Everyday Use by Alice Walker - Essay Example

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In Alice Walker’s short story, “Everyday Use,” Mama finds herself in a tough position as her eldest daughter Dee wants to claim the family quilts that Mama promised to Maggie, her youngest daughter. The quilts are family heirlooms, having been made by Mama and Aunt Dicie with material from the clothes of family members who served in the Civil War. …
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Everyday Use by Alice Walker
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“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker In Alice Walker’s short story, “Everyday Use,” Mama finds herself in a tough position as her eldest daughter Dee wants to claim the family quilts that Mama promised to Maggie, her youngest daughter. The quilts are family heirlooms, having been made by Mama and Aunt Dicie with material from the clothes of family members who served in the Civil War. After deliberating and trying to understand the personas of both of her daughters, Mama determined that she had made the right choice in promising the quilts to Maggie. Not only would Maggie put the quilts to everyday use, which is what they were intended for, but she is also aware that the only importance of the quilts is that they were made by family; therefore, even if she could not get the quilts originally promised to her, she would simply create more, further passing on the legacy of these women. Mama and Maggie are epitomes of what their family stands for. Both women bear the scars of their past, they have survived in life with just the bare minimum of education, money, or material possessions, and they are strong individuals. Maggie is shy, yet she knows what it means to be part of her family. This knowledge comes to a wonderful peak when Maggie selflessly offers Dee her quilts. Mama, on the other hand, is outgoing and brash in her feelings toward her daughters. Mama never inherited money, yet she was more than content in being given heirlooms that had been passed down to her. To Mama, these items are too valuable to put a price on. Given their continuous history in her family, Mama longs to be able to pass them on to the daughter that she knows will treat them with the respect and in the purpose that they were meant for. While Mama and Maggie have a great respect for their bloodline, Dee would do anything to get as far from hers as possible. Dee does everything short of outright rejecting her heritage. When she visits her mother and sister, Dee looks down on them for the house they live in, their lack of education, and their overall simple existence. She openly displays herself as being better than her family members because of the monetarily rich and successful life that she lives. Dee has also changed her name, wanting nothing to do with the name given to her by the people that allegedly oppressed her - despite the fact that her name, as was the case with many precious things in their family - had been passed down from one woman to another. Despite not appreciating her blood, Dee believes that she is the only person in the remaining family that can properly take care of the family heirlooms. The quilts at the center of the controversy between Dee and Maggie are living history; they represent the overall family heritage. The quilts just aren’t about African-American heritage, but about embracing and loving one’s heritage. They represent everything that this family stands for and consists of. Dee wants the quilts because she would be able to display them out of respect for a heritage that she not only doesn’t understand, but has no respect for. Maggie, though, fully intends to actually use the quilts for the purpose that they were created - to be used by family, and then passed down to other members. Using them doesn’t require treating them with less respect, even though this is what Dee believes, which is why she doesn’t want her sister to inherit the quilts. When Maggie finally gives in and offers Dee the quilts, claiming that she would be able to make more, Mama realized that Maggie truly understood the meaning of the quilts. It wasn’t about them being a family heirloom or a piece of history, but that the quilts were made by the hands of the women in this family. If Maggie made more, she would only be passing on the tradition and heritage of her family. Since Maggie understood what it meant to have the quilts, more so than Dee, Mama decided that Maggie would be the most appropriate owner of these heirlooms. When it came to the quilts, Mama’s issue wasn’t about how the quilts would be treated, whether they were used as quilts or put on display. What she wanted to make sure when she handed them off to one of her daughters was that they knew where they came from. Dee was more concerned that the quilts were physically treated right; she was appalled at the thought that Maggie would use them as quilts because Maggie would actually use them. Maggie, as much as she wanted these quilts from her mother and her aunt, knew that she could just make more herself and they would be no different from the quilts that she was allowing Dee to take. In that moment, Maggie displayed that she knew the true heritage of the quilts, as opposed to Dee, who only wanted the quilts and nothing more from her rich and colorful heritage. Read More
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