Everyday Use: Preserving African-American Heritage - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1549 Words
Date:  2023-08-28


The short story "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker discusses the reason why African-American culture and heritage need preservation. Through her short story, Alice Walker explains why the significance of culture and heritage. To explain heritage and culture, the story is told from the perspective of a mother and her two daughters. The two daughters in the story are Dee, who changed her name to Wangero and Maggie. The two daughters share contrasting views on heritage and culture. The conflicting views on culture create conflicts between Mama, Maggie, and Dee. From the story, it is right to say that Mama's support for Maggie while turning back on Dee created division among them. The story "Everyday Use" through the eyes of Mama explains what is expected of African-American culture through the divergent views of Maggie and Dee.

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The views of Dee and Maggie change in the story, therefore, allowing Walker to explain how people have different opinions on heritage. Dee's cultural views changed when she was away from home. The first action showing a change in Dee's views is witnessed when she changed her name from Dee to Wangero. The reason for Dee's decision to change her is name is that she no longer wanted to be associated with people who tortured her ancestors. Dee tries to explain to her mum why she abandoned her name. "What happened to "Dee'?" I wanted to know. "She's dead," Wangero said. "I couldn't bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me." (Walker np). Dee's perception of culture changed after and now believes in cultural appreciation. Dee, however, fails to have a deep understanding of items that were there in their house during her upbringing. Dee wants to hang on to old items that were part of their family. Maggie's views, on the other hand, are different, and from the beginning, she is Mama's daughter, who values her heritage. Maggie is different from Dee because she clearly understands the family heritage. Maggie's appreciation of their history proves that her views are to retain the cultures that were passed to them by their ancestors. Dee is the daughter with brains and beauty, but to Mama, she feels that Maggie's position to uphold culture and heritage is essential. Maggie's value for heritage and culture is evident when Dee says that Maggie was going to put the quilts to everyday use. Mama's reply to Dee shows how Maggie never minds using the quilts, as they were part of their heritage. Mama says, "She can always make some more; Maggie knows how to quilt."(Walker np). Mama's reply shows that she understands the different views held by her daughters. Maggie's ability to convert patches into beautiful quilts.

The three characters in the story experience the change in character. The change in character is an indicator of how the characters are changing to accept the African-American culture. Wangero's change of her feelings about the objects in her mother's home is a significant character change in the story. Upon her return, Dee, who now goes by the name Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo her character changed, and her reactions towards her Mama's food and traditional objects were respectful. Wangero is the new identity of Dee, and her newfound desires are the love for handcrafted objects. Wangero's change to love her mother's objects proves that she now embraces Pan-Africanism through her support for the black consciousness movement. Through Mama's eye, we can see that Wangero is now a changed person and her newfound love for Mama's cooking and antique objects. "Mama," Wangero said sweetly as a bird. "Can I have these old quilts?" Wangero's request to have the old quilts is a change of feelings because she never liked them before joining college. Wangero also began to take an interest in items that were used by Maggie and Mama. These objects include the dasher, quilts, benches, and butter churns top. Wangero's interest in the objects, however, does not include the history of these items and the people behind them. Wangero wants to make an artistic change to these items. Wangero's reason to change her feelings towards these items is a way that shows that she is interested in finding out about the trappings that these heritage has brought to their family and the African-Americans. The change in her feelings does not change Warengo's desire to learn about the real heritage passed down to their generations. Her focus is to use the quilts to display in her home to show her heritage. Her feelings are the Maggie and Mama are not appreciating the quilts because they are used every day in their rural home. The new feeling of admiration towards the artifacts in her mother's home shows how Wangero believes that they are not a symbol of oppression. The new admiration follows the new trend where African-Americans have started to value their handmade objects without necessarily showing interest in their family "heritage."

Wangero's request to have the old quilts made by mother, grandmother, and aunt did not go well with Maggie. The two characters, Maggie and Wangero, have different values placed on the household objects. Wangero is offended when she is told that the quilts were to be given to Maggie upon getting married. Wangero believes that Maggie does not deserve to have the quilts. According to Wangero, the quilts require preservation. "Maggie can't appreciate these quilts!" she said. "She'd probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use."(Walker np). Wangero's way of valuing the quilts is through preservation rather than everyday use. Maggie, on the other hand, values the objects in a different way through its everyday use. By using the objects every day implies that Maggie can make more quilts, therefore, valuing the objects by making more. The different ways through which Maggie and Wangero value their mother's household objects illustrate how the two characters are confused about how they should treat their present life. Wangero's way of valuing the quilts shows how she is confused about how she understands her heritage. Wangero's confusion in understanding her culture emerges because while she now rejects names passed to them by their ancestors, she now values quilts and all the household objects. Maggie, on the other hand, values the objects as part of her everyday life. She works best to ensure that she keeps working in making quilts. Maggie understands that she is not bright; that is why she chose to make the best out of her life by learning the art of quilting. Maggie way of valuing the household objects represent a picture of past life experience by African-American women. Maggie is determined to pass on the family heritage of quilting, while on the other hand, Wangero's idea to persevere the objects is a representation of women who do not want to lose their present life in the future. There is a conflicting debate between Maggie and Wangero on how the quilts should be valued. The debate between Maggie and Wangero symbolizes the dilemma facing the black woman regarding their future. According to Maggie, her stand is that her life is going to be a continuation of her ancestors' life. Maggie is, therefore, going to show value for the objects by using and making more. Wangero's stand is that she is going to value the objects by hanging them on the wall. Hanging the objects on the wall is a way to show that she is not ready to mix her current life with her ancestors' life. According to Wangero, her mother's idea to use the objects on everyday use will put her to live the old fashioned life, which she does not want.


The divergent views held by Maggie and Dee in the short story "Everyday Use" explain the confusion that is facing the African-American woman on how they should respond to their ancestors' heritage. Dee and Maggie divergent views on how to value the household objects in their mother's home. The two sisters shade a concern on how African-American women are confused about how they should live their current life while they are supposed to uphold their ancestors' culture and heritage. According feels that their mother and Maggie are not taking care of their heritage by using the quilts for daily use. Dee is also confused about her culture. Her confusion is evident when she drops her name Dee for Warengo. Alice Walker's work summarizes the dilemma facing African-American women on how they should leave their present life while still upholding their ancestors' way of living. Dee's opinion that the quilts should be hanged on the wall instead of everyday use is a case of human beings having different feelings towards their heritage. The contrast between Dee and Maggie in honoring their mothers' objects shows that despite belonging to the same family, we can find themselves not sharing the same opinions on how we should value culture and heritage.

Works Cited

Walker, Alice (American novelist). "Everyday Use." In Love & Trouble, by Alice Walker, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1973, p. 47+. LitFinder, db29.linccweb.org/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.db29.linccweb.org/ps/i.do?p=LITF&sw=w&u=lincclin_vcc&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA264014338&it=r&asid=74d98d83317bf828e476ca5da395a044. Accessed 6 Sept. 2017.

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Everyday Use: Preserving African-American Heritage - Essay Sample. (2023, Aug 28). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/everyday-use-preserving-african-american-heritage-essay-sample

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