Assistant Professor Ellen Boose
September 24, 2014
“Everyday Use” Lack of Understanding
Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” displays the importance of heritage through Mama, Maggie, and Dee. Mama and Maggie cherish their heritage with an accumulation of items over the years and often reminisce about the experiences they have had with their loved ones, but Dee has an inability to understand the true meaning of heritage.
Years before, Dee rejected her true black heritage. She had always been negative towards Mama and her sister, Maggie. When their house burned down, Dee showed no emotion and watched it burn rather than show concern for Maggie, who is now scarred from the incident. Mama’s church helped raise money to send Dee to college in Augusta, which she did not seem to appreciate, but accepted because she was anxious to get away. Before Dee goes away for school, she would read to Mama and Maggie, not for their enjoyment, but because Dee felt as if she was better than they. She once wrote Mama saying, “[. . .] no matter where we ‘chose’ to live, she would manage to come see us. But she would never bring her friends” (Walker 1127). Dee never wanted anyone to know where she lived because she was afraid they would make fun of her. She hardly visited her home because she was ashamed of her poor lifestyle.
Now, Dee shows false acceptance of African-Islamic heritage. When she arrives, Mama notices she has on a bright colored dress, long gold earrings, and dangling bracelets. It is apparent she has accepted the fashion sense of the new religion she has chosen to follow. She also adopts Muslim customs by changing her name to Wangero and associating herself with Hakim-a-barber. Dee says the person she once was is now dead and she no longer wants to be “[. . .] named after the people who oppress me [her]” (Walker 1128). Her impression of her name comes from the assumption that she is named after the slave owners of her...
Cited: Ross, Diane M. “Everyday Use.” Masterplots II: Short Story Series. Vol. 2. Ed. Frank N. Magill. Pasedena: Salem, 1986. 731-34. Print
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” Literature for Composition. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, et al. 10th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2013. 746-756. Print.
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