Everyday Use: Exploring The Theme of Heritage and Identity

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 694 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Mar 16, 2024

Words: 694|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Mar 16, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Symbols of Heritage
  2. Characterization and Conflict
  3. Heritage and Identity
  4. Conclusion

Everyday Use is a short story written by Alice Walker that explores the theme of heritage and identity through the lens of an African-American family. The story revolves around the conflicting ideas of heritage and how they are manifested in the lives of the characters, particularly the two sisters, Dee and Maggie. Through the use of symbolism, characterization, and conflict, Walker delves into the complexities of heritage and how it shapes individual identity. This essay will analyze the theme of heritage in Everyday Use, providing a comprehensive understanding of how it influences the characters and their relationships.

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Symbols of Heritage

One of the central symbols in Everyday Use is the quilt. The quilt represents the family's heritage and is portrayed as a source of contention between Dee and her mother. Dee sees the quilt as a piece of art to be displayed and admired, whereas her mother and sister see it as a practical object to be used and passed down through generations. The quilt embodies the family's history, as it is made up of fabric from their ancestors' clothing. Through the quilt, Walker emphasizes the different perspectives on heritage and how it is valued by each character.

Another symbolic element in the story is the house itself. The house represents the family's roots and connection to their past. Dee, upon returning home, expresses disdain for the house, considering it to be beneath her newfound identity. In contrast, Maggie and her mother have a deep attachment to the house, as it holds memories and traditions that are integral to their sense of self. The house serves as a physical manifestation of the family's heritage and becomes a focal point for the conflict between the characters.

Characterization and Conflict

The characters in Everyday Use em different attitudes towards heritage, which leads to conflict and tension within the family. Dee, who has adopted a new name and a newfound appreciation for her African roots, seeks to embrace her heritage in a superficial and materialistic way. She wants to possess objects that represent her culture, such as the quilt and other artifacts in the house, without truly understanding their significance. In contrast, Maggie and her mother have a more grounded and practical view of heritage, valuing the traditions and customs that have been passed down through generations.

Walker uses characterization to highlight the contrast between Dee's external embrace of her heritage and Maggie's more internalized connection to it. Dee's character is portrayed as being disconnected from her family and their history, as she seeks to appropriate elements of her culture without truly understanding or appreciating their meaning. Maggie, on the other hand, embodies a deeper understanding and appreciation of her heritage, despite her shyness and lack of confidence.

Heritage and Identity

Through the exploration of heritage, Walker delves into the theme of identity and how it is shaped by one's cultural background. Dee's rejection of her given name and her family's traditions reflects her desire to create a new identity for herself, one that is separate from her upbringing. However, in her pursuit of this new identity, Dee fails to recognize the value of her family's heritage and the role it plays in shaping her sense of self.

Maggie, in contrast, embraces her heritage as a source of strength and connection to her family. Despite her reservations and insecurities, Maggie finds comfort and pride in the traditions and objects that hold significance to her family. Walker portrays Maggie as having a more authentic and genuine connection to her heritage, as she values the practical and meaningful aspects of her culture, rather than the superficial and materialistic representations that Dee seeks to claim.

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Everyday Use is a poignant exploration of the theme of heritage and its influence on individual identity. Through the use of symbolism, characterization, and conflict, Alice Walker delves into the complexities of heritage and how it shapes the lives of the characters. The story serves as a reminder of the importance of understanding and appreciating one's heritage, and the role it plays in shaping one's sense of self. Ultimately, Everyday Use highlights the significance of heritage as a source of connection, tradition, and identity, and the importance of preserving and honoring it for future generations.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Everyday Use: Exploring the Theme of Heritage and Identity. (2024, March 15). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from
“Everyday Use: Exploring the Theme of Heritage and Identity.” GradesFixer, 15 Mar. 2024,
Everyday Use: Exploring the Theme of Heritage and Identity. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Jun. 2024].
Everyday Use: Exploring the Theme of Heritage and Identity [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 15 [cited 2024 Jun 21]. Available from:
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