Themes of Everyday Use by Alice Walker
In the Alice Walker’s story “Everyday Use”, two sisters portray their contrasting family views on what they perceive to be heritage. The idea is that a quilt is a part of this family's history. They aren't just parts of cloth put together to make a blanket. The quilt symbolizes their ancestors' lives and tells a story with every single inch of cloth. Understanding the reasoning of why the author wrote this story is very important; valuing the culture and traditions of your family is extremely meaningful. This is shown by the mother’s thoughts on the quilts, “Both of them were scraps of dresses Grandma Dee had worn fifty and more years ago. Bits and pieces of Grandpa Jarrell's paisley shirts. And one teeny faded blue piece about the size of a penny matchbox that was from Great Grandpa Ezra's uniform that he wore in the Civil War. (367-368)"In the story, Walker presents Maggie, who is the younger sister, as an example of heritage in terms of passing it on through the generations with knowledge and respect. Maggie unlike her older sister knew how to sew and appreciated personally and emotionally on how much time and effort where put into the quilts whereas Dee sees the quilt valued only for financial and aesthetic reasons. Maggie and Dee have very different ideas about what constitutes their heritage and for Maggie, the family heirlooms are filled with the presence of the people who made and used them. Dee on the other hand is angered by what she views as a family history of oppression. Because of this Dee has constructed a new heritage for herself based on African blood, she even went as far as to give herself a new name, “Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo,” but she fails to see the history and legacy of her actual family and has created a new persona based around her new “African Heritage”. However she has little true understanding of Africa, so what she considers her true heritage is actually completely empty and...
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