11 October 2012
The Importance of Heritage
In her short story, Everyday Use, Alice Walker uses the idea of one’s heritage to develop a message to readers about what role cultural background should have in people’s lives. Walker makes her opinion of true heritage very clear by highlighting the attitudes of a mother and her two daughters in the story. In addition to the attitudes of the characters, Walker also sheds light upon one daughter’s complete and utter misconception of heritage while at the same time contrasting this with her mother’s and sister’s understanding of the concept. The eldest daughter, Dee, is portrayed to be an extremely egocentric person. Throughout the story, from her childhood to her adulthood, she has remained with an unchanged state of mind that is both condescending and immature. Even in the very first parts of the story in which Dee is mentioned, Walker makes no mistake in portraying her in a frighteningly unpleasant manner. When Walker tells of the family’s previous house burning down and Mama making an effort to rescue Maggie (the other daughter), Dee is described as simply “standing off under the sweet gum tree” (369) with only “a look of concentration on her face” (369), not doing anything to assist. This is the first example given to the reader of Dee’s hatred towards her heritage. To compensate for the shame and hatred of her heritage, Dee finds pleasure in looking down on those she feels that are beneath her. Because she was privileged enough to go away for college, she misused her education as a tool to make her mother and sister feel “trapped and ignorant underneath her voice” (369) whenever she spoke to them. She used fashion in a similar manner; her mother notes that “At sixteen she had a style of her own: and knew what style was.” Mama and Maggie are described as the exact opposite of Dee. Unfortunately, the mother uses no discretion in comparing Maggie and...