be too old-fashioned.

Differences between "Three Sundays in a Week" and "Everyday Use"

At the same time, the main difference between the stories is their main focus. The narrator of Everyday Use is Mama, who belongs to the older generation, while Bobby, the narrator from Three Sundays in a Week, belongs to the younger one. For this reason, Walker interprets the situation through the prism of Dee’s incorrect understanding of her own tradition, while Poe is on the side of the new generation who cheats great uncle Rumgudgeon only to become free from his inconsistent pretentions. This detail shows that Poe’s story is devoted to the theme of personal relationships. Conversely, Walker accents the reader’s attention on the values of collective memory, correct interpretation of tradition and “to the problems of African Americans who risk deracination in their quest for personal authenticity” (Cowart). As for Poe, there is no clear political or cultural context in his story, only an illustration of a generational conflict.

Compare and Contrast Essay Conclusion

Both authors used the same theme of the internal conflict within a family, but each of them provided a different interpretation by narrating their stories from the viewpoints of different generations. Walker’s Mama offers the reader to share a traditional point of view while Poe’s young Bobby protects his and Kate’s future from their uncle’s patriarchal power. As a result, Poe and Walker describe the same generation gap issue from different perspectives.

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