Essay on Walker's Message of Personal Heritage in "Everyday Use"

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Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” is a short story about a mother and two very different daughters set in rural Georgia during the late 1960’s. The plot is centered around on the two daughters, Dee and Maggie, and focusing on the differences between the two and who will gain possession of two hand-made quilts that are seen as a coveted trophy by Dee and are viewed as everyday items Maggie. The final decision of which daughter ultimately receives the quilts will be made by Momma Johnson. Momma, who is never given a first name in the story, is a strong black woman with many man-like qualities. “In real life I am a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands. In the winter I wear flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls during the …show more content…
I will be focusing this paper on the reasons why Maggie should be given the quilts, reasons why Dee should not be allowed to take them, and what this tell us about Alice Walker’s sense of what it means to be in touch with one’s heritage. Maggie deserves the quilts because she appreciates the practical value of the items and would naturally use them as they were intended. Like her grandmother, Maggie is a person who values the quilts more as a practical solution for staying warm at night than as folk art which should be displayed in a museum. Dee’s thoughts of her simple-minded sister come into full light during a conversation with Momma when her request for the quilts is denied. “Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts! She’d probably be backward enough to put them the everyday use. I reckon she would,” Momma replied, “God knows I been saving ‘em long enough with nobody using ‘em. I hope she will.” (DiYanni 748) With little or no money during tough times, poorer families have often had to be more self-reliant where learning to sew was a skill that was valued and passed down to the younger generation. Maggie embraced this skill while her more ambitious sister did not see the value in learning such an ordinary task. “She can always make more, “Momma said, “Maggie knows how to
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