Losing Your Culture
Culture, a building block of society, and the individual spirit throughout the world. Individuals Culture and Heritage were as a whole on the frontlines for many African Americans during the twentieth century for it was an under appreciated topic due to racism. In the stories Passing and Everyday Use, the main theme revolved around the loss of culture due to their color of skin. One of the Characters from Everyday Use such as Dee and Irene or Clare from Passing, felt unappreciated and that they were lesser individuals all based upon the color of there skin due to all the rights and mistreatments that hampered the African American Population. The two stories can be used closely to explain the topic of race and inequality, even though both stories have very diverse plots. Regardless, Clare and Irene’s passing back and forth from black to white can be correlated to Dee and her conversion to the Islamic faith. In the two stories, the theme of a lacking culture plays a huge role in establishing the feeling of uneasiness and hardships that as a society the African Americans of the mid 1900’s felt.
The Resistance to ones culture can be seen most accurately by Clare in the Passing by her uppe, white lifestyle. Pamela Caughie, best describes this appearance in the story by saying “Clare, by ‘passing,’ seems to have forsaken her racial heritage and acts as if she has no racial past”(Caughie 4). Clare is the atypical selfish character that does things for her even if that means stepping over the things that she once had a heart for. Clare at one point was actually married to a white supremacist, which does show that she has no care for her race and the societal view of it, only her possible gain that she may receive from the marriage. Irene is a more different character from Clare, she worked for the improvement of blacks within society, or as Caughie calls her, a “race woman.” Irene does manage to pass so she can live a life much like the whites do with the best stores and the better restaurants, but she never forgets where she came from which is something to be commended. The reason that Irene’s life is so much greater then Clare’s is the fact that she never sold her race out she never forgot where she came from her roots. It is only the jealousy that brings her back to Harlem, her roots. After all the years spent away from her culture, through Irene, she finally realizes she will never be truly happy unless she accepts where she came from and keeps the bonds with the ones that she once held close to her heart. Clare shows us a very thought provoking theme and that is that materialism can only bring someone a temporary happiness; where as where she came from her heritage and culture are what could fill the voids that that materialistic life never could.
Everyday Use has quite a few symbols and themes that can be viewed through the family of women, Dee more then the rest. David Cowart from Newberry College describes Dee’s lack of cultural stability as “An American who attempts to become an African succeeds only in becoming a phony… Wangero proclaims a deplorable degree of alienation from her rural origins and family”(Cowart 2). In an effort to be more connected with her ancestors, Dee actually distances herself from what her culture was really about. Dee’s personal dreams and aspirations to elude oppression led her further and further from what she needed the most and that was family. An example of her hate towards her roots and how she was brought up is the rejoicing that takes place within Dee’s core from the burning down of their house at the beginning of the story. She sought out to escape all the things that represented a poor life and through her eyes she had seen that she had finally succeeded in doing this. Maggie and Dee are complete opposites when it comes to breaking down there character in the story. Maggie and her mother display a very true and engaging love for one another....
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Cowart, David. "Heritage and deracination in Walker 's "Everyday Use". " Studies in Short Fiction 33.2 (1996): 171-184. Research Library, ProQuest. Web. 25 Feb. 2010.
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