Heritage is defined as something that is passed down from preceding generations, such as a tradition. It could also be defined as the status acquired by a person through birth. Heritage helps to develop a persons values showing what they believe in; particularly about the values of their family. In Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” and Amy Tan’s “A Pair of Tickets”, the author’s seem to explore a common theme of heritage. Alice Walker is exploring the concept of heritage as it applies to an African-American family. Amy Tan is displaying the theme of heritage as it relates to Chinese and a Chinese-American family. Dee, from Everyday Use, and Jing-Mei, from A Pair of Tickets, have different adaptations of their heritage, but ironically it takes a trip back home to reveal the truth.
In the story Everyday Use, value of Heritage is the main topic. Dee, a young African-American woman, was, as a child, ashamed of her home and her surroundings. The narrator, Dee’s mother, says that when their first house burnt down, she watched Dee stand under the sweet gum tree she used to dig gum out of. Dee had a certain look of concentration on her face as she watched the last dingy gray board of the house fall in toward the red-hot brick chimney. Her mother wanted to ask “Why don’t you do a dance around the ashes?” (Walker 104) Her mother thought Dee had hated the house that much. Now they have a new home, which is much like the other one. Dee feels her mother chooses to live in homes that are shacks. However, it is evident at the beginning of the story, when Dee’s mother describes her clean yard as an extended living room, that she is proud of her home. Being proud of her home shows that she values what she has and doesn’t complain about not living in luxury. After there first house burnt down, Dee left home to attend college and now, upon her return, is a grown woman with a new life and a new name. Dee arrives home with her new beau “Asalamalakim”. Mother and Maggie call him this because this is the greeting he gives them. Dee greets her mother by saying “Wa-su-zo-Tean-o”. This is a shock to her mother. She tells her mother she has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, an African name, and says “I could not bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me.” (Walker 106) By saying this we may assume the people she is talking about her were her families’ slave owners, or maybe Americans in general. We then find out she is named after her ancestors, traced back three or more generations.Dee knew she had been named for her “Aunt Dee”, but was unaware of how far back the name went in her family. Was Dee ashamed of her name, or was it just her ignorance of her actual heritage? By changing her name she thinks she is taking on her “African” heritage. She denies her American heritage and feels she knows everything about her true culture and roots. “In “Everyday Use,” Alice Walker argues that an African-American is both African and American, and to deny the American side of one’s heritage is disrespectful on one’s ancestors and, consequently, harmful to one’s self” (White 1) Dee’s new name, her dress, and her new boyfriend are all indicative of her frivolous attitude toward her newly adopted African culture. She doesn’t know a thing about it. Later in the story Dee (Wangero) collects different family heirlooms she wants to take a display in her home. She wanted to take the dasher from the butter churn and quilts made of her grandmother’s dresses. Dee believes that by having these material items she is able to preserve her heritage and show off her roots.. “Dee’s primary use for the quilts would be to hang them on the wall as a reminder of her superior social and economic status.” (White p.4) However she had no knowledge of their history. Her lack of knowledge symbolizes her disregard for her family and her American heritage. When her mother denies her the quilts, she angrily tells her mother that she is...
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