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.
The differences in attitude that Dee and Maggie portray about their heritage are seen early in the story. When the family's house burned down ten or twelve years ago, Maggie was deeply affected by the tragedy of losing her home where she grew up. As her mother describes, "She has been like this, chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle, ever since the fire that burned the other house to the ground" (409). Dee, on the other hand, had hated the house. Her mother had wanted to ask her, "Why don't you dance around the ashes?" (409). Dee did not hold any significance in the home where she had grown up. In her confusion about her heritage, it was just a house to her.
Another example of Dee's confusion about her own African-American heritage is expressed when she announces to her mother and sister that she has changed her name to "Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo." When her mother questions her about the change, Dee says, "I couldn't bear it any longer being named after the people who oppress me" (411). According to her mother, the name has been in the family since before the Civil War and most likely represents family unity to her. However, Dee does not realize that. Apparently, she believes that by changing her name she is expressing solidarity with her African ancestors and rejecting the oppression implied by the taking on of American names by black slaves.
... middle of paper ...
...tage" (413). That comment is somewhat ironic since it appears to be Dee who does not understand what family heritage is all about.
Walker's view is very clear at the end of the story. By Dee wanting to hang the family heirloom on the wall to look at from a distance, she is alienating herself from her family heritage. That is exactly what Walker thinks is the wrong thing to do. Walker would prefer the quilts to be used and integrated into daily life, like Maggie and her mother prefer. The same idea applies to all of the other household items that Dee has her eye on: the churn top, the dasher, and the benches for the table that her daddy made. They all are a part of life for Maggie and her mother. Walker believes that the only value that they hold for Dee is that they would be good trinkets to show off in her house. By using the quilts in this symbolic way, Walker is making the point that family heirlooms can only have meaning if they remain connected to the culture they sprang from - in essence, to be put to "Everyday Use."
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” Robert DiYanni, ed. Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 6th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2007.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- A Family’s heritage in Everyday Use Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” is a story about a mother and her two daughters and their heritage. Heritage can be defined as a property that is inherited; a birthright; or traditions, and values passed down other generations of family members. The climax in the story is when Dee asks to two particular quilts that Mama had promised to Maggie. “But they’re priceless!” “Maggie would put them on the bed and in five years they’d be in rags. Less than that.”(2442).... [tags: dee, maggie tradition]
521 words (1.5 pages)
- Heritage and how differently it is Viewed Heritage is something that is cherished, because of the meanings behind it. In the story by Alice Walker “Everyday Use” the heritage is seen differently by Mama, Dee, and Maggie (427). Mama sees symbolic traits in the little things, for example her front porch where Dee sees it only as a structure not as something of meaning. You will read about the different views of Mama, Dee and Maggie and how their heritage with traditions continue on in Mama and Maggie, but forgotten in Dee.... [tags: Family, The Heritage]
917 words (2.6 pages)
- “Everyday Use” Traditions are crucial to identities in order to preserve family values. Those values shape who we are. Without heritage and traditions, we are at risk of losing sight of who we are, and eventually those tenets will parish. In “Everyday Use,” by Alice Walker, three women internalize heritage differently; Dee doesn’t value her heritage, Maggie values her family’s heritage, and, in the end of the story, Mama realized the true embodiment and meaning of heritage. From a young age, Dee felt a detachment from her heritage, “Ten, twelve years” (Walker, 25).... [tags: Family, Meaning of life, The Heritage, Dee Snider]
748 words (2.1 pages)
- Traditions are crucial to identities in order to preserve family values. Those values shape who we are. Without heritage and traditions, we are at risk of losing sight of who we are, and eventually those tenets will perish. In “Everyday Use,” by Alice Walker, three women internalize heritage differently; Dee doesn’t value her heritage, Maggie values her family’s heritage, and, in the end of the story, Mama realized the true embodiment and the meaning of heritage. From a young age, Dee felt a detachment from her heritage.... [tags: Family, Meaning of life, The Heritage, Dee Snider]
740 words (2.1 pages)
- Pieces of fabric stitched together, to us, may seem like a quilt used to cover oneself for warmth. However, in Everyday Use a quilt is used to symbolize the family heritage passed down from generation to generation. Symbolism is when an object such as a crucifix is used to depictsomething greater like a religion and not justa piece of wood. A crucifix can also be used to represent the pain held by man and the heavy burden we carry each day. Many authors, including Alice Walker, use symbolism in order to get the reader to have a sense of deeper meaning within the story.... [tags: crucifix, quilt, family heritage, self conscious]
1462 words (4.2 pages)
- Everyday Use by Alice Walker Heritage is an important factor to every developing family. Heritage helps to develop a person's values showing what they believe in. Particularly about the values of their family. In the story Everyday Use, by Alice Walker, value of heritage is a main topic. Throughout this story there are many different words used to describe what Wangero (Dee), Maggie, and their mother value. These choices of words all play an important role in the contrasting values of these people and the battle over heritage.... [tags: Family Heritage Literature Essays]
872 words (2.5 pages)
- Author Alice Walker, displays the importance of personal identity and the significance of one’s heritage. These subjects are being addressed through the characterization of each character. In the story “Everyday Use”, the mother shows how their daughters are in completely two different worlds. One of her daughter, Maggie, is shy and jealous of her sister Dee and thought her sister had it easy with her life. She is the type that would stay around with her mother and be excluded from the outside world.... [tags: heritage, perspective, family]
623 words (1.8 pages)
- The Meaning of Heritage in Alice Walker's Everyday Use 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. There are three women in this short story, two sisters and their mother.... [tags: Everyday Use Alice Walker essays]
988 words (2.8 pages)
- A Question of Worth in Everyday Use From the fashionable, expensive clothing that the character Dee in Alice Walker’s "Everyday Use" wears, the girl seems almost immediately to be a person of great value and importance. It may seem, too, at first glance, that Dee’s mother and sister, Maggie, in their tin-roof house and shabby clothing, are of little or no worth in "Everyday Use." The story ironically shows, under more careful thought, that the very outer characteristics which deem Dee the more valuable character are the ones which prove that the mother and Maggie have the more powerful inner worth.... [tags: Everyday Use essays]
964 words (2.8 pages)
- In "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker, two sisters want the handmade quilt that is a symbol of the family heritage. Alice Expresses what her feeling are about her heritage through this story. It means everything to her. Something such as a quilt that was hand made makes it special. Only dedication and years of work can represent a quilt. A symbol is when the author uses an object in the story to represent a greater meaning. The quilt is a symbol of the family heritage that can only be appreciated by certain people.... [tags: Everyday Use]
284 words (0.8 pages)