The Importance of Heritage in “Everyday Use”

Topics: African American, Baltimore, Zora Neale Hurston Pages: 2 (721 words) Published: July 6, 2008
The Importance of heritage in “Everyday Use”

In her story “Everyday Use,” Alice Walker introduces the complex relationships that are a part of African American families. Being an African American woman herself, Walker knows first hand the importance of family and the prevalence of heritage in this world and uses this story to challenge readers to not lose value of their heritage. Quilts are used to represent years of stories and history that carry the legacy of African American families and become themselves a bit of heritage. Walker uses quilts in “Everyday Use” as a way to pair the materialistic false world of Dee to the reality truth found in Maggie; in doing so, she is able to reinforce her point that African Americans need to respect and revere their heritage and be careful not to lose sight of where they come from.

Walker uses the character of Dee to parallel the world around them that seems to claim young men and women and cause them to lose sight of who they are. Dee seems very alluring and is described as having “neat-looking feet” that appear to have been shaped by “God himself” (Walker 842). Dee later reveals that she has changed her name from Dee to Wangero to escape oppression. In doing so, Walker shows how people so willingly trade in their heritage and all the history encompassed in it. This is later reinforced when “Wangero” begins asking Mama about some things around the house whittled and made by family members. She immediately discards all history associated with them and says “I can use the churn top as a centerpiece for the alcove table…and I’ll think of something artistic to do with that dasher” (Walker 844). She constantly rejects history for superficiality.

On the other hand, Maggie’s character is completely opposite of Dee. While Maggie has an appreciation and sentiment for these items, she recognizes the importance of the memory associated with them. When arguing over the quilts, Dee accuses Maggie of having the nerve...
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