Alice Walker's Everyday Use

507 Words3 Pages
The author, Alice Walker tells the story of an African-American family in the deep rural south in the 1960’s. The main characters are Mama Johnson and her two daughters, Dee and Maggie. Dee moves away to further her education, while Maggie stays at home with Mama Johnson. Mama compares both daughters, speaking of Dee as lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure always wanting nicer things. Due to Maggie’s injuries that she suffered in a fire, comparing her to a lame animal.
Angered by what she views as a history of oppression in her family, Dee has constructed a new heritage for herself and rejected her real heritage. She fails to see the family legacy of her given name and takes on a new name, Wangero, which she believes more
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Dee wants to take the quilts away with her, insisting that they should be hung on the wall and preserved rather than being used. Mama, on the other hand, wants to give them to Maggie, who learned to quilt from Grandma Dee and Big Dee.
Maggie and Dee have different opinions about their heritage. To Maggie, heritage is everything around her that is involved in her everyday life. Whereas, Dee believes that her mother’s family heirlooms are to frame on the wall, or display, as a reminder of her family history. She desires the carved dasher and family quilts, but she sees them as artifacts of a lost time, suitable for display but not for actual, practical use. She has set herself outside her own history, rejecting her real heritage in favor of a constructed one. Mama and Maggie, on the other hand, wish to continue using the quilts, and so continually engage with and build upon the family’s history. When Mama gives the quilts to Maggie, she ensures that the family heritage will stay alive in the manner she prefers. By using the quilts and making her own when they wear out, Maggie will add to the family’s legacy, rather than distancing herself from it. To put the quilts to everyday use, as Maggie will do, is symbolically preserving the family
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