Everyday Use: Several Meanings of the Concept of Heritage

Hook: A quote from the short story. 'Everyday Use,' is a story about a poor, African American family and a conflict about the word 'heritage.' In this short story, the word 'heritage' has two meanings. One meaning for the word 'heritage' represents family items, thoughts, and traditions passed down through the years. The other meaning for the word 'heritage' represents the African American culture. There are three women in this short story, two sisters and their mother. One of the sisters is named Maggie and the other is named Dee. Maggie and her mother believe that the word 'heritage' deals with their family’s traditions. These traditions are the only ones they have ever known and/or cared about. Dee, on the other hand, believes that 'heritage' is about African culture, and she wants nothing to do with her family’s heritage until it is in style. Throughout 'Everyday Use,' there are examples that show Maggie and her mother have knowledge about their family’s heritage. There are also examples that show Maggie and her mother cherish their family’s heritage and Dee does not. Next, there are examples that show Dee is not concerned with her family’s heritage until it becomes stylish. In “Everyday Use,” Alice Walker uses symbolism, character development, and setting to show the significance of valuing the importance and real meaning of African American culture and heritage.

The author proves the meaning of heritage over Dee's unkind events and Maggie's events throughout her everyday life. She investigates heritage by using symbolism within family things. The bench was spread on to Mama after countless generations. The rear prints on the bench display the story of their relatives. Mama and Maggie nevertheless use the same bench at their table because they could not have enough money for new chairs. The butter dish that was Grandma Dees' is likewise being used at the table. The churn top that was carved out of a tree by Uncle Buddy shows and plays a great part in Mama and Maggie's everyday life. The key family detail that Walker uses to symbolize heritage is the two quilts. These quilts are hemmed from ancestors and the meanings of these quilts are filled with history. The churn top, the bench with her ancestor's rump prints, the butter dish, and the quilts are all symbols of their heritage. The symbolism of heritage is used in the story 'Everyday Use.' The heritage of their routine is a vital job of rising to their heritage because Maggie and Mama are still living like their relatives did generations earlier. They still practice the family things during their time. This all ties to the use of symbolizing family heritage.

The characters in “Everyday Use” are very different, especially Dee. The main character development is Dee's point of view because she shows and portrays change. In the story, the types go from round to static. Walker’s usage of “clear-cut symbolism” encourages readers to be able to have an opinion and take a greater appearance into the characters of the short story. While reading this story individuals could have felt anger for Dee, though for the narrator and Maggie individuals felt sympathy. It was easy-going to sense wrath and disregard to see Dee as. She was labeled as brighter than Maggie, with better hair and a richer appearance. From the start of the story, Dee presented herself as self-centered. This characteristic was shown throughout the story. Dee wrote to Maggie and Dee saying, “No matter where we choose to live, she will manage to come to see us. But she will never bring her friends”. This portrayed how not very grateful for her family when she was given everything in life, however, Dee felt embarrassed where she grew up and felt ashamed of her family. Also, she would much rather live alone than with her family. Once Dee arrived after years, she greeted herself to Maggie, and Mama in the backyard as Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, as well as her boyfriend as Asalamalakin. She changed her name because she thought her original name was a slaveowners name. Overall, character development is critical in “Everyday Use” because it shows the change.

Walker uses ordinary items throughout the story, and they are labeled with specific and little elements. However, the responses from the main characters to these objects are different than the modest and the real-world with the classy. The main characters in this story, 'Mama' and Maggie on one side, and Dee on the other, each have opposing views on the value and worth of the various things in their lives. The author uses this conflict to make the point that the substance of a piece and the people is more important than class. 

Alice Walker uses symbolism, character development, and setting to express the narrator's own moods of culture and heritage. This is extremely important of keeping the value of family traditions. The symbols of “the benches, the butter churn, the dash, and the quilts” help characterize the past of African American traditions. The character development of Mama, Dee, and Maggie helps to show the diverse opinions that one might have about heritage. Mama’s final eye-opener of learning which daughter has morals and the same belongings as her in the same style. The change in Mama allows her to stand up to a daughter in a way that she has before. The setting of the courtyard helps in telling the story behind the culture and heritage. Walker protects her place on the significance of keeping the price of African American culture and heritage. Heritage is a beautiful remembrance of where people came from and distinguishes the struggle their family made to continue their legacy, but create a new life, as well. 

Works Cited

  1. Bland, Sterling Lecater, Jr. 'The Secret Life Within: Race, Imagination, and America in Nella Larsen's Passing.' South Atlantic Review, vol. 84, no. 2-3, 2019, p. 55+. Literature Resource,Center, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A596317826/LitRC?u=cccl_mainlitrc&sid=LitRC&xid=fde4bd0a. Accessed 19 Nov. 2019.
07 July 2022
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