Cultural Heritage In Alice Walker's Everyday Use

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Walker heavily uses the juxtaposition and contrast of various ideas to demonstrate the differing and strong opinions about culture and the validity of all of them. Outwardly, Mama’s two daughters Maggie and Dee could not contradict each other more- Dee, ever bold and assertive, dreams big for herself, while Maggie remains withdrawn, a homebody, and resigned to her current life. Both perceive their heritage vastly differently, with Dee having more progressive views on her past serving as a type of art and Maggie holding traditional views of her heritage as culture and something to participate directly in. Dee and Maggie thus present Mama with a decision between her two daughters and their two ideologies. On the surface, Mama chooses Maggie and …show more content…
“Everyday Use” affects culture by discussing and analyzing culture itself. Dee’s version of upholding her culture, in which she displays but never directly participates in her past, represents a sort of cultural gentrification in which valued traditions of the past become whimsies to those of the present. Today, when things ‘boho’ or ‘vintage’ or ‘exotic’ become stylish, this cultural gentrification becomes an even more pressing issue. Thus, Maggie and Mama’s response of actively practicing and utilizing the traditions of their past remains a strong tool to fight for one’s culture. Despite its 1970s timeframe and fairly limited scope, “Everyday Use”’s message about the importance of truly valuing and appreciating culture remains relevant today. More specifically, “Everyday Use” explores the traditional African American practice of quilting and its significance to African Americans. To Maggie, Mama, and Dee alike, quilting “[patches] together different lives and experiences” into one cohesive and “unitary experience” available for them to appreciate and to utilize in order to remember their past (Baker and Pierce-Baker 417). For all three family members, the quilt holds special meaning as a reminder of from where they have come. Walker …show more content…
Like many of her works, “Everyday Use” showcases Walker’s ability to capture the complexity of the human experience, especially the poor African American experience she herself had become familiar with, growing up as the daughter of sharecroppers in the deep south. Walker balances the turbulence of 1970s America with the simplicity of the Johnson household and a basic but profound artform such as family quilting. Throughout the short story “Everyday Use,” Alice Walker explores the meaning of community and culture by contrasting different viewpoints on these topics, ultimately highlighting the fact that valuing one’s past allows contentment with life and meaningful connections with

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