Response Essay to Everyday Use
Importance of the Quilt
The Quilt is a symbol piece within this short story, not only is it a meaningful piece to the family and is made of clothing from their great grandma and uniforms wore by their great grandfather during the civil war; it is also a piece that symbolizes the African American. I believe that it is the sole reason Dee wants this piece because it is a historical account of oppression against African Americans. This piece is more than just an old family heirloom, it is an account of history and that is why Dee wants to put it on display. To show the struggle her family had to overcome; where Maggie wants it just because of the family attachment. She wants this quilt because when she looks at it, it reminds her of her great-grandparents.
Homage to Heritage
In the story "Everyday Use" the readers get to see what a heritage meas to different people, that's why this story is an important one, in my opinion, to read to younger generations. Everyone has their own way of learning about their heritage and understanding what it means to them. They are allowed to have their own individual thoughts on their heritage and gather their own conclusions. That's what I loved because no two people are going to have the same ideas towards their heritage.
In the story there are two girls who show interests in their heritage, in very different ways. You have Dee who is self-centered, spoiled, and strong-willed. She wants the world to focus on her and she wants to show them how she came from nothing. So in order to capture this the author, Alice Walker, had Dee take a picture of her house so that Dee could show her friends that she came from a poor family and became something. She wanted to show how it doesn't matter where you come from as long as you have the drive to become something better. Dee put her heritage on display for dramatic superficial reasons. Then the author has Dee change her name to an African name "Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo". Dee did so in order to acknowledge her heritage and where she came from; however, the rest of her family saw it as a joke. Then when asked why Dee changed her name she responded with: "I couldn't bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me.". They didn't take her seriously.
Then we have the other sister, Maggie, who is Dee's shadow and is a push over. Maggie views heritage as a tradition, something to pass down from generation to generation. The readers see this in the story with the "quilt" and the "churn top". When Grandma gives Maggie a quilt for her wedding present Dee all of a sudden just has to have that quilt. To Dee it's a symbol, something else she can put on display. Maggie, on the other hand, knows the history behind this quilt and has her grandmother's memories and she doesn't need the quilt the way Dee does: "She can have them, Mama, I can 'member Grandma Dee without the quilts". Maggie doesn't need the objects because she has the memories, whereas Dee needs these objects because she isn't invested like Maggie is in their heritage. Then with the churn top Dee wants it for a decoration, once again to display her heritage. She has no meaning attached to this churn top except for what it represents: "Then she gave a sigh and her hand closed over Grandma Dee's butter dish. 'That's it!' she said. 'I knew there was something I wanted to ask you if I could have.' She jumped up from the table and went over to the corner where the churn stood......'This churn top is what I need,' she said. 'Didn't Uncle Buddy whittle it out of a tree you all use to have?' This passage shows that Dee only wants pieces of her heritage, but not the stories behind them. What Maggie has are the stories behind these historical pieces. She values her heritage for what it's worth and for passing it on.
"Everyday Use" is a story about knowing where you come from and being proud of your heritage. This story especially spoke to me when I read it because when I first read it back in 2003 I had started learning about my own Native American heritage; and while learning I was being mocked by relatives. So it was good to read a story where people were proud and wanted to know about their heritage. I relate to both of the characters from the story because once I learned of my Native American heritage I wanted to show it to everyone, because I was proud. However, certain aspects of my heritage I kept privately to myself, such as the spiritual aspects of my ancestors. One should always know where they come from and then never forget or lose their heritage throughout their everyday life, but one shouldn't put it on display. They should make their heritage become a part of them and who they are.
This is a modified version reading of the short story by Alice Walker, "Everyday Use". I thought it was an interesting reading.
Interview with Alice Walker
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