When Wangero (Dee) in “Everyday Use” said, “These are all pieces of dresses Grandma used to wear. She did all of this stitching by hand,” she was referring to a special quilt’s achievements associated with it. Dee fails to relate to the history of the symbol as her mother does. (6.) In the story, Mama and Maggie await estranged Dee’s return, who proves she is all about accomplishments and what she can prove. Dee ultimately tries to take the family quilts that were promised to Maggie because she feels she has a better understanding of the heritage and expresses that feeling through insults. Ultimately, Dee storms out with Mama and Maggie left spending their day in the yard. Walker uses the quilt as a symbol of connections between generations and their heritage.
The opening of “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker centers on describing the way Dee, Mama’s distant daughter, is trying to portray herself as worldly. Dee begins with arriving in a dress so “loud” and colorful enough to “throw back the light of the sun” (3.) She then announces that she changed her name to “Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo” in an attempt to stray away from people who “oppress” her, which shows to be ignorance on Dee’s part (3.) Later, Wangero sets her eyes on an old butter churn she plans to make a part of her centerpiece. She even states that Maggie is unlikely to “appreciate” the quilt (5.) These instances bring the reader to Wangero essentially deciding that she is more worthy of the guilt that is promised to Maggie because she is better educated.
Moreover, Wangero describes that the quilt should be treated as more than something of “everyday use” (6.) Dee believes the quilt should be displayed like a trophy, rather than honor the quilt for its practical functions. To her, the importance of the heirloom is showing it off, otherwise, it isn’t being properly respected. Mama even gets insulted by Dee, being accused of not understanding her “heritage” (7.) In reality, it is Dee who doesn’t understand traditions and their values.
In contrast, Mama states that she, in fact, hopes Maggie would indeed put use to the quilts. Mama has been “saving them long enough with no one using them” (6.) Even though she doesn’t see the need to hang it, Mama understands that each piece is important and dated back to even her mother’s mother. To mama, the quilt contributes to the traditions and cultures of the family without being taken for a materialistic medal and impersonal to her. This comparison in the understanding of the symbol between Dee and Mama relate to the main theme of what the meaning of heritage is.
In conclusion, Walker uses the heirloom quilt as a symbol to bind together history like you would stitch together the pieces of clothing. This symbol has the same universal message but different implications between characters. Although Mama has a personal attachment to the quilt, Dee knows little of her past but uses the heirloom as a distant expression of her constructed past. At the same time, the quilt still represents the big idea of family representation.
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