Growing up in the late 60’s as an African American in the South, Alice Walker has had to withstand many of the oppressions black people faced at the time. Her direct experience with the torment of being prejudiced by her skin color and the national movements against this, have been the fundamental basis to the themes in her writings. In her story “Everyday Use,” she depicts the different understandings of culture between a literate daughter, Dee, and her mother and sister who have not been educated and yet live a traditional simple life together. Through a series of events the author explores the adverse views on heritage among the younger and older generations of African-Americans. Within the historical context, it was time where Blacks …show more content…
As she had discovered a new trend in praising African roots, Dee’s characterization, probably of West African feature, contrasts to Mama’s and Maggie’s Southern appearance. Hence, it was evident Dee had a higher intellectual advantage over her family and was now a symbol of the Black Power Movement.
To their surprise, Dee addresses them with a “Wa-su-zo-Tean-o”, which is a greeting of the Buganda people of Uganda in Eastern Africa meaning “Good morning.” This information, along with her new style gave out Dee’s reason of change; she was undoubtedly trying to reconnect to her African roots. However, we cannot dismiss the way the author divided the phrase into syllables. It shows that she had trouble pronouncing it meaning her regard for this African heritage was rather forced and deceitful. Thereupon, the man, with hair all over his head and on his chin, says “Asalamalakim” which stands for “peace be with you” in Arab. His approach represents how many were embracing Islam as an alternative religion to Christianity, often perceived as the oppressors’ religion.
Before Mama could even react, Dee snapped a picture with her Polaroid camera. The camera itself implies technological evolution and thus an evident disjunction of a generation to the next. Avoiding being in the picture herself, Dee is trying to frame her cultural history. She was building a façade where she would display the pictures as proof of her black lineage, showing the house, the yard and her mother,
She shows no respect for anyone and that there is not a single possession that she should not have. Firstly, Dee thinks that no matter what she sees, it should be hers. Without asking Mama if she could have it, Dee took the butter churn from the kitchen, and told Mama she would use it as a centerpiece (53). Another example would be that Dee shows no respect for anyone even her mother. When they were finished eating, Dee disrespected her mother by going through her trunk at the foot of the bed and took the quilts (53). Lastly, Dee shows how controlling and how she puts herself above people. “Dee moved back just enough so that I [Mama] couldn’t reach the quilts. They already belonged to her” (53); Dee has not even gotten these quilts, and has already put her control on them. In these ways and more, Dee is showing herself as someone who respects no one and thinks she is above
Dee believes she is more cultured than her family. She may have more knowledge about different cultures and religions that she learned in school, but she does not know as much about the family heritage as she thinks she does. For example, when Dee changes her name to “Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo” she destroys important links to her heritage that she will never understand. Her mother tries to explain to her that her name is significant because it belonged to particular beloved ones. However, Dee seems to reject the names of her ancestors, yet she is eager to seize their handmade goods. When Dee realizes she is not going obtain possession of the quilts, she storms out of the house without saying a word. It is apparent that the only reason for her visit is to get the family heirlooms, not to see the house, her mother, or Maggie.
Alice Walker’s story “Everyday Use” is a story decipating family and heritage. She released the story with a collection of other short stories called In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women. This collection revealed Walker to be one of the finest of late twentieth century American short-story writers (Phy-Olsen). According to Cowart, the story address itself “to the dilemma of African Americans who are striving to escape prejudice and poverty.” One of the main characters, Dee, made drastic changes and would like her mother and sister to see things her way. Dee’s statement to her mother and sister regarding their disregard of heritage is very ironic considering the fact her name is a part of the family’s history, her new behavior, and her
Maggie the younger sister lived with her mother and liked the life of her living with her mother. Dee didn't like that poor old-fashioned life and she wants to be rich and to forget about this poor family and to live her actual way of life as an African-American. Mama liked their way of life and didn't want to change it and also Maggie liked it and didn't want to change it.
Dee on the other hand, represents more of a modern, complex, materialistic way of life. She moves to the city to become educated. She is ashamed of where she comes from. In a letter mama receives, Dee writes “no matter where we ‘choose’ to live, she will manage to come see us” (Walker 281). Furthermore, when she comes home to visit she tells mama that she has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo because “I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me” (Walker 282).
