Alice Walker Heritage Essay

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“Heritage” In “Everyday Use,” Alice Walker tells the story of a mother and her two daughters’ conflicting relationship based on identity and ancestry. Mama, the narrator of the story, describes herself as a strong, big-bonded woman, sometimes burdened by her daughters Dee and Maggie. Mama’s inner monologue demonstrates how slow she turned away from the external values of her older daughter in approval of internal values of her younger daughter. The story focuses on the bonds among the three women and their long-lasting inheritance, symbolized in the quilts each contrived together. This connection among generations remains strong until Mama’s older daughter Dee came to visit, after being away for some time. Dee’s arrival and lack of understanding of her history creates conflict, after she interrupts the true meaning of the family inheritance for her own desires. When Maggie suggests the quilt be given to her older sister, Mama began to see Maggie in a different light. Walker uses Maggie and Dee to suggest heritage holds deep significance. Dee and Maggie are as different as hot and cold, but unlike Maggie, Dee has a much more superficial idea of heritage. She brings shame and agitation among her family members, but as an individual she searches for personal meaning and a stronger sense of self. Mama describes Dee as self-centered, but smart and beautiful, who sees herself as in control of her life. “She used to read to us without pity; forcing words, lies, other folks’ habits… ignorant underneath her voice. She washed us in a river of make-believe” (Walker 477). Names are extremely important in representing a person’s cultural heritage and shows that person’s spirit. Dee, bounded by her selflessness, rejects her culture by changin... ... middle of paper ... ...wly found By rejecting her origins, Wangero become the product of the soil she planted herself in. She thinks traditions are archaic and no longer relevant, and that they are unnecessary during these modern times. “You just don’t understand… Your heritage… It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live you’d never know it” (Walker 482). But for Maggie and Mama, exploring their cultural heritage is very beneficial. It gives them a connection to their social values, beliefs, customs and religion. Just as Wangero rejected her family, so have they rejected her. Mama sees heritage in the quilts and believes that Wangero has neglected everything she stood for. Instead, Mama turns to Maggie and handed her the quilts. Maggie had proven that she respects and acknowledges the family’s culture and understands that her heritage holds deep significance.
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