24 March 2013
Heritage in Walker’s “Everyday Use”
In the short story “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, there are many themes and motifs presented throughout the plot. The major theme of heritage is present throughout the story. Walker shows the importance of heritage through her extensive use of irony. For example, Dee changes her name to Wangero to reflect the new fad of "getting in touch with African heritage." This fad of name changing came with the reoccurrence of the Back to Africa movement spawning out of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Blacks gained their pride and freedom back after the fall of Jim Crowe and moved into the era of the black nationalists and the nation of Islam led by leaders such as Louis Farrakhan and Malcolm X. This national movement going on in the black community reflected Dee and Hakim’s yearning to find their “true heritage.” However, the name Dee already has comes from her heritage. As Mama says, "You know as well as me you was named after your aunt Dicie. Dicie is my sister. She named you Dee." Dee has the education to understand the history of her people, but the irony is that she is missing the people standing right in front of her. Name changing rejected any ties to the families who once owned hem as slaves, often times referring to their birth names as “slave names.” Dee’s name carried her family heritage because it once was the name her aunt had. She just doesn't get it that Mama and Maggie are the most important parts of her heritage. This is at least a little ironic. Even Hakim-a-barber has converted to Islam but chooses only to accept certain doctrines of this religion and the black power movement when he refuses to eat collard greens and pork. As he says, "I accept some of their doctrines, but farming and raising cattle is not my style." The irony is that it may not be the "style" of Mama and Maggie either; it is their way of life and livelihood. They would...