Not too long ago, grandparents will tell family stories to their grandchildren. Parents will also tell their children family stories. Those family stories will contain family history, struggle and heroism of family members. Also, those stories will pass down the family values and traditions to the next generations. Now a days, most parents read stories from books to their children. Family story telling is an almost lost tradition because it is not practiced anymore. In her short story “Everyday Use”, Alice walker illustrates the importance of keeping a tradition alive other than preserving it.
Dee was part of the educated culture of African Americans that were promoting their freedom. When Dee went to visit her family she wore a long dress, long gold earrings, and her hair standing straight up on that hot summer day. Dee is not dress like everyone else, she’s in her “African” attire. (Hoel) Dee is no longer the child her mother raised; Dee is a completely different individual with a completely new life style, even a new name. Dee has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. With this name change she believes it make her closer to her heritage and relieves her from her oppressors. Dee knows very little about heritage. Heritage is defined as something that is handed down from the past, as a tradition. (Dictionary) The name Dee is the name or nicknames of many women in the family. Dee’s name can be traced back to the civil war and beyond but Dee does not understand the importance behind the name she believes her oppressors gave the women in her family. Yakima-Barber is Dee’s Muslim friend that 's visiting mama with Dee, Mama believes he might be Dee’s boyfriends husband. Yakima-Barber claims the Muslim faith but is unwilling to commit to their hard labor principles. Dee and Yakima-Barber are two individuals with misapplied assumptions of that
“Girl” was a decent short story. I’m not a big fan of the structure, however, most of the advice the mother gave was good like catching fish, setting the table for dinner, and washing clothes. The mother was very concerned regarding the girl’s future. She wanted her daughter to have basic knowledge of how to complete daily tasks for survival. I think the short story is a collection of advice the mother gave to the girl over several years. I didn’t like how it seemed as though the mother thought it were inevitable the daughter would become a slut. Although in different wording and tone, most girls will eventually have that conversation where the mother instructs them on basically becoming a woman.
The quilts play an important role in depicting symbolism of heritage because they signify Dee’s family origins. For instance, Dees’ significant family members all have pieces of their fabric sown on to the quilts as a remembrance of who they were and their importance in the family. Nevertheless, Dee is overlooking important facets of her family history because she does not see the quilts her ancestors made as valuable, hand-made, pieces of fabric that should be passed down and taken care of to keep their history alive. As Mama stated, “In both of them were scraps of dresses Grandma Dee had worn fifty years and more years ago. Bits and pieces of Grandpa Jarrell’s paisley shirts. And one teeny faded blue piece, about the size of a penny matchbox, that was from Great Grandpa Ezra’s uniform that he wore in the civil war.” (1129). Despite her family’s history, Dee continues to misinterpret the...
In the beginning of the story, Dee (Wangero) is introduced as someone that needs to be impressed. The narrator has a fantasy about being reunited with Dee (Wangero) (393). She is described as being beautiful and a wonderful daughter with many good qualities. Besides being beautiful, she is confident. Instead of feeling suppressed because of the color of her skin, she is able to look people in the eye (394). Dee (Wangero) is also educated and the way she talks shows it. She is also opinionated and her family is intimidated by it. Dee’s (Wangero’s) qualities are overall good qualities to have, but I feel like she uses them to act better than her family. The fact that she had changed her name to Wangero (397) and demanded the quilts while she was visiting made me feel that she was superficial. She did not even want the quilts when they were first offered to her before she went to college (400). I do not think it is right to change your family name and then come home and request family heirlooms. Dee (Wangero) always seems to get wha...
The main objects of topic throughout the story are the quilts that symbolize the African American Woman’s history. Susan Farrell, a critic of many short stories, describes the everyday lives of African American Women by saying “weaving and sewing has often been mandatory labor, women have historically endowed their work with special meanings and significance” and have now embraced this as a part of their culture. The two quilts that Dee wanted “had been pieced together by Grandma Dee and then Big Dee and me [Mother] had hung them on the quilt frames on the front porch and quilted them” (par. 55) showing that these quilts were more valuable as memories than they were just blankets. The fabrics in the quilts “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, about the piece of a penny matchbox, that was from Great Grandpa Ezra’s uniform that he wore in the Civil War” (par. 55) putting forth more evidence that these are not just scraps, but have become pieces of family history. The q...
Alice Walker's "Everyday Use," is a story about a poor, African-American family and a conflict about the word "heritage." In this short story, the word "heritage" has two meanings. One meaning for the word "heritage" represents family items, thoughts, and traditions passed down through the years. The other meaning for the word "heritage" represents the African-American culture.
