A False Sense of Heritage: An Analysis of “Everyday Use” “’She’s dead”, Wangero said. ‘I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me’” (Walker 458). Alice Walker’s short story, “Everyday Use” is set in the late 1960’s to early 1970’s, a time when African Americans were struggling to define themselves. Walker, a supporter and a critic of the black power movements, uses Dee to highlight the misconstrued ideologies of the African American youth of the 1960’s. Dee, who is coming home for the first time since she left for college, has indulged herself within her supposedly newfound African heritage. She has changed her name, changed her style, and is now suddenly obsessed with her family’s heritage. Conflict arises when Dee asks Mama for the family’s precious quilts. After Mama tells Dee she had already promised the quilts to Maggie, Dee’s younger sister, Dee storms out of their home and heads back to college. Because the quilts hold such great sentimental value and symbolize the Jackson’s family heritage, Mama wants the quilts to fall in the right hands. In Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”, Mama gives the quilts to Maggie because she emphasizes with Maggie, and believes she deserves them more than her sister, whom Mama believes to have a false sense of heritage. From the way Mama describes Maggie we, as the readers, can quickly tell that Mama has some sort of sympathy for her. Mama describes Maggie as a “lame animal” and “a dog run over by some careless person rich enough to have his own car…” (Walker 456). Not only is Mama siding with Maggie, she is also growing away from Dee. Mama stops calling Dee by her name and starts calling her Wangero. Like Dee said herself, “She’s [Dee] is dead” (Walker 458). It is also evident to the reader that Mama has empathy for Maggie when reluctantly Maggie tells Dee she can have the quilts. Mama says it was “like somebody used to never winning anything, or having anything, or having anything reserved...
Cited: Christian, Barbara T. “’Everyday Use’ and the Black Power Movement.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. Blinn Custom ed. New York: Pearson, 2010. 464-66. Print.
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Writing. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. Blinn Custom ed. New York: Pearson, 2010. 455-61. Print.
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