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Everyday Use By Alice Walker Essay, Research Paper

People identify themselves by their colour, culture, language or religion. The identity goes back to generations and it doesn t start or change within the individual. It is an evolutionary process where each person brings upon some changes. This is best described in Alice Walker s short story, Everyday Use , where three characters, a mother and two daughters, are portrayed differently, each with its different qualities and philosophies on life that are often seen in generations.

Heritage is an important part of a person s life. It tells the person where it came from and helps the person reach its destiny, almost like a road map. In this story, Dee has trouble understanding the meaning of heritage. Instead of using it to complement her life into the right direction, she puts it on display. For example, when she and her mate come home, they start taking pictures of the house and everything around it. She stoops down quickly and lines up picture after picture of me sitting there in front of the house with Maggie cowering behind me. She never takes a shot without making sure the house is included. When a cow comes nibbling around the edge of the yard she snaps it and me and Maggie and the house. (2243)

A second representation of her misunderstanding was when she was having lunch with the family. This describes how she never appreciated this bench until she is able to portray it as a piece of art. Everything delighted her. Even the fact that we still used the benches her daddy made for the table when we couldn t afford to buy chairs.

Oh, Mama! she cried. Then turned to Hakim-a-barber. I never knew how lovely these benches are. You can feel the rump prints, she said, running her hands underneath her and along the bench. (2242)

Dee gets irritated when her mother refuses to grant her permission to keep the quilts and tries to explain to her mother that these quilts are rare pieces of art and should be put on display rather than be used. Maggie can t appreciate these quilts! she said. She d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use.

I reckon she would, I said. God knows I been saving em for long enough with nobody using em. I hope she will! I didn t want to bring up how I had offered Dee (Wangero) a quilt when she went away to college. Then she had told me they were old-fashioned, out of style.

Maggie would put them on the bed and in five years they d be in rags. Less than that!

[ ]

Well, I said, stumped. What would you do with them?

Hang them, she said. As if that was the only thing you could do with quilts. (2245)

The above shows how Dee has a different point of view on certain things. She wants to show that she is modern by exposing good, valuable things. She may have an appreciation for art, but this actually shows that she is of limited intelligence because she thinks that quilts could only be hung. Another example would be when she was taking pictures of the house. She behaves like a nervous tourist around unknown culture, capturing it all on film for some kind of display. She also changes her name from Dee to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjol. (2243) To the great surprise of her mother, she says the following: I couldn t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me. (2243) This shows how she wants to change personality, hiding her family tree behind her name. But her name means a lot to the family as she was named after her grandmother and great-grandmother and would be easier for the family to trace down the generations of the family. That s about as far back as I can trace it, I said. Though, in fact, I probably could have carried it back beyond the Civil War through the branches.

Well, said Asamalakim, there you are.

[ ]

There I was not, I said, before Dicie cropped up in our family, so why should I try to trace it that far back? (2243)

The mother s remark throws back the comments made by Hakim-a-barber, meaning that past generations aren t that important to the couple (Hakim-a-barber and Dee) as they are to her and Maggie.

In all, Dee and company have a lack of respect for their history and tradition. They aren t aware of their shortcomings. They don t reflect on what they re doing to their family and ancestors. If they at least held a certain respect for their family and tried understanding why they have come to this, it will show that the two cared and aren t neglectful. But some things just never change.


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