Adopted Heritage in Alice Walker's Everyday Use Essay

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Each of us is raised within a culture, a set of traditions handed down by those before us. As individuals, we view and experience common heritage in subtly differing ways. Within smaller communities and families, deeply felt traditions serve to enrich this common heritage. Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" explores how, in her eagerness to claim an ancient heritage, a woman may deny herself the substantive personal experience of familial traditions.

Narrated by the mother of two daughters, the story opens with an examination of one daughter's favoring of appearances over substance, and the effect this has on her relatives. The mother and her younger daughter, Maggie, live in an impoverished rural area. They anticipate
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...my fat keeps me hot in zero weather" (Walker 91). In the fantasy of their reunion, she appears as "my daughter would want me to be: a hundred pounds lighter, my skin like an uncooked barley pancake" (Walker 91). In fantasy, she converses eloquently with Johnny Carson; in reality, she knows that, unlike Dee, she could not "(look) a strange white man in the eye" (Walker 91). The younger daughter, Maggie, like her mother, lacks the education and style important to her sister. She carries scars on her arms from the fire that destroyed their house, reads clumsily to her mother, and "knows she is not bright" (Walker 92). With increasing anxiety, Maggie awaits Dee's visit, and upon Dee's arrival, actually attempts to escape into the house. Her mother forces her to stay with her in the yard to greet Dee and her new husband. However Dee may wish them to be, this is who they are.

Dee personifies her own values. "At sixteen she had a style of her own: and knew what style was" (Walker 92). With her husband, she arrives at her mother's home in a brightly-colored dress, adorned with flashy jewelry, her hair in a fashionable style unfamiliar to Maggie and her mother. Dee retrieves her camera from the car and takes pictures of her mother and sister in front of the house. However, she puts the camera away without including herself or her husband in any of the shots. This visit isn't about family or reunion; it is about collecting souvenirs. Dee quickly
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