Accepting Ones Heritage in Everyday Use Ember Eslinger February 24, 2010 English219-M Essay 1 Individuals’ identities are formed and moulded by how he or she chooses to accept and preserve their culture.
One might believe that it is important to have the chance to pass down the stories of their past and the significance of their family treasures. Another opinion one might have in saving one’s heritage may be simply possessing family heirlooms. This paper focuses on the importance of experiencing people’s heritage and being proud of it; despite hardships and stereotypes.In the short story “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker it is evident that the antagonist is interested in preserving her heritage for the wrong reasons. Common sense seems to dictate that Mama is more sympathetic towards Maggie because they have more in common and share the respect for their heritage. Some critics believe that Mama possibly favours Maggie when it comes to the admiration and respect of their heritage. Even though Dee claims she’s become more knowledgeable about her African-American culture, Mama doesn’t believe that her heart is in it.
It’s almost as if she has shed her identity to satisfy this mistaken image that’s imbedded in her head of what being true to her African-American culture is all about. When Mama realizes the only reason Dee came home was to claim their family’s old quilts so she could hang them on the wall, Mama becomes resentful and disappointed towards her for not valuing the sentimentality behind her family’s heirlooms. Having the quilts hang on the wall of her house for everyone to see is essentially a reminder of her superior social and economic status.Mama believes Dee is ignorant and naive towards her own inheritance. By conforming to the white Americans view of the African-American traditions she’s cheating herself out of both cultures. She’s both and neither at the same time. Although Walker does not directly state, Dee’s character seems ashamed of how Mama and Maggie live their lives.
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The short story supports the fact that Mama puts her foot down when Dee tries to take the quilts even though they were promised to Maggie.When Maggie tries to willingly allow Dee to take the quilts Mama steps in and insists Dee take some of the other ones. Some might believe Mama is unfair when it comes to her daughters, when really she’s handling the situation as her mother and grandmother would have handled it, supporting her idea of preserving heritage. Maggie, the younger of the two daughters, is covered in scars from when their old house went up in flames. The scars symbolize the almost uncomfortable state in which Maggie lives. Although she is content with what she has, she will probably never have more.Her quiet, withdrawn character helps readers see the contrast between the two sisters.
Similarly their complete opposite views of their heritage. Dee has a superficial idea of her heritage and prefers appearance over substance; how things appear on the outside, rather than the in depth meaning. Maggie on the other hand has respect for and is very aware of where she came from. Evidence from the text supports the idea that Maggie knew a great deal more than Dee about the significance of many family heirlooms.Like Mama, Maggie is able to take pride in the practical aspects of her nature and their lack of education does not prevent them from appreciating their heritage and those who came before them. Maggie values the importance of experiencing her heritage rather than putting in on display. She’s an utilitarian whose everyday use of the quilts remind her of her family ties and especially of her Grandma Dee.
Because Mama and Maggie share not only cultural beliefs but also physical attributes Walker makes it clear that Mama is able to better relate with Maggie over Dee.Along with accusing Mama of not understanding her own heritage, Dee furiously states that “‘Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts! She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use. ’” (Walker 253) Unfortunately for Dee, Mama sides with Maggie in hope that she would use them. Earlier in the story, Dee tries to prove her knowledge about the quilts but she only states how they were made from pieces of dresses her Grandma used to wear, nothing about either Grandpas clothing scraps.She finished her argument with what she thought was a strong statement about how they were all stitched by hand by her Grandma Dee, when in fact Mama and Big Dee also helped create the works of art. To Mama the quilts have a deeper meaning. When she moves up to touch the quilts, she is reaching out to touch the people whom the quilts represent.
Mama is more willing to pass down the quilts to Maggie because she believes Maggie is able to make the same connection as she does to the quilts.Mama and Maggie are able share the belief that the true meaning behind every family heirloom comes from the memories in which that item has made, so even when the object is no more, the memories are still able to live on through one’s bequest. In this short story, Walker indirectly focuses on the fact that Maggie is following in Mama’s footsteps and that it is very likely that she will lead the same lifestyle as Mama has. If one is able to take the time to recognize the recollections of the past through family heirlooms, he or she will more likely be able to understand and value their heritage.In conclusion this paper goes in depth about being true to ones heritage, furthermore, being true to oneself. When it comes to the topic of heritage, most of us will willingly agree that it takes more than knowledge of one’s grandparents’ names and a couple of old quilts to show ones passion and sentiment. In this case, Dee seems content with how she has decided to accept and portray her own heritage whereas most people, including Mama and Maggie, are on the opposite side of the spectrum since they believe it is more important to view your heritage as your entire lives experiences.
When it is said that Mama is more sympathetic towards Maggie it is merely stating With that said, to actually have the personal satisfaction of being part of one’s heritage, they first need to accept their own purities and faults. Once you are able to do so, recognizing oneself as a part of one’s heritage should surge naturally.Works Cited Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use. ” Making Arguments about Literature: A Compact Guide and Anthology. Ed. John Schilb and John Clifford.
Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 2005. 247-253.
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