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The Role Of Heritage In Alice Walker's Everyday Use

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Alice Walker’s story entitled “Everyday Use” focuses on an African American family that contends with one another to determine how to embrace heritage. For Mama and Dee, heritage plays a critical role in deciding what path to take in life. On the one hand, the Mama seeks to protect her heritage by being an honest hard-working mother that cares about the people in her life not the resentment she faces for being an African American. On the other hand, Dee tries to ‘modernize’ heritage by creating a new identity after seeking higher education. In turn, Dee creates a driving force between family members through her new identity, education, and desire to obtain the ragged, old quilts. Dee creates a driving force between family members through…show more content…
“Why don’t you do a dance around the ashes? I’d wanted to ask her. She had hated the house that much,” (Walker 471). Determined to create a better life for herself, Dee leaves the residence in search of a new identity. While away, Dee makes it readily apparent that she will still visit her family but will never approve of their ‘choice’ to live in a tarnished broken-down home. “No matter where we ‘choose’ to live, she will manage to come see us. But she will never bring her friends,” (472). Mama’s sentiments highlight the fact that Dee has distanced herself from her family creating a wedge between what is acceptable or not. Dee looks down at Mama and her other daughter Maggie with despair for staying in a home which she is appalled by. When Dee returns to her roots, she no longer bears the same name and wears fancy clothing. Now known as Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, (Dee) arrives in a bright dress with flashy earrings and accompanying jewelry (473). Upon exiting the car, Dee snaps a multitude of photos “making sure the house is included” (472) in every shot. The extent to which Dee goes to ensure every photo has a part of the house in it…show more content…
In Dee’s attempt to acquire the quilts, she exudes an insincere, covetous presence that forces Mama to ‘turn her back’ on Dee. The negative connotation that Mama gets from Dee stems from the flip-flop nature of wanting the quilts. “I had offered Dee (Wangero) a quilt when she went away to college. Then she had told me they were old-fashioned, out of style,” (477). Now, Dee wants the quilts as a material possession for remembering her grandma. Instead of putting the quilts to everyday use, Dee would hang them to honor her grandma and the hand-craftsmanship of her work (477). Upset by Dee’s reasoning and seeing the disappointment in her daughter Maggie’s eyes, Mama puts her foot down and takes control of the situation to preserve her integrity. “[I] hugged Maggie to me… snatched the quilts out of Miss Wangero’s hands and dumped them into Maggie’s lap,” (478). This quote is important for two reasons: the first is that Mama had done something she had never done before and that was love Maggie in the way she has tried with Dee over the course of her life. Giving the quilts to Maggie showcases the unrealized bond that Mama has with her due to how similar the two are in their beliefs/actions. The second point of significance in the quote is the author’s explicit decision to write Miss Wangero’s hands. Up until that point - after Dee stated her name as Wangero, whenever Dee was
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