When looking at families, whether in stories or films, one can spot the person within the family that is the outcast. Lars from Lars and the Real Girl and Maggie from “Everyday Use” both share the role of being an outcast, and it is evident by the way they are treated within their respective family. One can infer that Lars’ family and Maggie’s family are similar, in the way, they are both overlooked in their families and are negatively affected because of this. As Lars and the Real Girl begins, Lars is introduced.
Weisel-Barth argues that through loneliness Lars is able to reach a state of realness with himself. The author states, “The movie begins at Lars’s tipping point. Unless he does something to relieve his crushing loneliness, he will surely sink, like the father, into hopeless analytic depression” (Weisel-Barth 113). One can infer that Lars is a lonely and misunderstood individual who has disconnected himself from the world. Lars’ disposition at the beginning of the film is similar to his father, who takes pride in disconnecting himself from everyone.
To avoid becoming his father, Lars buys a sex doll which he uses to save himself from his loneliness. The sex doll Lars bought, is named Bianca, Bianca is given a religious backstory where she has done missionary work, and helped people, in the same manner, she will help Lars. As the film continues, one finds out that Lars lives in the garage, while his brother Gus and his wife Karin live in the house. This shows the separation within the family and how Lars has disconnected himself both mentally and socially.
This separation from the family makes one want to know the reasoning behind Lars taking the garage instead of a room in the house. However, Lars might have done this to be apart from the pain he felt when his mom died. Lars’ mother, who was also apart from the family, had her own room and didn’t stay in the same room as Lars’ father. The reason for this separation isn’t clear but, perhaps after she gave birth to Lars she became ill and needed her own space. Due to this separation in the family, Lars is forced to deal with life on his own, and becomes an outcast within his own family.
Lars has always been alone, and Gus never reached out to him to make him feel part of the family. An example of Gus distancing himself from Lars is when, Lars is talking to Bianca and he tells her how Gus would go out with his friends, and leave him behind with their father. As Lars tries to heal with the help of Bianca, Gus is reluctant to acknowledge the fact that Lars is crying out for help. Gus constantly says Lars is fine and he has always been this way, and he becomes concerned with what people will think when they see Lars and Bianca together.
Dreyer claims that a person who displays ostentatious behavior is acting out in order to seek help. The author writes, “Britney Spears barged into a beauty salon in Studio City, California, and shaved her own head and no one stopped her. [… ] It was what she needed to do to get help” (Dreyer 301). In the same manner, Lars buys a sex doll to grab people’s attention, and as a cry for help to find someone who will help him. Brittney Spears also displays ostentatious behavior by, shaving her head to grab people’s attention, and to find someone who could help her cope with her mental breakdowns.
In comparison to Lars and the Real Girl, Maggie from “Everyday Use” is constantly overlooked by her mother, who tries her best to appease her sister, Dee. The separation in the family is caused by, the different beliefs on preserving the family heritage of quilts. Maggie believes that the quilts should be used just as those before her, Dee, on the other hand, feels they shouldn’t be used but displayed for others to see. This tension puts their mother in the middle of it, and she has to choose between her two daughters. In all of Walker’s stories, there is a common theme, which is family.
Walker explores many family dynamics and she uses characters, such as Maggie, as her voice, so she can express her opinion on an issue. Whitsitt argues that quilts in “Everyday Use” symbolizes a tradition that is passed down from generation to generation. The author states, “While Walker was not the first to write about quilts, she was one of the first to write of the value of quilts in the Afro-American experience” (Whitsitt 443). Walker uses her story to describe the importance of preserving heritage, and uses Dee as a representation of what she feels is the wrong way to preserve heritage.
As previously stated, Walker uses Maggie as a way of telling her opinion, and the title of the story further expresses her stance on the issue. Along with her theme of family, Piacentino argues that Walker’s constant use of family reunions in her stories relates to her own experience with family. The author states, “One of the most endearing scenes in contemporary southern literature is the homecoming at the end of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (1982), showcasing the reunion of Celie with her family” (Piacentino 91). As seen in many of her works, Walker uses a family reunion as a source of approaching and resolving issues within a family.
