Alice Walker Everyday Use Theme

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 650 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Mar 25, 2024

Words: 650|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Mar 25, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Preservation vs. Progress:
  2. Commoditization of Culture:
  3. Importance of Personal Connections:
  4. Conclusion:

In Alice Walker's short story "Everyday Use," the author explores the complex theme of cultural heritage through the contrasting perspectives of two sisters, Dee and Maggie. Through the examination of their divergent understanding and appreciation of their African American heritage, Walker presents a thought-provoking commentary on the significance of cultural identity and the transformative power of knowledge. This essay aims to dissect the various dimensions of the theme of cultural heritage in "Everyday Use," highlighting the conflicts between preservation and progress, the commoditization of culture, and the importance of personal connections to one's roots.

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Preservation vs. Progress:

One of the central conflicts in "Everyday Use" revolves around the differing attitudes towards preserving cultural heritage. Dee, the more educated and outwardly confident sister, embodies the idea of progress and modernization. She views her family's artifacts and traditions as outdated relics to be showcased in a museum rather than utilized in everyday life. In contrast, Maggie, who is less educated but intimately connected to her family's history, values the practical and emotional significance of their heritage.

Walker skillfully explores the tension between preservation and progress by using the quilts as symbolic objects. The quilts, made from scraps of clothing worn by their ancestors, represent the interconnectedness of generations and the preservation of cultural memory. While Dee sees them as valuable art pieces to be hung on a wall, Maggie understands their true worth lies in their ability to provide warmth and comfort. This conflict highlights the importance of recognizing the living, evolving nature of cultural heritage and the need to balance preservation with adaptation to the contemporary world.

Commoditization of Culture:

Walker also delves into the theme of cultural commoditization, exemplified through Dee's appropriation of her African American heritage. Dee, after embracing her newfound African identity, adopts a new name, Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, in an attempt to distance herself from her family's slave past. She seeks to possess her heritage for its aesthetic appeal, often disregarding the deeper meanings and struggles associated with it.

The author critiques this superficial engagement with culture by portraying Dee as an outsider to her own heritage. Dee's desire to own the quilts as artifacts further emphasizes her objectification of African American culture, reducing it to a mere fashion statement. In contrast, Maggie's intimate understanding of their heritage is rooted in personal experiences and connections. Walker suggests that true appreciation and understanding of cultural heritage stem not from external displays but from a genuine connection to one's roots and shared history.

Importance of Personal Connections:

Walker underscores the significance of personal connections to cultural heritage through the character of Mama, the narrator of the story. Mama is torn between her daughters' conflicting perspectives, ultimately siding with Maggie's deep understanding and appreciation of their shared history. Mama's decision to grant the quilts to Maggie is a testament to the importance of personal connections and lived experiences in preserving cultural heritage.

By prioritizing Maggie's emotional connection to the quilts over Dee's intellectual understanding, Walker highlights the transformative power of knowledge rooted in personal experiences. This suggests that true cultural heritage is not merely an intellectual exercise but a lived reality that shapes individuals' identities and relationships. Walker's portrayal of Mama's decision encourages readers to reflect on their own connections to their cultural heritage and the role it plays in shaping their lives.

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Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" offers a rich exploration of the theme of cultural heritage, highlighting the conflicts between preservation and progress, the commoditization of culture, and the importance of personal connections. Through the contrasting perspectives of Dee and Maggie, the author challenges readers to critically examine their own understanding and appreciation of their cultural roots. By delving into these complex themes, Walker demonstrates the transformative power of cultural heritage and the need to approach it with both intellectual engagement and personal connection. Ultimately, "Everyday Use" serves as a reminder that cultural heritage is a dynamic force that shapes individuals and communities, transcending mere objects and superficial displays.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Alice Walker Everyday Use Theme. (2024, March 25). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
“Alice Walker Everyday Use Theme.” GradesFixer, 25 Mar. 2024,
Alice Walker Everyday Use Theme. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 Apr. 2024].
Alice Walker Everyday Use Theme [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 25 [cited 2024 Apr 20]. Available from:
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