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Family Heritage In Everyday Use Essay

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Family Heritage In Everyday Use

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
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Dee seems to be so interested in all of the little household items that her family still uses. When she sees the top to the butter churn that her Uncle whittled out of a tree, she wants to keep it and use it a centerpiece for her alcove table. Also, Dee says, "I'll think of something artistic to do with the dasher" (412). These items are a part of life for Maggie and her mother, but to Dee they are merely pieces for decoration. Interestingly enough, Maggie knows exactly whom in her family made the items that Dee is claiming for house decorations. She informs Dee that, "Aunt Dee 's first husband whittled that dash…His name was Henry, but they called him Stash" (412). The girls' mother comments earlier in the story that "[Maggie] knows she's not bright. Like good looks and money, quickness passed her by" (409). However, unlike her older sister, she understands her family heritage and the importance of it in her life.

The strongest example of Dee's confusion and of Walker's belief that a family's heritage should be alive and not frozen in time is at the end of the story. Dee finds the two quilts that had been pieced together by many generations of her family, and she wants to keep them. Her mother says, "In both of them were scraps of dresses Grandma Dee had worn fifty and more years ago. Bits and pieces of Grandpa Jarrell's paisley shirts. And one teeny
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