In the short story “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, the author describes different ideas about one’s heritage. Culture and heritage is at the main point of the story “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker as symbolized by the quilt. The bond that Mother and Maggie share is brought by their common talent to make works of art like quilts. Dee does not have similar capacity because she does not appreciate manual labor nor believes in her heritage. The idea of pride in culture, heritage, and family is the main theme of the story. The line between being proud of whom one is and exploiting one’s self is broken and blurred by one character. The other two keep their firm ground in living out their values, rather than using it simply as a conversation starter.
Walker use of this situation shows a bigger issue in African Americans families. According to Werlock, the issue is must “African Americans turn their back of their background and traditional family.” According to Cowart, Dee believes she has escaped the ghetto. In her mind, she has the right to act different from her mother and sister because now she is living at a higher standard than they are. Yet with this mindset, she is trapped with them mentally.
While the two sisters perspectives on heritage contrast each other, Walker employs a case of dramatic irony to prove that Dee's perspective is wrong, which automatically proves that Maggie is right, considering their opposite characteristics. Dee
Pride is the theme that seems to separate this family the most. It's having pride versus not having it. Maggie doesn't have it. She does not speak for herself when Dee wants the quilts. She lets mama speak for her. Like a scalded dog, she hides behind Mama when Dee arrives. Mama compares Maggie to a "Lame animal…run over by a car…"(Walker 88). Pride mostly comes from respect and she doesn't get much. Dee maybe has too much pride. This probably comes from "the world not knowing how to say no to her." She has looks and she's what one would describe as
Dee, from Walker’s “Everyday Use,” is Mama’s older daughter who not only has a judgmental, insensitive attitude towards Mama and her younger sister Maggie, but also believes she appreciates her family heritage more than Mama does, when in fact, Dee is the one who is “uneducated” and lacks an understanding about what her heritage truly is.
For example, “Dee is lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure…She was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts… She burned us with a lot of knowledge we didn’t necessarily need to know”(492 ). In this quote, Mama, who is the narrator, describes Dee as being good looking, ambitious, and educated. All of those characteristics play a part in the way Dee interprets the African- American culture. According to Nancy Tuten, Dee uses language to abuse her mother and sister, leading Mama to form an alliance with Maggie, which will eventually lead to the exclusion of Dee (128). Furthermore, “Most critics see Dee’s education and her insistence on reading to Mama and Maggie as further evidence of her separation from and lack of understanding for her family identity and heritage” (Farrell 182). Alice White uses a completely opposite characterization for the younger sister, Maggie. “[Maggie] has been like this, chin on chest, eyes on the ground, feet in the shuffle, ever since the fire that burned the other house to the ground… She knows she is not bright. Like good looks and money, quickness passed her by”(492 ). Maggie is being described as a shy, unattractive, uneducated person by her mama; however, one can infer that Maggie and her mother have the same interpretation of the African- American culture because of their same educational level. For example, “ [Dee] used to read to [maggie and mama] without pity; forcing words, lies, other folks' habits, whole lives upon us two, sitting trapped and ignorant underneath her voice” (cite page number). In this quote, Mama states that Dee would use her ability to read to put them down leading me to believe that Mama would have to be on the same educational level as Maggie to be put down by Dee.
Heritage has an influential role in every individual’s life. “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker is a short story that portrays two sisters’ from a poor African American home and their conflicting views on the value and meaning of heritage. Maggie, the younger sister, is uneducated but truly appreciates where she comes from. Dee, the oldest sister, is an educated college student but her she has a warped idea of heritage. Alice Walker uses the characters, point of view and symbolism to develop the main theme of heritage.
