Symbolism and Theme in Everyday Use

1641 Words7 Pages
The short story Everyday Use by Alice Walker differentiates between a fake and a real heritage. To illustrate her point she uses one family consisting of a mother and her two daughters and the way each of them views their ancestry and heritage. Through the behavior of these three people Walker is able to clearly show the little things that separate a real heritage from the assumed fake mask. During the time of many positive changes to the lives of black people across the America, the author illustrates what the true African American heritage should look like, compared to empty claims by those who have no understanding it.
The first and perhaps the least complex of the symbols in the story is Mama’s yard. In the very beginning of the story
…show more content…
At the same time, judging from the way that Dee acts throughout her visit, such bonds to one’s heritage can be easily broken or even completely destroyed. And when these bonds are finally destroyed it becomes impossible for people like Dee to understand the meaning of such little objects like the quilts in much the same way as it is impossible for her to even understand the origins and the legacy of her name. Again the history behind the quilts is really important so Mama describes more of it: “Bits and pieces of Grandpa Jarrell’s paisley shirts. And one teeny faded blue piece, about the size of a penny matchbox, that was from Great Grandpa Ezra’s uniform that he wore in the Civil War” (495). Made out of many small pieces of Maggie’s and Dee’s ancestors’ clothes, these quilts visually display the history of their family, including all of the struggles such as war, racism and poverty experienced by its members over last century. What makes these quilts even more valuable and important is the fact that because of her poverty Mama considers her heritage, contained in the things like these quilts, as the most important material object in her possession. Therefore she decides that the best way to honor this heritage would be to pass them to Maggie to be used like they were intended to by those who made the quilts and the legacy contained inside of them. The quilts then summarize the great and long heritage, passed on
Get Access