Everyday Use: Intersecting Heritage, Identity, and Values

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Updated: Nov 24, 2023
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Alice Walker’s compelling short story “Everyday Use” resonates as a timeless exploration of familial bonds, cultural heritage, and the intricacies of personal identity. Set against the backdrop of a rural Southern household, the narrative delves into the clash of perspectives between two sisters, Dee and Maggie, highlighting the significance of heritage in shaping individual identities.

The story unfolds as Dee, returning home from college, seeks to claim family heirlooms—quilts handcrafted by generations of their family—as artifacts of cultural value.

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Dee’s newly adopted name, “Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo,” and her intellectual pursuits signify her embrace of African heritage, distancing herself from her rural upbringing.

In contrast, Maggie embodies a simpler, more traditional lifestyle, deeply connected to her familial roots and the tangible expressions of their heritage. Her understanding of their heritage is rooted in the practicality of daily life rather than in abstract cultural symbols.

The quilts, crafted from clothing worn by their ancestors, symbolize the family’s history, struggles, and triumphs—a tangible representation of their heritage. Dee’s desire to possess the quilts as decorative artifacts clashes with Maggie’s reverence for their practical use, intending to preserve their essence in daily life.

Walker intricately weaves a narrative that questions the nature of heritage—whether it lies in physical objects, cultural symbolism, or in the everyday rituals and practices passed down through generations. Through the characters of Dee and Maggie, she provokes contemplation on the authenticity of cultural identity and the significance of one’s connection to their roots.

The clash between Dee’s desire to possess the quilts as artistic artifacts and Maggie’s reverence for their utilitarian purpose highlights a broader societal dialogue. It underscores the tension between preserving cultural heritage as a museum exhibit versus integrating it into everyday life, inviting reflection on the commodification of culture.

The story presents a nuanced exploration of how individuals navigate their cultural heritage and identity. Dee’s rejection of her given name and her familial heritage to embrace an idealized, abstract version of African heritage challenges the notion of authentic identity. In contrast, Maggie’s intimate connection to the quilts, handed down through generations, reflects a deeper appreciation for their familial legacy and personal identity.

Walker’s narrative does not provide a definitive resolution but prompts contemplation on the complexities of heritage and identity. It invites readers to ponder the significance of embracing cultural roots, acknowledging the multifaceted nature of identity, and understanding heritage beyond material artifacts.

“Everyday Use” endures as a poignant exploration of the intersection between heritage, identity, and values. It challenges us to reconsider the essence of cultural legacy, encouraging a deeper appreciation for the tangible and intangible aspects that shape our identities and familial connections. Through Dee and Maggie’s divergent perspectives, Walker offers a compelling narrative that resonates with timeless themes of heritage, identity, and the intricate threads that weave the fabric of our lives.

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Everyday Use: Intersecting Heritage, Identity, and Values. (2023, Nov 24). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/everyday-use-intersecting-heritage-identity-and-values/