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True Inheritence in Alice Walker’s Short Story, Everyday Use

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In Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use” an object becomes the cause of conflict between Maggie and her sister Dee. The object of conflict between these two polar opposite sisters is a handmade quilt passed down from their ancestors. They both associate the quilt with their heritage but it is obvious their views on heritage are quite different. Dee, the older daughter, represents a misconception of heritage as material while to Maggie heritage is both knowledge and form which is passed down from one generation to another through learning and experiences.

Mama and Maggie symbolize the connection between generations and the heritage that passed between them. They continue to live together in their humble home. Mama is a “large, big-boned woman,” (Walker 1) who does the needed upkeep of the land. And Maggie is a shy and scared girl “ashamed of her burn scars,” (Walker 1). Neither Mama or Maggie are ‘modernly’ educated persons, “I [Mama] never had an education myself. Sometimes Maggie reads to me. She stumbles along good-naturedly. She knows she is not bright,” (Walker 2). However, by helping Mama, Maggie uses the handmade items in her life, experiences the life of her ancestors, and learns of both, exemplified by Maggie’s knowledge of the handmade items and the people who made them-- a knowledge which Dee does not possess.

Contrasting with Mama and Maggie, Dee seeks her heritage without fully understanding it. Dee returns home with a modern education, having been sent “to a school in Augusta,” (Walker 2). Dee takes on another name without understanding her original name, neither does she try to learn. Wangero (Dee) attempts to connect with her heritage by taking “picture after picture of me sitting there in fron...

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...ou ought to try to make something of yourself, too, Maggie. It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live you’d never know it,” (Walker 6). These final words she says to Maggie only solidifies the fact that Dee’s idea of heritage is very much misconstrued. Dee sees heritage as the quilt on the wall or chute top on the alcove. She knows these items are handmade but does not know the history behind them. Dee wants to simply display her heritage without truly remembering it. Her home will be nothing more than a museum of African artifacts. Mama and Maggie, on the other hand, know the importance of keeping the memories of their ancestors alive by the everyday use of the things passed down or left behind. The quilts are a part of who they are today.

Works Cited

Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” 1973
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