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Every Day Use

By:   •  June 25, 2012  •  Essay  •  735 Words (3 Pages)  •  1,586 Views

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Do people have a better understanding of where they are going if they understand where they have come from? Alice Walker's short story, "Every Day Use," tells a story of two African American sisters from the late 1960's to the early 70's, who view their heritage quite differently. Dee, the older of the two sisters, is trying to embrace her African Heritage and the newly found freedom of the African American people but seems to have forgotten her ancestors. The youngest sister, Maggie, has a deeper understanding of her American heritage and has a greater respect for her African American ancestors. Although Dee and Maggie were raised in the same home, their viewpoints on heritage are poles apart and Walker shows their differences not only through their appearance, personalities and perspective of their ancestor's items, but also through their acknowledgment and acceptance of their African American heritage.

The author uses Dee and Maggie's manners towards their ancestor's items to reveal their differences in how they view their heritage. Dee uses her ancestor's items as a symbol of her heritage. Although she calls her ancestor's items "priceless," she does not value the items as being special because they were made and used by her family (612). Maggie uses the stories and memories behind the items to "member [her] Grandma Dee" (612). The sisters have a very different view of the meaning behind their grandmother's quilts. Dee is materialistic and wants to hang the quilts as if they are a piece of art to be viewed. She needs the quilts to show evidence of her African heritage. Maggie, on the other hand, would use the quilts as they were intended to be used and pass down the stories of how the quilts were made to her children. Maggie does not see the quilts as anything else but quilts, because they have been a part of her life.

Walker shows Dee and Maggie's differences in the way they view their heritage through their dissimilar appearance and personalities. Unlike the simple clothing that Maggie wears, Dee returns home wearing a "loud" traditional African dress, trying to demonstrate her African American heritage. Dee has tried to leave her American heritage in the past and leave behind the people who "oppress" her (611). Maggie, on the other hand, views her African heritage as a lifestyle, living as her mother and ancestors have (610). Maggie does not show embarrassment for the way that they live, because she is grateful that they have a roof over their head and has not experienced life other than the way her ancestors have lived.

The girl's acknowledgment of their African American heritage is quite diverse. Maggie is more accepting of her African


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