Everyday Use

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In Alice Walker’s short story, “Everyday Use”, Dee’s attitude towards her heritage can be contrasted with the attitudes of her mother and sister. Dee/Wangero has embraced her African ancestral roots, whereas, Mama and Maggie know nothing of this culture and sees value only in their personal heritage.

Throughout the story Dee goes back and forth on being proud and rejecting her heritage. For example, when “she decides at dinner that she wants the butter churn, she shows that she respects her heritage because she knows that her uncle carved that with from a tree they used to have.”(45) However, she wants it for the wrong reason, saying that she will use it only for decoration. Another example is when she wants the quilts that Mama has. She states that she wants them because of the generations of clothing and effort put into making the quilt, showing her appreciation for her heritage. The fact that she changes her name, though, from Dee to “Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo” (25) disrespects her heritage because Dee is a family name that can be traced back many generations. For her mother, the situation is quite the opposite. Her knowledge is useful and grounded in her every day task. She gives a summary about her farm related accomplishments and brags about “being able to kill a hog like a man” (5) and can cook and take care of the homestead. Maggie uses the hand-made items in her life, experiences the life of her ancestors, and learns the history of both, exemplified by Maggie's knowledge of the hand-made items and the people who made them--a knowledge which Dee does not possess. Contrasting with Mama and Maggie, Dee seeks her heritage without understanding the heritage itself. Unlike Mama who is rough and man-like, and Maggie who is shy and scared, Dee is confident, where 'Hesitation is no part of her nature, (5)
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