Defining Heritage In the short story, “Everyday Use,” Alice Walker defines and explores the concept of heritage in the African- American culture. The story was first published in nineteen seventy three as part of the short story collection, In Love and Trouble. “Everyday Use” tells the story of a mother and her two daughters who have conflicting ideas with their heritage and culture. The oldest daughter, Dee, is an educated young women who redefines her identity and beliefs of her heritage. On the contrary, the youngest daughter, Maggie, leads a traditional lifestyle in the South with her mother and remains faithful to her idea of heritage. The author of the short story, Alice Walker, shares several parallels between her own life and this story. Kathleen Wilson, award winner of the Guggenheim Fellowship …show more content…
In the story, “Everyday Use,” the oldest sister Dee redefines her views of her family’s heritage. Dee leaves her rural home to receive an education in the city, but when returning back home she has changed completely. Specifically, Dee changes her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo which creates difficulties for her mother. In the story Dee explains, “Couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me" (Walker 318). She views her past name as a reminder that African Americans are not given original names. Dee has also changed her overall appearance and has recreated a new image for herself by wearing brightly colored clothing and changing her voice. Critic of the story, David Cowart, describes Dee changes, “She now styles and dresses herself according to the dictates of a faddish Africanism and thereby demonstrates a cultural Catch-22: an American who attempts to become an African succeeds only in becoming a phony” (Cowart). She alienates herself from her original culture and values the items from her past
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Walker explains that one daughter whose name is Dee, was sent off to school. This education sent Dee to have a new found interest in her ancestry and to also change her name to Wangero. At the very same time
We all grow up and change, sometimes we try to forget everything we were taught. Dee is trying to be something she is not for the sake of being higher up. She changed so much that her sister and mother don’t recognized her anymore. She doesn’t understand African or American culture and she just want to take all the family possessions to store them and show them off. Her name was special and she changed it for a name that really has no meaning she even got that wrong because it means nothing.
Occasion: Alice Walker writes the story to draw attention to the mindset of the minorities. Walker was an activist. “Everyday Use” is a short story within a collection documenting the stories of black women, such as Alice Walker herself. Audience: Walker writes the story for everyone to read.
Most people struggle with figuring out who they really are. The short story "Everyday Use,” written by Alice Walker, emphasizes this aspect of individuality. It is about an African- American mother and her two daughters. The story concentrates on the lives of two sisters named Maggie and Dee(Wangero). Maggie is portrayed as a homely and ignorant girl, while Dee is portrayed as a beautiful and educated woman.
The character Dee represented in Walker 's story shows how easily one can completely depersonalize heritage while showing mannerisms of condescending nature. Dee’s name was in fact passed down from her grandmother and given to her as a symbol of respect for family and fondness for their grandmother. Dee completely oblivious to the nature of her given name simply changes it to what she believes is her authentic African name. “No, Mama,” she says, “Not Dee; Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo!”(492). Displaying the name in boastful temperament and parading it in front of her mother and sister.
Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” illustrates Dee’s struggle for identity by placing her quest for a new identity against her family’s desire for maintaining culture and heritage. In the beginning, the narrator, who is the mother of Dee, mentions some details about Dee; how she “...wanted nice things… She was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts… At sixteen, she had a style of her own: and (she) knew what style was.” Providing evidence to the thesis, she was obviously trying exceptionally hard to find for herself a sense of identity. She wanted items her family couldn’t afford, so she worked hard to gain these, and she found a sense of identity from them, but it also pushed her farther away from her family.
In “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, the meaning of heritage is admired differently by a family of the same background. Dee who now has an education and understands her heritage feud with Mama and Maggie who appreciate their heritage. Although they all come from the same household, their differences get in the way when it comes to the most valuable items in the house; including the churn and dasher that Mama and Maggie still use daily, the handmade quilts made by Grandma Dee, and how Dee is blinded by the truth of her own heritage. Dee wants the churn and dasher for decoration purposes only stating “I can use the churn top as a centerpiece for the alcove table,” (Walker 272.)
In the short story “Everyday Use,” Alice Walker shows the conflicts and struggles with people of the African-American culture in America. The author focuses on the members of the Johnson family, who are the main characters. In the family there are 2 daughters and a mother. The first daughter is named Maggie, who had been injured in a house fire has been living with her mom. Her older sister is Dee, who grew up with natural beauty wanted to have a better life than her mother and sister.
The point of view in the story “Everyday Use,” by Alice Walker plays a big part. Throughout the story, one of Mama’s daughters came to visit. The way Mama and Maggie see her is not in a very pleasant way. In fact, they are scared to tell her no when it comes to anything. From Mama’s perspective Dee seems like this rude, stuck up, spoiled child because she had the opportunity to go out and expand her education, while Mama and Maggie continued to live their lives on the farm.
In attempts to reconnect with her African roots, Dee has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. Dee has also taken an interest in embracing her African heritage and has dressed in traditional African clothes to visit her mother. Her mother knows that Dee’s intentions are not genuine. Worrying more about taking pictures of her mother and collecting items that represent the African culture to take back home, Dee neglects to spend time with her family. Her mother notices that Dee, “Lines up picture after picture of me sitting there in front of the house with Maggie cowering behind me.
She didn’t like her sister Maggie she also doesn’t like her mom allot and she didn’t like their house. From the main changes Dee made was changing her name. “No mama, she says not Dee, wangero Leewanik kemanjo “(Walker, 318, 25). She also brought her friend with her his name is Hakim-a-barber.
The short story, Everyday Use, is written by Alice Walker. This short story tells about the narrator, mama, and her daughter Maggie wait for a visit from Dee, mama’s older daughter. Throughout this short story, the reader can see the distraught relationship between mama and Dee. The reader can see how Dee is different than mama and Maggie; she thinks that she knows way more about her heritage than mama and Maggie, when she really does not. In the short story, Everyday Use, Walker uses imagery, symbolism, and point of view to show that heritage can only be understood when one is true to their roots.
Alice Walker wrote what Mama said about Dee or Wangero, “Dee wanted nice things.” Mama describes Dee as a lavish person who is only interested in herself and her fulfilling’s. Dee had changed her name to show that she is not accepting that a “white person” named her ancestors in way, so it can be passed down. Walker describes Mama as someone who is satisfied with what they have. “I will wait for her in the yard that Maggie and I made so clean and wavy yesterday afternoon,” Walker demonstrates how Mama is pleased with nature where her life takes place in.
Dee is also really selfish which makes her have tension between her family since she only cares about herself. Throughout the story, there were a lot of conflicts between Dee and her family which shows with the quilt incident, butter churn controversy and lastly different views on heritage. One of the main conflicts in Everyday Use is the quilt incident. The conflict started when Wangero (Dee) came out with two quilts that had been pieced by Grandma Dee and big Dee.