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.
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.
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.
The story Everyday Use was written by Alice walker. Alice walker was an American author, poet and activist. She has written many novels, poems and stories. She wrote both fiction and nonfiction books. Everyday use was one of her books and it was published in 1973. This story talks about a family that consists of the mother (narrator) and her two daughters’ (Dee and Maggie). In the story they never say anything about the father because he was dead. The main things that the story is revolving around is the heritage and how it is important, the relationship between the two sisters, how education makes a differences, and finally about how generations changed by time.
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.
In the short stories we have read there have been numerous themes. The impact of tradition, the value of heritage, the importance of family, the divide between social classes, and the presence of love are all ideas that can be found in the stories we have read. Short stories have managed to encapture the importance and true meaning of life in just a few sentences by imposing on the readers themes we can all relate to. A common theme presented in Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” and Toni Cade Bambara’s “The Lesson” is the power of knowledge and education.
I’d wanted to ask her. She had hated the house that much.” This shows that Dee didn’t care much for her heritage, because she seemed so thrilled that the house had burned down. The way she reacted to the house burning shows that she didn’t care for her mother or
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.
While the narrator is describing herself as she actually is rather than Dee's expectations, she mentions, "I am a big-boned woman with rough man-working hands" (59). The mother's explanation of herself shows that she accepts herself and her heritage, while Dee believes her heritage is from making objects ornamental. This discloses that the mother is proud of who she is and where she comes
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.
Another way Walker shows how Dee is hateful is when she wants her mom to be something she is not. "In real life I am a large, big boned woman, with strong, man looking hands" (60). The imagery in this quote shows how the mother feels about herself and this is not what Dee wants her to look or be like. The poem and short story use both, figurative language and imagery to reveal the quilt as a symbol for a mother's love and family heritage. Acosta shows how the quilts have love built into them.
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.
When you look at it from Dee’s point of few she just seems to be pushing her family to expand their education and have a better life. Dee doesn’t want her family on a farm and raising cattle because that isn’t what she likes. She has an open mind about things and sees them as more than just what they are used for, hence the title, “Everyday Use.” Dee may seem like a rude, spoiled girl, but looking at it from her perspective, all she wants is for her family to live the way she does. Changing the point of view from Mama to Dee would make a major difference.
Growing up together under the same conditions clearly created two very distinct individuals with contrasting views regarding their past, present, and future. When Dee arrives home from college, she portrayed herself as higher class; she put herself above her family and her past. During her visit, she was looking for valuable things to have in her home. While looking around, Dee notices two handmade quilts containing pieces of clothe that date back to the Civil War.