Heritage is a complex anomaly that people perceive in different ways. The short story “Everyday Use” is about three women - Dee, Maggie, and Mama. The story is told in the first person by “Mama”. Dee and Maggie are the daughters of Mama. They are the main three characters. Dee is the oldest daughter. She was always described as beautiful, intelligent, and outgoing by Mama. Dee was given the chance to have an education and went to college. Maggie is the youngest daughter she is described as self-conscious about herself because she has scars because of a fire she was in as a child. She is noble, kind, and thoughtful. Mama is honest and often strict with Dee and Maggie. The three charters have conflicts with each other that are internal and external. In this short story, the word 'heritage' means embracing their roots from their ancestor. In the short story “Everyday use” Alice Walker uses conflict to illustrate the importance of embracing heritage and not replacing it with something that is not authentic to them.
The first form of conflict is external that Dee has with her mother. Dee shows that she does not embrace her heritage by changing her name to Wangero. She embraces the African culture by naming herself “Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo” and does not accept her real identity. She tells her mother that Dee is dead. Dee claims they “couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me” (Walker 514). Her name represents her aunt and Grandma Dee. Mama tries to explain how she got her name, but Dee believes it’s not important. Dee has embraced a new heritage for herself and rejected her real heritage. She does not see the importance of her roots because she failed to see them. She changes her name because she believes Wagner embraces her African heritage. Dee wants to break away from her family. Instead of honoring her roots, she acts as if she is above everyone.
The second conflict is internal it concerns her low self-esteem and insecurities, which are involved with her sister Dee. As a child, Maggie suffered serious burns during a house fire and is self-conscience about her physical appearance. Mama claims “Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes: she will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eying her sister with a mixture of envy and awe” (Walker 508). This shows how Maggie doesn’t have confidence in herself and that she believes she is living in the shadow of Dee. When Maggie was with Mama and Dee. Dee has asked for the quits Maggie thinks about it because she has low self-esteem and ffofferso give the quilts to Dee, it’s something she wants but she believes that she is not worth it. She believes her sister derisive it more. She didn’t need the quilts to remember someone. Maggie learned about their family's history through quilt making. Mama saw this and she did not give the quilts to Dee instead she gives it to her. She was so surprised that Mama did that. Maggie was happy for once Mama chooses her and not her sister because that doesn’t happen often. Mama also went through her internal conflict to make this decision.
An internal conflict is Mama’s decision between her two daughters. A conflict between both and competing for their mother's love. The quilt is a symbol of the mother's love and acceptance between them. When Mama sees the way, Maggie gives the quilts to Dee, something happens to her. She said, “When I looked at “Maggie” like that something hit me in the top of my head and ran down to the soles of my feet.” “I did something I never done before: hugged Maggie to me, then dragged her on into the room, snatched the quilts out of Miss Wangero's hands, and dumped them into Maggie's lap.” she suddenly recognizes Dee's selfishness and shallow motives compared to Maggie's quiet devotion to family, and Mama refuses to allow Dee to continue to 'burn' them anymore. This is something has never done for Maggie and she can see that. Dee was was always given everything but Mama saw how Dee is and it was hard for her because she still loves her daughter, but she understood that Maggie deserves it more than Dee. Mama knows that Dee has become someone else and is not embracing her true self and has become selfish.
In conclusion, Walker writes 'Everyday Use' to have her readers understand their heritage. There are many different ways cultures can pass traditions down. She explains that this short story with these characters’ development. Mama, Dee, and Maggie help to show the different points of view that they had on their heritage. That person shouldn't forget about it and act as if it never happened. You can't just leave the past behind. That anyone can embrace their heritage. That we shouldn’t replace something important to your family and past because many are becoming like Dee forgetting about their heritage. This short story is showing us we should care about our inheritance and where we come from.
- Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use”. The Citrus College Guide To Reading And Writing, Citrus College, Norton Custom, 2018, 507-520.
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