Second, there were some cultural differences, Maggie and Mama lived in a house located in a pasture with animals, and you could tell through Mama's description of Dee that she was more modernized probably a city Girl. When Dee/Wangero came to visit she wore a bright dress with loud colors, bangles and gold earrings. Mama said Dee's dress had so many yellows and oranges it was enough to throw back the sun (109). Maggie wore a pink skirt and red blouse that enveloped her body (107). Dee was an educated woman having graduated from High School. Mama on the other hand never made it past the second grade because the school she attended was closed down in 1927. Mama said that, "Colored asked fewer questions than they do now" referring to why the school closed (109). Circumstances such as age, education, and living arrangements dictated their
According to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2015), heritage is defined as, “traditions, achievements, beliefs, etc., that are part of the history of a group or nation” (“Heritage”). Heritage takes on mixed meanings for different people as a consequence of life experiences and belief systems. Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” utilizes characters with varying ideas of “heritage” to enlighten the world of the issues inside the African American community. The short story “Everyday Use” was written in 1973 at the end of the Civil Rights Era and beginning of the age of freedom; it embodies the struggle within a family to differentiate between authentic American traditions and new age notions of African history. Walker uses juxtaposing lead characters to symbolize the contrast between true, folk legacy and Dee’s romanticized idea of heritage. “Everyday Use” distinguishes the conflicting opinions of three African American women, and how they each express their own philosophies of family heritage.
Dee could probably be considered a main character in the story, but her change was too simple, because she changed on the outside only, and because she didn?t change on the day that the story occured. Mama stated ?When I looked at her like that something hit me in the top of my head and ran down to the souls of my feet. Just like when I?m in church and the spirit of God touches me and I get happy and shout? (94). Maggie did not have a lot of input in the story although she did change a little, both were flat characters. Mama is a more in-depth character than Dee and Maggie because the reader is given very descriptive attributes of her physically and mentally. Dee did not want to quilt to remember her heritage by, but instead to hang it up on the wall like some sort of trophy to show others where she has come from. She loves her family very much, but is ashamed of the surroundings she grew up in. Overall, Mama?s change had a big impact on the story due to the fact that she went from a woman who had low self esteem and was scared to
Jacques Derrida had once said that culture is something in which "everything is arranged so that it is this way." I believe that culture is the opposite as it creates the way in which you perceive external forces rather then it being the external forces arranged in a specific way. Culture therefore allows one to become informed about foreign cultures to which one is then to perceive the culture a specific way. Culture is the multitude of many factors in which it consistently informs one 's perception of the world surrounding them as well as the individuals.
Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday use” tells the story of a mother and her daughter’s conflicting ideas about their identities and heritage. Mrs. Johnson an uneducated woman narrates the story of the day one daughter, Dee, visits from college. Mrs. Johnson auto-describes herself as a “big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands.”(180,Walker). Contrasting her auto-description, she describes Dee as a young lady with light complexion, nice hair and full figure that “wanted nice things.”(181,Walker). The arrival of Dee to Mrs. Johnson’s house causes mixed emotions on Mrs. Johnson. Dee Johnson and Mrs. Johnson have differing viewpoints on heritage and each value possessions for different reasons. Dee’s superficiality and materialist ways
She shows that you can value things like the quilts in different ways. Maggie and Dee are very different characters. Each one has characteristics in areas that the other doesn’t. The two sisters did not share a bond throughout any part of their life. In fact they did not even say anything to each other until Dee was leaving. There is a constant communication barrier that is put in front of the two of them. Dee intimidates Maggie with her fierce ways of getting her point across. Maggie being the shyer of the two does not have a whole lot to say in order to defend her. She depends on her mom to fight her battles. Throughout this whole piece, Walker uses contrasting characters to highlight
Throughout the story, Walker personifies the different sides of culture and heritage in the characters of Dee and the mother (the narrator). Dee can be seen to represent a materialistic, complex, and modern way of life where culture and heritage
It has been said that “One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself.” What should matter is being true to oneself and loving the person that you have become. This short story is narrated by Mama who is telling her story of her two daughters, Dee and Maggie. Both daughters live their lives in very different ways. In Dee's case, she goes out to make all that she can of herself while leaving her mother and sister behind. Maggie stays at home with their Mama and makes the most out of what surrounds her. All three ladies have different perspectives of their own heritage and identity. The conflict in “Everyday Use” is that Mama has these two daughters fighting over a quilt. In the end, readers will find that what matters most is not forgetting where you come from and who you are as a person. In “Everyday Use” Alice Walker emphasizes to her readers the importance of self-identities and family through her use of conflict, setting, and characterization, suggesting that sometimes people are so motivated in pleasing others while neglecting the things that matter to them the most.