As seen in “Everyday Use”, the mother sees the issue, but chooses to ignore it which causes the problem of sibling strife to grow. This causes a greater divide within in the family, resulting in Maggie being overlooked and pushed to the side. Towards the end of the story, one can see that the mother’s attitude towards Dee has changed. Donovan argues that Dee’s mom refuses to give her the quilts because she is tired of being treated like a child by her. The author states, “Mom realizes how protective Dee is of what she wants. Mom gets tired of always doing what Dee wants, even if it puts Maggie down” (Donovan 83).
Dee’s constant put downs towards both Maggie and their mother have reached its boiling point, and the mother can no longer overlook the issue. The mother has always given her time to Dee, and Dee has always walked over her, and the mother is tired of being treated like a child. In response to Dee wanting the quilts, the mother tells Dee she can’t have the quilts and turns her attention to Maggie. Maggie sees this, and instead of holding onto the quilts, she gives them to Dee. As the story progresses, one can see that Dee is able to control her family through her verbal skills.
Tuten argues that there is a use and abuse of language portrayed in Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”. The author states, “Dee manipulates and oppresses both her mom and her sister through her verbal skills” (Tuten 125). Dee uses her verbal skills to get what she wants, and this is evident in the way she degrades Maggie to secure the quilts for herself. Although Dee is smooth with her words, she lacks common sense and the knowledge of her family heritage. Maggie gives up the quilts, not because she gives into Dee, but that she knows the true value of the quilts.
One can also see that Dee is ashamed and embarrassed by her childhood, and the only reason for her visit is not to see her family, but to see what she can bring back to her home for decorations. Once the mother is able to understand her motive, she tells her she can’t have the quilts and gets upset at Maggie for giving them to her. Lars and Maggie are not only overlooked, but they both have dominant siblings that seem to always get their way, and this has negative effects on them. Gus chooses his friends over Lars and is more concerned about how Lars’ weirdness will affect his self-image.
When Dee returns home, she had little to no respect for her mother, nor Maggie. Dee feels superior to her mother, and looks down on her and feels entitled to everything. Therefore, one can conclude that both Gus and Dee walk out on their families to fulfill their own agenda and to better themselves. Since both Lars and Maggie are the outcast in their family, they have to deal with being alone. In the beginning part Lars and the Real Girl, one sees the inside of the garage where Lars spends most of his time. Before Lars gets Bianca, Lars would wait at the edge of his bed and wait patiently in the dark for the next day.
Once he gets Bianca, Lars’ whole demeaner changes, Lars is excited to get out and wants to show Bianca around the town. While doing this, Lars is healing, he can talk to Bianca about everything that has ever bothered, and he has the safety of knowing that she won’t judge him. In “Everyday Use”, Maggie spends her alone time getting a better understanding of her heritage. She does this by, learning how to quilt from her grandmother, and understanding that the heritage they have comes from the bond of learning and making quilts.
By comparing these two characters to one another, one can see that they are the outcast within their family, but they play a huge role in reconstructing it. Bianca not only help Lars get the help he needed, but she helped bring Lars and Gus closer together and this allowed Gus to get a better understanding of his brother. Dee revealed her true colors when she came home to visit her family and was only after her mother’s possessions. Walker explains that the quilts are meant for everyday use, and the quilts allows one to add onto the heritage through the use of the quilts.
In Lars and the real girl, one can see how isolation plays a role in a family, and the different ways the individual handles it, and the problems that stem from it. In conclusion, one can infer that Lars’ family and Maggie’s family are similar, in the way, they are both overlooked in their families and are negatively affected because of this. By comparing these stories and their characters, one can see how the dominant sibling plays a role in the negative effects that their sibling faces. Both Maggie and Lars, show that through their pain, they remain true to themselves, and help reconstruct their families.