Heritage but worked years of physical labor and

Heritage Differences


In the short story “Everyday Use”,
by Alice Walker she represents the conflicts and struggles of the
African-American culture in rural Georgia around the early 1970’s. Alice Walker
introduced 4 main characters; Mama and her two daughters, Maggie and Dee as
well as Dee’s boyfriend Hakim a barber. Mama is the narrator of the story, she
is both a mother and father to her daughters as she is uneducated but worked
years of physical labor and lives in poverty. Maggie is the youngest daughter
who’s shy and lives with Mama, she lacks confidence and is unable to be open
nor make eye contact with the people talking to her. Mama’s older daughter, Dee
who renamed herself as “Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo” is educated, determined, and
confident. She declares that she is the one who is looking at the important
aspects of her family history and Mama and Maggie aren’t aware of it. “Everyday
Use” carries many different meanings that highlight the issue of how things are
used on an everyday basis. Understanding their family African heritage was a
big concept for Dee. As Mama and Dee had two different opinions about heritage
which caused conflict about whom should keep the quilts from Maggie and Dee. “Everyday
Use” is a focus on the bonds women have between different generations and
legacies for example, the Quilts. Mama and Maggie see a different usefulness to
the quilts compared to Dee, the quits represent matters such as reading, race
and class, among others.

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Quilting in “Everyday Use”
symbolizes family heritage. They are a history of papers in fabric that vary
over generations. They symbolize the family’s history of pride, poverty and
struggle. Mama and Dee have different perspectives on what the quilts mean to
the family heritage. As to Mama, the quilts have a special significance; when
she goes to touch them, she is feeling the people who represented them, the
ones who worked on them in her family. It represents the bond between women of
different generations in their family. The quilts to Mama don’t only represent
her understanding of heritage but also shows how she’s connected to them with
her family.  “I
took it for a moment in my hands.  You didn’t even have to look close to
see where   hands pushing the dasher up and down to make butter had
left a kind of sink in the wood.  In fact, there were a lot of small
sinks; you could see where thumbs and fingers had sunk into the
wood.  It was a beautiful light-yellow wood, from a tree that grew in
the yard where Big Dee and Stash had lived” (Walker, “Everyday Use” 412)
Mama appreciates the dashers and quilts because of the love for the people who
made use for them. Mama promised Maggie that when she marries, the quilts will
be passed down to her (to the next generation) to represent their traditions
and cultural heritage. The quilts were “pieced by Grandma Dee and then Big Dee”
(Walker, “Everyday Use” 76); they were both important women to the family
history whereas the present time Dee has many reasons to why she wants the
quilts but the main reason is because she wants to display them to represent
them as her heritage. Dee believes that quilts should be displayed and looked
at rather than being used so they can be passed on for years but has she speaks
she doesn’t have knowledge about the history. Dee says “These are all pieces of
dress Grandma used to wear. She did all the stitching by hand” (Walker,
Everyday Use 412), however, the quilts were made by Grandma Dee, Big Dee, and
Mama including scraps of clothing that belonged to grandparents and
great-grandparents but Dee wasn’t aware of the family history behind the
quilts. Maggie on the other hand, remembers how her grandma taught her to make
them, and when she thinks of them she remembers her grandma. As a high symbolic
gesture in the Johnsons’ traditions, Maggie is promised the quilts so she can
pass down her skills to the newer generation but Dee wants to display them to
teach her future children about their heritage and the value of antiques.

From this
short story, you learn how there are different ideas of usefulness. As people,
even within the same family, we have unlike opinions about heritage and how it
reflects to our culture. The tittle “Everyday Use” refers to how Mama wants the
quilts to be used whereas Dee wants them to be hung up and looked at because
they are priceless and if we put them to use, they’ll be destroyed. Mama
believes Maggie will make more quilts and teach her children how to do it and
pass on the skill instead of just passing down quilts that won’t be used. Alice
Walker shows how two family members can have conflict over heritage because of
the one’s point of view.



Everyday Use Thesis Statements and Important Quotes.” PaperStartercom,

Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 8th ed. New York: Longman, 2002. 88-95.

scarletpimpernel. “In “Everyday Use,” why does
Dee want the quilts?” eNotes, 22 Feb. 2010, 

Alice. “Everyday Use.” Literature: An Introduction to
Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X.

White, David. “‘Everyday Use’: Defining African-American
Heritage.” 2001.
Anniina’s Alice Walker Page. 19 Sept.




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