Everyday Use Alice Walker
In the story Everyday Use Alice Walker illustrates the importance of understanding our present life in relation to traditions of our own people and culture. One’s culture and heritage are taught from one generation to the next. A person who possesses real heritage and culture uses it every day. Maggie’s identity was shaped by learning her culture through her mother while living in their childhood town. The story starts out telling us that Dee is coming to visit her mother and sister, Maggie. Their mother is very excited but Maggie is quite nervous.
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Maggie has burn scares all over her body and feels more self conscious of them when Dee is around. Maggie is envious of her sister’s beauty. When Dee arrives, Maggie and their mother learn that she has changed her given name to a different name. This shows her being ashamed of her culture and background because she was willing to change her birth name. In the book Dee states, “…no matter where we ‘choose’ to live, she will manage to come see us” (348). This shows how Dee is ashamed where she comes from by saying they live there by choice and could have the opportunity to live in another place.
Mother describes how Dee is dressed in detail and how different in appearance they are. This also reflects how much Dee is changing herself because we can see the 2 differences in each woman. The mother goes on to describe her rugged appearance and how her hands were rough and well-worked from everyday use. “In real life I am a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands. I can kill and clean a hog as mercifully as a man. I can work outside all day breaking ice to get water for washing”(347). Maggie can appreciate the things she has because of her mother’s hard work.
This was passed on to Maggie and helped to shape her identity. During dinner at the home Dee scanned the house looking for things she could take with her to help decorate her own home. She was not looking to keep her heritage alive by using these items in her everyday life. Dee was only looking at them for their eye-pleasing value instead of their family value. Dee became hysterical when she learned that her mother had no plan to pass on the heirloom quilts to her but rather to Maggie. “Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts! She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use (352). This shows that Dee does not understand her heritage. In her cultural, the quilts are to be used every day and not to be hung on a wall for decoration like she wanted. Maggie’s mother knew she would carry out their heritage by using them on her own beds. She held the knowledge to teach show her future children the pieces and teach them how to create the quilts. The quilts were a link to their past and were very special to Maggie and her mother. Maggie also knew the hard work that was put into the quilts because they were all hand stitched.
In conclusion, heritage is also very important in my family. It’s a special thing to hold on to and never forget. It helps to shape identity by recognizing where your family came from and the hardships they endured. To never forget and to never try and change your cultural. The start of the story Maggie had little self confidence. “Maggie smiled, a real smile, not scared (353)”. Towards the end of the story she gained self confidence from knowing how rich her cultural was and how proud she is that her mother helped to keep it alive in the present.