When Dee returns and announces that she would be using a new name in order to reflect her African heritage her Mom becomes annoyed and starts to find her attitude ridiculous. After Dee tells her Mom that she no longer goes by Dee, Mom replies, “What happened to ‘Dee’?”(488). The fact the Mom asks about these changes exemplifies this annoyance she has with Dee. When Dee explains she changed her name because she’s oppressed her Mom shows that she finds the attitude ridiculous by pointing out it is a family tradition spanning more than 4 generations. When Dee starts asking to have the items that her Mom and Maggie need for everyday use with the intent to appreciate it as art, it only furthers how much she irritates her Mom. Dee had been offered one of the quilts before she went to college Dee thought they were, “old-fashioned, out of style.”(490). It’s after Maggie agrees to give Dee the quilts that her Mom realizes that she has always given Dee everything she wanted even at Maggie’s expense. Mother had an epiphany about how to handle the situation, shown when she says, “Something hit me on top of the head”, “just like when I’m in church and the spirit of God touches me”(492). Dee’s attitude had annoyed the Mom so much she had this realization. For once the Mom decides to stand up against
Dee makes it clear, long before she asked for the quilts, that she has already taken her heritage for granted. Dee makes the bold proclamation that she is not longer going by the name Dee, “‘Not Dee,’ Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo!’” (Walker, 3013). Not only has “Wangero” shocked her mother with her new name, but goes to attack those her family history, “I could not longer bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppressed me.” The author make a substantial point by connecting Dee’s new beliefs to disowning her heritage and her ancestors. Despite the rejection of her family’s humbled life, Dee finds a desire in the quilt of her family’s past. Dee’s request for the quilts is far from nostalgic and she has little consideration for her sister when she asks for both antique quilts. Dee is in love with the idea of displaying her family as a display of her superiority over her ancestors and can not understand why her mother would not agree with her.
While reading this there were some animosity toward Dee because of what type of character she was. The animosity was caused by the numerous comments and actions that occurred in the story. She was very selfish, uneducated, and very unappreciative of where she came from. Dee carried herself in a very ridiculous way. Among Dee’s family she is the object of jealousy, awe, and agitation, meanwhile she searches for her purpose and sense of self. Dee and her judgmental nature has an effect on Mama and Maggie, her younger sister. Although she across as being arrogant and insensitive, Mama sees he strive to know more and do more. Dee also portray as being a condensing type person because no matter where Mama and Maggie lived she still kept her commitment to come and visit. When Dee comes to visit she tells Maggie and Mama that she has changed her because Dee had died when she left for college. Dee changed her name to Wangoero, which come across as being an attention seeking ploy who still keeps the selfishness of Dee. With Dee changing her name to Wangoero she wants to reclaim her heritage and honor
In Alice Walker's "Everyday Use," the message about the preservation of heritage, specifically African-American heritage, is very clear. It is obvious that Walker believes that a person's heritage should be a living, dynamic part of the culture from which it arose and not a frozen timepiece only to be observed from a distance. There are two main approaches to heritage preservation depicted by the characters in this story. The narrator, a middle-aged African-American woman, and her youngest daughter Maggie, are in agreement with Walker. To them, their family heritage is everything around them that is involved in their everyday lives and everything that was involved in the lives of their ancestors. To Dee, the narrator's oldest daughter, heritage is the past - something to frame or hang on the wall, a mere artistic, aesthetic reminder of her family history. Walker depicts Dee's view of family heritage as being one of confusion and lack of understanding.
To begin with a quilt is defined as a “coverlet made of scrapes and fragments stitched together to forming a pattern” (Webster). The quilt in “Everyday Use” was made by Grandma Dee, Big Dee, and Mama from scraps of dresses and shirts and part of Grandpa’s Civil War uniform. It is filled with memories and was hand stitched by the family. Mama suggests that Dee take other ones, but Dee rejects the offer because they were “stitched by machine”(Walker, p.114) and the old ones were done by hand. Mama says that she had promised them to Maggie. Dee then replies that Maggie would “be backward enough to put them to everyday use” (Walker,p.114). Mama says she hope Maggie will use them every day. This begins what is means to use and misuse heritage.
Dee's physical beauty can be defined as one of her biggest assets. The fact that Maggie sees Dee "with a mixture of envy and awe" (409) cues the reader to Dee's favorable appearance. The simplistic way in which Walker states that "Dee is lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure" (410) gives the reader the idea that Dee's beauty has made it easier for her to be accepted outside her family in society. We are left with the impression that Dee's appearance is above average. Walker plays on Dee's physical beauty to contrast the homeliness of Maggie and her mother. Walker goes so far as to describe her feet as "always neat-looking, as if God himself had shaped them with a certain style" (411). In describing Dee's feet, Walker is giving the impression of perfection from head to toe. Dee's outward beauty has "made her transition from poor farm girl to that of an educated, middle-class black woman possible" (Allen-Polley 11). Needless to say, Dee doesn't seem comfortable with her past and therefore has a difficult time accepting her future. It is as though she is not really connected with her family anymore. She simply needs them to fulfill their positions in her recreated past.
Dee, the older sister, wants to hang the quilts on a wall and view her culture from a distance. In fact she even seems ashamed of her family situation. In a letter to her mother Dee says, " . . . no matter where [they] choose to live, she will manage to come and see [them], but she will never bring her friends" (87). She even goes as far as to denounce her name because she claims, " I couldn't bear it any longer being named after the people that oppress me" (89). However, her mother states that she was named after her aunt and grandmother, the very people who made her beloved quilts. She makes it apparent that her idea of appreciating her culture is to leave it alone, especially when she says, " Maggie can't appreciate these quilts! She'd probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use"(91).
At the end of the day, I see Dee's character as a weakness because with all the education and sophistication she does not know the true importance of family and heritage. It is ironical that she tells her mother and sister that they do not understand their heritage, because it does seem that she does not know anything about it either she did change her name after all. Personally, I think that one should not live in isolation of ones history because it defines who you are. Irrespective of the kind of education and experiences Dee has, she should understand that culture can never be acquired. Culture can never be turned on and off at will, but that culture is lived. Finally, Intelligence plus good character is the goal of true education.