Everyday Use

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate November 2001

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The Meaning of Heritage in "Everyday Use"� By Alice Walker In the short story "Everyday Use"� by Alice Walker, she introduces a rural black family who struggle with the meaning of heritage. To Mama, the narrator, and Maggie, the youngest daughter, heritage is whom they are, where they come from, and the everyday use of the things around them. Dee, the oldest daughter, has rejected her heritage from the beginning. She wants the better things in life and goes off to college to find them. On her return, she seems to have a newfound sense of heritage. Through a confrontation about family quilts, Mama realizes that Dee's view of heritage is that of artistic and aesthetic value: not the everyday use of the objects that hold significant meaning in Mama and Maggie's lives.

Walker portrays one meaning of heritage in her descriptions of Mama and Maggie.

Mama says she is a big boned woman with man-working hands. She wears flannel nightgowns, overalls, and has "fat to keep me [Mama] warm in zero weather"� (Walker 655). She can also kill and clean a hog as well as any man. Mama is even proud of the fact that she sweeps the dirt yard so clean that is like an "extended living room"� (654). Likewise, Maggie is not a beautiful girl. She has burn scars on her arm and legs and does everything she can to hide them. She is uneducated, as is Mama, and shuffles her feet like a "lame animal"� (655). Maggie is affected greatly as the first house burns to the ground. Mama states "her [Maggie] eyes seemed stretched open, blazed open by the flames"¦"� (655). Maggie understands the connection to her heritage is burning with the house. Maggie knows how to quilt because Grandma...

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