Everyday Use by Alice Walker

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The Meaning of Heritage
In the early 1970s, the Black Power movement was not only a political slogan against racism, but also an ideology that promoted racial pride and embraced the elements of the African culture. During this time, many African-Americans were encouraged to grow their hairs into afros, wear traditional African clothing, and reject their white slave names. In the story Everyday Use, Alice Walker presents a family with opposing views towards tradition and creates a character fooled by the Black Power movement. The author uses irony to reveal a meaning of heritage hidden under the perceived idea of African-American identity.
From the beginning, the oldest daughter, Dee, pretends to honor and embrace her roots, yet she
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Dee wants to keep the quilts to show off her heritage and hang them on her wall as decorations; she thinks her sister will not appreciate them and will put them to everyday use. Maggie agrees to give up her promised quilts because after all, she “can 'member Grandma Dee without the quilts” (Schmidt 352). However, Mama will not let Dee keep them because deep inside, she knows that Maggie deserves them. Maggie learned how to quilt from aunt Dee, who learned how to quilt from Grandma Dee; therefore, she will be able to keep their culture and their history alive. After this decision, Wangero responds furiously, “You just don't understand […] your heritage” (Schmidt 323), and suggests that the quilts have a materialistic a value that has to be preserved in order to maintain the family's African heritage. Ironically, the quilts are not valuable because they are old and their ancestors sewed them; instead, they are priceless because they represent a tradition that many hard working black women followed for years. The author suggests that Maggie has an understanding her sister never will; she understands the real meaning of African heritage.
Wangero was one of the many African-Americans in the 1970s who struggled to define their identity within the framework of American society. She changed her name and her appearance in efforts to embrace her African

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