Family Heirlooms In Everyday Use By Alice Walker

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Everyday Use: Family Heirlooms In her short story Everyday Use, Alice Walker talks about a Mother Mama, and her two daughters Dee and Maggie, their personalities and reactions to preservation of their family heirlooms. She shows that while Dee has been sent to school for further education, Maggie is left at home and brought up in the old ways. Mama often dreams and longs for the day she can be reunited with Dee, like in the TV shows. She knows this may not be possible because Dee would read and shower them with a lot of knowledge that was unnecessary, only to push them away at the right moment, “like dimwits” (313); Mama and Dee have different conceptions of their family heritage. Family heirlooms to Mama means the people created, used…show more content…
The quilts were pieced together by Mama, Grandma Dee, and Big Dee symbolizing a long line of relatives. The quilts made from scraps of dresses worn by Grandma Dee, Grandpa Jarrell’s Paisley shirts, and Great Grandpa Ezra’s Civil War uniform represented the family heritage and values, and had been promised to Mama to Maggie when she married. However, Dee does not understand the love put into the making of the quilts, neither does she understand the significance of the quilts as part of her family heritage. It is evident she does not understand the significance of the quilt, having been offered one when went away to college declaring them “as old-fashioned” and “out of style”. She does not care about the value of the quilts to her family, rather she sees it as a work of art, valuable as an African heritage but not as a family heirloom. She wants the quilts because they are handmade, not stitched with around the borders. She tells Mama, “Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts!... She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use… But, they’re priceless!.. Maggie would put them on her the bed and in five years they’d be in rags. Less than that!” (317). The quilt signifies the family pride and history, which is important to Mama. She makes the decision to give the quilt to Maggie who will appreciate it more than Dee, to whom she says, “God knows I been saving ‘em for long enough with…show more content…
It is imperative to understand that these heirlooms are mere representation of heirlooms designed for everyday use. It is ironic that Dee changes her name, and wants to take the dasher to show off in her home as part of her heritage when she is trying so hard to distance herself from her past. She does not understand that she is taking away an item used every day by her mother. She is convinced that Maggie does not deserve the quilt, because she would merely put it to everyday use. Mama cannot fathom the reason behind Dee’s desire to possess the quilt when it is obvious she sees it as an artifact. The relationship between Mama and Maggie is different from hers and Dee’s and is evident in the way the use of the family heirloom is viewed; while the former would care for and preserve the heirloom, the latter would only hang it as a piece of art, to be discarded when they get old or new ones are
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