Overall, in Alice Walker’s short story the two differentconcepts of heritage are displayed within the characters. Readers can view howpast history and new beginnings play a significant role in an individual’slife. Walker increases the concept of heritage by contrasting Dee’s idea with Mama’sidea. Mama believes that heritage is a part of everyday life while Dee has adistant view of heritage. Both character’s personality structure develops muchdifferently which strongly has an effect on their thinking and actions.
Beingthat many individuals have trouble with identity, this short story issignificant. “Everyday Use” allows readers to understand that there are partsof life that we will not be pleased with, but we cannot let that hinder us fromwhat is deserving of respect and appreciation. It is crucial to have the properunderstanding before making a life decision. In regards to the story, many arenot fortunate enough to trace their family history thus one should not take itfor granted. It is okay not to have the same opinion as someone, but bothparties should respect one another’s opinion. One should be able to respect anidea without accepting it.
On the contrary, it is shown that Dee, unfortunately, doesnot make any realizations. It is evident that Dee does not have an understandingof what heritage is. She doesn’t allow herself to view someone else’sunderstanding and different perspective.
As Dee is leaving her mother’s houseshe utters, “It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama stilllive you’d never know it” (Walker 161). Dee is still focused on appearance andis too blind to see that her mother and sister are content with what they have.As readers, we realize that Alice Walker wants to create a balance. Althoughreaders may feel hatred towards Dee, because of her thoughts and actions, wealso to feel sympathy. When Mama questions Dee and asks, “What don’t Iunderstand” Dee replies with “Your heritage.
” (Walker 161). It is clear thatDee is the one who does not understand her heritage which makes the readersfeel sorry for her. Dee is struggling to find her true identity. She isinfluenced by the political activism that surrounds her at school, thereforeshe is in search of finding another heritage that predates her slaveryheritage. Dee is wrestling with her pastidentity in hopes of finding a new sense of self. From Dee’s action, Mama realizes that Dee is no longer incontrol. Mama states, “When I looked at her like that something hit me in thetop of my head and ran down to the soles of my feet” (Walker 160).
This revelationthat Mama encounters permits her to realize that she should not feel inferiorto Dee any longer. At the beginning of the story, Mama often has dreams of Deeand herself brought together on a television show. She hopes that Dee willrecognize her hard work instead of seeing where she comes from as anembarrassment.
The mother states, “Then we are on stage and Dee is embracing mewith tears in her eyes” (Walker 155). It is evident that Mama has tried to giveDee what she wanted, to the best of her ability, but Dee does not appreciatethat. In the end, Mama views how Dee can be self-centered and if she cannotrespect her mother’s decision then she cannot respect the quilts. Mama finally seesboth daughters differently and learns that Maggie has proven that sheappreciates her heritage as she has acquired the skills of quilting that havebeen passed down to her.Moreover,from Mama and Dee’s different concepts on heritage readers can view how thecentral event in the story is when Dee asks Mama if she can have two quiltsthat were made by the family’s ancestors.
This is represented as the centralevent because the mother must make a decision to give the quilts to Dee orMaggie. It is said that the quilts had been made by Dee’s aunt and grandmotherwhich carried “scraps of dresses Grandma Dee had worn fifty and more years ago”(Walker 159). This central event is significant because Mama is worried thatDee will not appreciate the quilts. Mama views the quilts as something that is apart of her heritage which Dee does not believe in. She has hoped that thequilts will be put to use, hence the title of the story, which conflicts withDee’s idea. When asked what she would do with the quilts, the character states,”Hang them” (Walker 160). This statement highlights Dee’s belief that heritageshould be an artistic view and is only materialistic, but when Maggie reassuresMama that she will remember Grandma Dee without the quilts Mama has made herdecision on who to pass the quilts down to.
Maggie’s belief coincides with hermother’s belief that heritage involves family and it should be personal. With Dee’soverdeveloped id wanting satisfaction, she challenges the mother as the textstates, “Dee (Wangero) moved back just enough so that I couldn’t reach thequilts” (Walker 160). Being that Dee has ignored her mother’s decision, thisallows Mama to make a realization.
