The main character in Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” has more education than both her mother and sister, Mama and Maggie. Ironically, Dee is given the privilege to learn more about the world outside of her home, but in the process loses attachments to her own heritage. Walker shows that the many quilts Dee’s mother had received as wedding gifts symbolize the strong connections she has with her ancestors and the struggles they had to endure.
The story revolves around Mama and her drastic attitude change toward Dee, from the beginning of the story to the end. At first, she excitedly awaits for her daughter to come home from school after several years. However, later on she realizes she …show more content…
The heritage Mama is trying so hard to integrate in her life is being questioned by her own daughter. Similarly, the quilts are small pieces of cloth put together and are therefore seen as vulnerable. Just as Dee is becoming more and more distant from her family’s heritage, a quilt can also gradually become loose at the seams. As David Cowart points out, “The visitor rightly recognizes the quilts as part of a fragile heritage, but she fails to see the extent to which she herself has traduced that heritage” (Cowart 1996). Dee only sees her African American history as negative, while Mama sees it as her pride and what allows her to continue to persevere. Dee states, "I couldn 't bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me” (158). Dee cannot fathom that her name has any importance and ironically chooses to change it to Wangero because it is more like her African culture. Cowart also mentions, “Wangero seems to think the African American past can be rescued only by being commodified” (Cowart 1996). Dee simply cannot see that her African American culture is still in existence, but rather she sees it as a bunch of artifacts.
Walker’s “Everyday Use” uses a small object, such as a quilt, in order to symbolize the great endurance that the women of Mama’s family had to face and the history behind their struggles. Dee only desires her mother’s quilts because they remind her of African decorations of the past. Meanwhile, Mama gave up receiving an inheritance because she wanted to be continuously reminded that her culture is still very well alive