Every Day Use Essay, Research Paper
Writer Alice Walker uses various symbols to help support the theme of heritage in ” Everyday Use”. Narrated by Mama, ancestral differences are revealed between herself, Maggie, and Dee/Wangero. Dee puts a historical value upon items she finds that Mama and Maggie would put to “Everyday Use”.
This short Story begins with Mama and Maggie awaiting the arrival of Dee the oldest daughter and her male companion. Mama’s home is a small house with a tin roof, and some small windows just cut in the side. A large hard clay yard which is “like an extended living room”. Mama sees her home as more comfortable than most people know”.
While waiting for Dee, Mama gives us some insight on both of her daughters and herself. She starts with a personal description and a dream of being on a Johnny Carson like TV show. She sees herself as the woman Dee might prefer ” a hundred pounds lighter” with skin like “uncooked barley pancakes”. In real life mama is ” a large Big-Boned woman with tough man-working hands”. Maggie is described as a simple minded individual who has very similar virtues as her mother. Dee has always wanted ” nice things” She had a “style of her own: and knew what style was”. With just a brief introduction of the characters, we begin to see the difference between the three women. This begins to build the conflicts pertaining to the way each view their own heritage and the changes Dee has gone through as she has grown. Mama believes Dee hated her family and the house she was raised in. When Dee finally arrives with her male companion, we see sort of a new Dee/Wangero. She is dressed in a bright dress “enough to throw back the light of the sun”. Her hair stands up ” like the wool on a sheep”. She takes pictures of her mother and sister making sure ” the house is not included” as this is the first sign of the new Dee. Mama finally greets her “Well, I say, Dee” and Dee/Wangero replies ” Not. Dee, Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo! she [Dee] is dead” Wangero can no longer bear being named after people who oppressed her. Wagner’s new views of heritage are beginning to be revealed. Wangero is quite a different person now than when she left home.
Wangero notices some key symbols of her past such as the benches her family built, Grandma Dee’s butter dish and the churn in which the butter was produced. She also notices the dasher that has worn finger marks in it, a sign of manual labor, which was used with the churn. Wangero mentions that “Uncle Buddy whittled the dasher out of a tree you all used to have”. This shows ties to her past ancestors and the historical value she has placed on things her family has used everyday. Wangero finds some old quilts, which their Grandma and Big Dee made. This brings us to the climax of the conflict between Mama, Maggie, and Wangero about the way they each view their heritage differently. Wangero insist that she should be able to keep the quilts and ” hang them” to be put on display to symbolize her heritage. Rather than Maggie putting them to “Everyday Use”. This, Wangero finds as a disgrace to her family to use the quilt as an item rather than a symbol, which she felt, oppressed her. Although, we are reminded about when Dee left for school and would not take the quilts calling them “old-fashioned and out of style”.
While Mama and Maggie have a sense of family heritage as well, they show it in a different way by putting things to use. They are living the legacy of their family which, is their basis of their heritage. Dee has a much different poise now than as when she was young. She imposes a historical value upon these symbolic items. To remember how she has progressed to the women she is today.