Message of Family Heritage in Alice Walker's "Everyday Use"

1218 words 5 pages
In Alice Walker's "Everyday Use," the message about the preservation of heritage, specifically African-American heritage, is very clear. It is obvious that Walker believes that a person's heritage should be a living, dynamic part of the culture from which it arose and not a frozen timepiece only to be observed from a distance. There are two main approaches to heritage preservation depicted by the characters in this story. The narrator, a middle-aged African-American woman, and her youngest daughter Maggie, are in agreement with Walker. To them, their family heritage is everything around them that is involved in their everyday lives and everything that was involved in the lives of their ancestors. To Dee, the narrator's oldest …show more content…

Her mother says, "In both of them were scraps of dresses Grandma Dee had worn fifty and more years ago. Bits and pieces of Grandpa Jarrell's paisley shirts. And one teeny blue faded piece…from Great Grandpa Ezra's uniform that he wore in the Civil War" (412). It is obvious that these quilts, which have become an heirloom, not only represent the family, but are an integral part of the family.
However, Dee covets the quilts only for their aesthetic value. "But they're priceless!" (413), she exclaims to her mother when she finds out that her mother has already promised them to Maggie. Dee argues that Maggie is "backward enough to put them to everyday use" (413). Her mother responds to Dee's argument by saying, "I reckon she would…I hope she will" (413). Indeed, this is how Maggie views the quilts. She values them for what they mean to her as an individual. Obviously, her mother also feels this way about the quilts.
When the girls' mother asks Dee what she would do with the quilts, Dee says that she would hang them up. Again, Dee is showing her lack of understanding of her family's heritage. By hanging the quilts, she would be symbolically distancing her past and her heritage from her present life. If she were to put them to everyday use, like Maggie would probably do, she would be admitting her status as a member of her old-fashioned oppressed