Onthe other hand, Dee is characterized as an associate of the Black Power movement.The character is struggling to find her identity, which creates a differentview of heritage from her mother’s. Dee is shown to be discontent with her lifeand where she comes from as the text states, “She had hated the house thatmuch” (Walker 156).
Being that the character enjoys the lavish items in life,which her family does not have, Dee is never content. Dee is seen strugglingwith her real heritage as she does not want to be linked to her family membersinflicting hardships. The character states, “Not ‘Dee,’ Wangero LeewanikaKemanjo!” (Walker 158). This statement shows how Dee has changed her name to anAfrican name. She believes that she was named after individuals who oppressedher but fails to see how her real name came from her aunt and has been passeddown through generations. The character is building a new heritage on Africanculture, based on her education she received at school.
When Dee returns homeshe is seen taking pictures of her family, their house, and the cows. The textstates, “She never takes a shot without making sure the house is included”(Walker 158). These pictures are to display how far she has come while turningthem into an object for artistic means. Dee views heritage as something that isin the past that has no life. It should only be used and thought of when it ispublicly displayed. Her idea of heritage is object orientated, unlike hermother’s belief which involves an emotional attachment.
Dee ultimately tries toremove herself in search for a new heritage that predates what her realheritage which she views as slavery. The character is shown to have anoverdeveloped id as she seeks satisfaction and pleasure. Her instincts are incontrol which does not allow her to view what might be morally correct. In”Everyday Use,” Mama is characterized as someone who is accepting of herself,and where she comes from, which permits her view to be different from Dee’s. Thestory begins with the mother stating, “I will wait for her in the yard thatMaggie and I made so clean and wavy yesterday afternoon.
A yard like this ismore comfortable than most people know” (Walker 155). This highlights how Mamais at peace with where she is. She does not obsess over the larger andexpensive things in life, therefore, she is grateful for what she has as she perceivesher yard as part of her family’s heritage. When looking at Sigmund Freud’spsychoanalytic theory of personality, Mama is shown to have a developed ego andsuperego as she often feels subordinate, being that she does not have aneducation, but this does not stop her from doing the right thing along withunderstanding her heritage. She has respect for her ancestors and appreciateswhat they have done. Mama believes that heritage should be included in anindividual’s life. Every day one should be exemplifying their heritage. Sheviews it as continuing as it should be passed down from generation togeneration.
This is shown as Dee states, “This churn top is what I need. Didn’tUncle Buddy whittle it out of a tree you all used to have?” (Walker 159). Mamastill uses what was given to her years ago. It is lifelong and should not end butcontinue to grow over time. Most importantly, Mama honors her heritage. Thecharacter, Mama, is accepting of her heritage and coming to peace. Tobegin, “Everyday Use” is about a family consisting of a mother and twodaughters who have different views on heritage.
The story represents thestruggles that African American women encountered in the 1960s. During thistime period, The Black Movement ascended and involved different views onheritage and education. Many African Americans began to take pride inthemselves which led to them wanting to touch into their African roots. Thestory presents the character Dee, who has a different view from Mama and Maggieon dealing with their past and heritage which leads to a conflict over quilts. Throughoutan individual’s childhood, it is evident that they model what they see andhear.
Children are taught lessons at a young age that pertain to their family’svalues, heritage, and what is important to them. Although one is taught at ayoung age it is not guaranteed that those lessons will stick with themthroughout life. Individuals often encounter a period of change withinthemselves. They begin to develop their own identity from what they experienceand encounter in life. Within this development, it is common for one to strayaway from what has been taught to them because they want to grow and see lifefor themselves.
This period of change permits an individual to either gain anunderstanding or experience confusion. In Alice Walker’s short story, “EverydayUse,” readers are shown two characters who have different views on heritage.The plot of the story displays how the characters either accept or deny where theycome from which leads to a searching of one’s identity. With the use ofcharacterization and Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytictheory of personality, this paper will showcase the character’s ideas onheritage which lead to the central event and realizations that are made withinthe story.