Alice Walker's Everyday Use

Topics: Culture, Value, Shame Pages: 5 (1797 words) Published: October 20, 2008
Traditions and values sometimes change from generation to generation. “Everyday Use,” by Alice Walker is about a girl named Dee who does not like her heritage at first, and does many things to get rid of it or get away from it. She leaves home to look for what she wants and then came back which is a mistake . Walker’s “Everyday Use” illustrates how shame and embarrassment of your culture can lead to a total change of culture, and create differences within families. Mama’s view of cultural heritage is to maintain traditions and the use of the tradition. Dee views of cultural heritage in a more liberal sense, she sees it in a classification mode and sometimes as a disadvantage to a human being in the materialistic world.

Many young people in their youth are ashamed of their culture, and Dee is an example to this. She is ashamed of her culture because of her desire to succeed and overcome poverty, which is not an ideal of her culture at the time. She comes from a southern black family. The story “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker states, “in 1927 colored asked fewer questions than they do now,” (636) showing how they come from a black background. Immediately before being black in a the south meant you weren’t the wealthiest of people, their home was very simple and humble. Mama states, “It is three rooms, just like the one that burned, except the roof is tin; they don’t make single roofs anymore. There are no real windows, just some holes cut in the sides, like the portholes in a ship, but not round and not square, with rawhide holding the shutters up on the outside. This house is in a pasture,” said the story (636). This house they are in now is new or considered new by Mama, their old house was burned down in a fire where Maggie, Dee’s sister got injuries. When the house burnt down Dee just stood there looking at it maybe with joy as her mother struggles with her sister, “a look of concentration on her face as she watched the Galvez 2

last dingy gray board of the house fall in toward the red-hot brick chimney,” her mother thought to say, “Why don’t you do a dance around the ashes?” (636). This is one of the ways you can see how she is embarrassed of her background. At one point in the text Mama, claims, “she wrote me once that no matter where we “choose” to live, she will manage to come see us. But she will never bring her friends,” (636) this is another way she shows shw is self-conscious about her background, by claiming she will never show her friends where she comes from. One time Mama, offered Dee some quilts when she was going to college and Dee had rejected them. Mama thinks, “I didn’t want to bring up how I had offered Dee a quilt when she went away to college. The she had told me they were old-fashioned, out of style,” (639). Dee looked down on her culture at one point, now she wants to take some back; materialistically.

The values from Mama and Maggie differ from those that Dee adopts. Mama thinks, “She thinks her sister had held life always in the palm of her hand, that “no” is a word the world never learned to say to her,” (365) this portrays the stubbornness for progression that Dee has, which is her most noticeable value. Dee is very confident about herself but her natural culture embarrasses her. Mama says at one point, “Dee, though. She would always look anyone in the eye. Hesitation was not part of her nature,” (635) showing she is determined to overcome her humble beginnings and succeed. When she returns, she comes back with a different name. She named herself “Wangero” (637). Her name change shows how her traditions and culture really mean nothing to her. Mama asks her, “what happened to Dee?” (637) because deep inside she wanted to know what she had done to the family tradition, showing that Dee (Wangero) left behind her traditional values. When Dee comes home she asks for many things one controversial thing is that she asks for some old quilts. Mama responds by saying, “I promised to give them...
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