Everyday Use is a short story written by Alice Walker as part of the story collection in the book Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women. The short story is a powerful piece of writing that takes the reader on an insightful journey into the challenges, struggles, and realities of growing up as an African woman. The main issues that are palpable throughout the story are the issues of black consciousness and the stereotypes of rural black African women. I believe that the purpose of the text is to highlight the interconnectedness of the past and the present. The author wants the reader to appreciate the struggles and challenges that Black women faced
The African heritage plays a major role in the story, “Everyday Use”. Alice Walker emphasizes the meaning of heritage by having Dee come visit her family and contradicting her heritage. As Dee go off to college, she meets new people and finds her a boyfriend, Asalamalakim. Alice Walker adds attention onto Dee’s new name, Wangero, because Dee changes her name, not understanding the true root of her original name. “No, mama,’ she says. ‘Not Dee, Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo!’ ‘What happened to ‘Dee’?’ I wanted to know. ‘She’s dead…” (160). However, Dee truly believes that her heritage lies way back to Africa. The African clothes and name gives an understanding that Dee thinks that she is from Africa and that is where her heritage originally lies. In addition, Mama and Dee have different point of views on what heritage truly is. Mama tells Wangero (Dee) that her name comes from a line of ancestors, yet Wangero believes that her new name has more roots in it. “You know as well as me you were named after your aunt Dicie,’ I said. Dicie is my sister. She named Dee. We
Dee's inability to accept who she is can be seen as a weakness. Dee has turned her back on a part of her past by taking the Muslim name of "Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo" (412). Her reason for changing her name was because she "couldn't bear it any longer being named after the people who oppress me" (412). Her mother sees the action of the name change as Dee turning her back on her immediate blood relatives. Dee's insecurity concerning her past becomes evident, and her mother sees it as a denial of where she came from. It is as though she would rather claim the name of an unknown slave to that of her aunt and grandmother. Her biggest fear seems to be that by not declaring her heritage, she might someday have to return to the simple life of her mother and sister. Dee uses the
values. Mama was proud of her skills on the farm. She knew her heritage, even if she couldn't read or write, and was proud of it. She could tell you the why and the who. Maggie in her self-defacing way also displayed real attachment to her heritage. Dee on the other hand appeared to be more
She now seems to be embracing and acknowledging her African roots and disowning her actual family heritage. Upon returning home, Mama, the protagonist, learns that she has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. This is the first her Mama has heard of this and it causes her to question Dee’s motive for doing so. After all, it appears Dee was named in the family tradition and to Dee’s Mama, her name is symbolic and seems to be a way of recognizing and honoring the women in the family by naming a baby girl of a later generation after their elders. Dee was named after her Mama’s sister, Dicie, who was named after her Grandma Dee, who was named after her mother. (Kirsner and Mandell, 2012, pg. 348). However, to Dee, her name is a symbol of oppression and humiliation and denotes things that she has come to believe are beneath her and her new status in life. She is now a beautiful, educated, and sophisticated woman, who is proud of her newly made self. She now seems to have renounced her past, completely missing the fact that it is her past and her heritage that played an important part of shaping her to be the woman she has become (“Characterization and Symbolism,”
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
Dee?s character in the story is a direct relation to any number of people in society that do not know or are confused about their heritage. She is struggling to create an identity for herself, and is confused as to what it encompasses. She grasps at African tradition and culture, yet fails to acknowledge her own African American culture. This happened all over America, particularly in the North, in the 1960?s, following the civil rights movement. Dee is misconstruing her heritage as material goods, as opposed to her ancestor?s habits and way of life. This may be due in part to her leaving her hometown and becoming an educated, sophisticated young woman. Dee?s direct heritage is that of African Americans.
In the short story“Everyday Use”, the character Dee has made a cultural transformation from her African-American culture to a more African culture. For example, when her mother calls her name, she responds with, "Not 'Dee,' Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo [...] I [can’t be] named after the people who oppress me." In actuality, her mother named her after her grandmother Dee. This story’s setting is during a time that is of a lower degree than the 1800s slavery era. Dee arrives at her mother’s house with a different cultural clothing clothing as evidenced by her mother’s description,“A dress down to the ground, in this hot weather. A dress so loud it hurts my eyes. There are yellows and oranges enough to throw back the light of the sun [...]. Earrings gold, too, and hanging down to her shoulders. Bracelets dangling and making noises when she moves her arm up to shake the folds of the dress out of her armpits.” Dee is not a true African person she is African-American. Discovering Bristol explains, “[A] culture, formed by Africans in the Americas, was a mix of the cultures and beliefs of the different ethnic groups, sometimes adding in European and Christian ideas.” Her African roots were removed when generations and generations before her were coerced to assimilate into a more African-American culture by the enforcement of slavery. The quilts are a true meaning of African-American culture, not African culture.
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 is the afro-centric, ego- centric and eccentric pseudo-intellect. She values her culture in a more materialistic aspect. She respects the artifacts of her history rather than the usefulness. Dee’s earthly-mindedness sets the stage for conflict throughout the entire story, from her arrival until the central conflict when there is a battle amongst the other two main characters Mama and Maggie, about who is truly entitled to the hand-stitched quilts. The quilts were works of art that have been passed down throughout