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Walker's Message of Personal Heritage in "Everyday Use" Essay

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Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” is a short story about a mother and two very different daughters set in rural Georgia during the late 1960’s. The plot is centered around on the two daughters, Dee and Maggie, and focusing on the differences between the two and who will gain possession of two hand-made quilts that are seen as a coveted trophy by Dee and are viewed as everyday items Maggie. The final decision of which daughter ultimately receives the quilts will be made by Momma Johnson. Momma, who is never given a first name in the story, is a strong black woman with many man-like qualities. “In real life I am a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands. In the winter I wear flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls during the day.” (DiYanni 744) Momma is a tough woman and has had to be both father and mother to the daughters although the story never comments on the absence of the father. The story revolves around a visit home by Dee who has been away at college and has recently discovered the true meaning of black heritage with her adoption of ideas and practices from black power groups while simultaneously rejecting her own upbringing. Upon arriving home, Dee announces that she has changed her name to “Wangero” in defiance of her white oppressors and to embrace her newly found African heritage with a more appropriate black name. Dee and Maggie are complete opposites in appearance, education and desire to escape their childhood surroundings. Maggie has little education and no noticeable desire to improve her situation and prefers to be left alone in the shadows where she can hide her physical and emotional scars from a house fire when she was a child. Hand sewn quilts become the objects of Dee’s desires; objects ...


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...s a tough-as-nails role model as a mother, could easily stand up for herself against a sassy girl like Dee if confronted. Walker has cast Maggie to remain a doormat to Dee’s antics which raises the questions whether or not she believes that African-Americans in today’s society should remain subservient to a more traditional African heritage or rely on the heritage that they and their forefathers have created for themselves in this country. I believe that Walker message is that a person’s heritage comes more from the connections that bind the generations together than a certain area, culture or country.



Works Cited

Cowart, David. "Heritage and Deracination in Walker's "Everyday Use"." Studies in Short Fiction 33 (1996): 174-184.
DiYanni, Robert. "Literature, Reading Fiction, Poetry and Drama." Walker, Alice. Everyday Use. Boston: McGraw Hill, 1973. 743-749.



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