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Everyday Use - an Analysis of Heritage

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Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" is the story of a woman, referred to as Mama, and her two daughters, Maggie and Dee. Mama and Maggie live together in their small home in a rural area. Dee has gone to college in a big city and is coming for a visit. Maggie is painfully self conscious, "chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle" with scars on her body from a house fire. Dee has always been scornful of her family's simple way of living and has been greatly influenced by her time away. Walker uses Maggie to explore the ideas of a family's heritage and history and, by contrasting her with Dee, voices a concern that in our search for our roots perhaps we are losing important aspects of our heritage.

The reader first sees Maggie's understanding of her heritage while the family is eating. Dee asks her mother if she can have items from the home; a churn top and a dasher, which were hand made by family members. While Dee cannot remember their names Maggie can, along with personal details: "Aunt Dee's first husband whittled the dash....His name was Henry, but they called him Stash." When Dee asks if she can have quilts that were made by women in the family the reader learns Maggie was taught to quilt by her grandmother and aunt, while it seems Dee never learned. Maggie is engaged to a young man and her mother intends to give her these quilts when she is married, handing down the fabric of her grandmother and great grandmother. In contrast, Mama is uncertain if Dee is married or not. "They didn't tell me, and I didn't ask, whether Wangero (Dee) had really gone and married him." It is obvious Maggie appreciates the history the quilts hold, for when she thinks her mother is going to let Dee have them she says: "I can 'member Grandma Dee without the quilts." Maggie has absorbed the history of their family and is still living within it.

Walker enforces the idea of Maggie representing family heritage by using Dee in sharp contrast. Dee wants the items from her family's home to use as decorative display items; the churn top for a table, the quilts to hang on a wall. She is appalled that Maggie may get the quilts since "she'd probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use". Dee says of the quilts: "...they're priceless" focusing on monetary value versus sentimental. She renames herself saying, "I couldn't bear



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