One can find out about family heritage through formal instruction; in any case, genuine heritage is passed down from age through their narratives, pictures, and different collections that our families hold dear to their souls. In the short story, ‘Everyday Use,’ by Alice Walker she teaches us family heritage and symbols; what it is and who can receive it. Two hand sewed quilts turn into the focal point of conflict in the story. They are also used to symbolize the family heritage. A quilt is made up of events, circumstances and influences that shape how one see and respond to the world. In the story, Mama, is the narrator who guides the reader through two different perspectives of her daughters.
As the two sisters have diverse appearance and identities, they have alternate point of views on heritage. Walker uses quilts to symbolize the heritage and describes the two girls’ view on quilts to show their perspectives on heritage. Many may question how can two young women from the same rich inheritance of family, history and community be so different?
Initially, Dee’s point of view on family heritage is not the same as her sister. Whatever her family brings to the table is never enough. Dee is the older sibling, who has wandered from the world she experienced in her childhood, yet never felt a part. The story is set with regards to her returning home from college. Dee considers heritage as something that has an extrinsic value. She trusts that the best possible approach to acknowledge and protect her heritage is to not place
it into her regular everyday use, but rather to appreciate it and use it as an accessory. Such a thought is uncovered when Dee says, ‘Maggie can’t value these quilts! She’d most likely be in reverse enough to put them to regular use.’ When the mama asks Dee what she would do with the quilts, she says, ‘Hang them’ (2378), which demonstrates that Dee thinks about the quilts just as tangible antiques. Moreover, the way Dee dress is different than her family. ‘ A dress down to the ground… yellows and oranges enough to throw back the light of the sun. Earrings gold, too… Bracelets dangling and making noises… ‘ Her hair, ‘stands straight up like the wool on a sheep,’ (2379). This is the manner by which Mama depicts her daughters’ new appearance. In spite of the fact that Mama does not dislike Dee’s new African style she is not comfortable with it. Dee had taken on the task to flash her African roots while she failed to understand the true meaning of her heritage. Dee tragically believes that one’s heritage is something that one puts on to show. Mama does not show African fashion. In any case she knows the genuine significance of her heritage; something that Dee does not appear to get it. Through “Everyday use”, Walker conveys that culture and heritage are taught from one generation to the next and it is not suddenly acquired and definitely it is not something that one suddenly puts on.
On the other hand, Maggie perspective on heritage is totally different than Dee’s. Maggie is the younger sister who never left home. The burning down of the house, her stuck-up sister, and society affects Maggie and makes her different from the other characters. Maggie was so damaged from her home torching that she turned into a timid and undervalued young girl. Maggie is for the most part saying ‘Uhnnnh’ if anything at all through the story. Mom depicts Maggie as a young lady who ‘will stand pitifully… plain and embarrassed about the torch scars her arms and legs’ from the fire, and who feels second rate compared to Dee (2379). These burns
and scars that Maggie has might be the reason of her absence of information just on the grounds that she was embarrassed to be in the learning environment. Moreover, the minute Maggie opens her mouth around her sister, it’s just as Dee was there just to make her life more hopeless, making unforgiving and scornful remarks at Maggie ‘s every word. ‘Maggie ‘s brain is like an elephant ‘s,” Wangero said (2380). After rummaging through Maggie ‘s trunk, Dee insisted that her mother let her take the quilts that were put away. Mama told Dee that she was saving them to give to her sister after she married but Maggie said, ‘She can have them, Mama, I can ‘member Grandma Dee without the quilts’ (2381). Family to Mama and Maggie is not just made up of tangibles. Maggie thinks of family heritage as an attachment to her ancestors. She believes the everyday use of the inherited materials, how much ever value they may retain, will keep her connected to her ancestors. She values the attachment to the ancestors more than the inherited material itself.
Walker compares Maggie with her sister, Dee, to show how society slanders African-American women as well as women in the 1970s. From the beginning of the story, Maggie is depicted as anxious, miserably remaining in the corner. Later she is portrayed as almost hidden from view. On a metaphorical level, Maggie is the image of the absence of power held in the 1970s for women. She is the exemplification of the quiet women. In contrast, Dee is confident, she will look at you without flinching. She fills in as an image of the free, effective present-day women. Her confidence may put on a show of being arrogant, and an excess of pride. By differentiating Maggie and Dee, Walker is communicating the two sides of the women role during that time.
All in all, Walker gives the reader the strong impression that Mama has a special partiality for her oldest daughter Dee, and a sentiment of disgrace for her youngest daughter, Maggie. As the story is being told, and eventually comes to its closing, Walker drastically changes the attitude of Mama toward both of her daughters, finally treating each girl as they truly deserve. Walker’s character Mama gives the readers insight to the thoughts and feelings of a traditional African-American mother of the late 1960’s to early 1970’s. She has seen her two little girls transform into two altogether different women as they grew up from their childhood. Mama situation in the story is that of a solid parental figure, who has the responsibility of both mother and father for her family.
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