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Exploring Heritage and Cultural Identity in "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker

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Words: 557 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Jan 30, 2024

Words: 557|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Jan 30, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Mama - The narrator and embodiment of traditional heritage
  2. Maggie - The silent victim and preserver of heritage
  3. Dee - The antagonist and representation of the conflict between heritage and assimilation
  4. Cultural identity and the clash of generations
  5. Conclusion

Alice Walker's short story "Everyday Use" follows the lives of a family from rural Georgia. The story highlights the complexities of heritage and cultural identity through the contrasting attitudes of the three main characters, Mama, Maggie, and Dee. Through the characters' interactions and attitudes, Walker sheds light on the importance of understanding and appreciating one's heritage.

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Mama - The narrator and embodiment of traditional heritage

Mama, or Mrs. Johnson, is the narrator of the story and serves as the embodiment of traditional heritage. Mama is described as being strong and large, inheriting her physical appearance from her family. She has a deep connection with her heritage through her practical skills, such as making butter and quilting, and her fond memories of her family's past. Mama's understanding and appreciation of her heritage, however, are vastly different from her daughter Dee's superficial perspective.

Maggie - The silent victim and preserver of heritage

Maggie is Mama's youngest daughter and is characterized as being physically disabled and shy. Maggie doesn't have the same outward connection with their heritage as Mama, but she embodies the preservation of it. She values the family's quilts not for their appearance, but for their historical significance. The quilts act as a tangible representation of their family's past and cultural identity. Maggie's preference for practicality over appearance reflects a deep understanding of heritage.

Dee - The antagonist and representation of the conflict between heritage and assimilation

Dee, also known as Wangero, is Mama's eldest daughter. Dee is portrayed as the antagonist in the story as she is the representation of the conflict between heritage and assimilation. Dee is determined to distance herself from the rural lifestyle that Mama and Maggie still live, and as part of that, she has changed her name to an Afrocentric name. She is fascinated with African artifacts and views them as a way to prove her connection to her roots. However, Dee misunderstands heritage as a commodity rather than a living, evolving tradition.

Cultural identity and the clash of generations

The tension between Mama and Dee's conflicting views on heritage is the main source of conflict in "Everyday Use." The quilts are one of the main symbols of cultural heritage, and they are portrayed as a representation of family history. Mama wants to give the quilts to Maggie as an embodiment of the continuation of their family's traditions. Dee, on the other hand, sees the quilts as fashionable items that she can use to show off her heritage to others. Mama's eventual decision to give the quilts to Maggie aligns with the preservation of heritage.

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Conclusion

Walker's "Everyday Use" explores the complexities of heritage and cultural identity through the contrasting attitudes of the three main characters. Mama embodies traditional heritage, Maggie is a silent preserver of it, and Dee represents the conflict between heritage and assimilation. The quilts act as a tangible representation of family history and cultural identity that are significant to the characters. The story emphasizes the importance of understanding and appreciating one's heritage.

  1. Alice Walker. (1973). Everyday Use. Women Writers Read Women Writers: Reflections on the Nature and Nurture of Literature by Women. Ed. Reading: Pocahontas Press.
  2. Syed, A. (2016). The Quilts of Alice Walker's "Everyday Use": A Symbolic Exploration of Heritage. International Journal of English Research, 2(10), 55-60.
  3. Trivedi, R. H. (2011). A Critical Analysis of Walker's Every Day Use. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Research, 1(1), 34-39.
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Cite this Essay

Exploring Heritage and Cultural Identity in “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker. (2024, January 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/exploring-heritage-and-cultural-identity-in-everyday-use-by-alice-walker/
“Exploring Heritage and Cultural Identity in “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker.” GradesFixer, 30 Jan. 2024, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/exploring-heritage-and-cultural-identity-in-everyday-use-by-alice-walker/
Exploring Heritage and Cultural Identity in “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/exploring-heritage-and-cultural-identity-in-everyday-use-by-alice-walker/> [Accessed 13 Apr. 2024].
Exploring Heritage and Cultural Identity in “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jan 30 [cited 2024 Apr 13]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/exploring-heritage-and-cultural-identity-in-everyday-use-by-alice-walker/
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