How Heritage Is Important In Different Ways In Everyday Use Essay

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¶ … Everyday Use" By Alice Walker Family tradition and heritage means different things for the main characters in "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker. For Dee (Wangero), heritage is an intellectual exercise, like something to be proud of and displayed so as to show off to others how important you are. But for Maggie and Mama, heritage is that which has been part of the family. For instance, Dee's name was given her by her aunt, who in turn was named after their grandmother and she after hers, and so on. It was a generational name that should have held some traditional significance for Dee -- and Mama points this out, having an actual sense of her family's history and heritage. But Dee is not interested in that heritage: she wants to trumpet her African heritage so she changes her name to signify that she has no relation the slave culture that oppressed her people and gave them the name "Dee" in the first place, so she believes. Dee's sense of heritage is thus politicized and polemical: it is ideological rather than practical, familial, and familiar. It is rooted in pride and hatred -- but it is also innocent in a way because...


In fact, it makes Maggie smile -- and Maggie actually appreciates her heritage -- her memory of her grandmother, for instance -- in a way that Dee cannot. Maggie, in this sense, is more mature than her sister.
The meaning of the objects in the story (the butter churn and the quilts) tell us about the Johnson family: they tell us that family is important, that there is a bond between the generations and respect and love for their memories. The grandmother and aunt taught Maggie how to quilt. The butter churn was carved by an uncle. They are important because the prompt memories of the lost loved ones, but also because they were physically connected to the loved ones, too: they belonged to them and are therefore simply special. There is, through the object, a connection of kinship. This is deeply appreciated by Mama and Maggie, but by Dee only superficially.

Dee's appreciation for her heritage is genuine in a way: she wants to display it after all. But she also does not understand it the way that Maggie and Mama do. For her, heritage is…

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Walker, Alice. "Everyday Use."

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