Essay about Message of Family Heritage in Alice Walker's "Everyday Use"

1203 Words Jan 21st, 2001 5 Pages
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, the narrator's oldest …show more content…
However, Dee does not realize that. Apparently, she believes that by changing her name she is expressing solidarity with her African ancestors and rejecting the oppression implied by the taking on of American names by black slaves.
Commenting on the way Dee is acting when they sit down to eat, her mother says, "Everything delighted her. Even the fact that we still used the benches her daddy made for the table when we couldn't afford to buy chairs" (411). 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
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