Symbol Analysis Essay
In Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use,” she uses symbolism in the form of heritage and tradition through the everyday use of familial heirlooms, and with opposing views between two sisters and their mother. Walker’s short story is about an African-American mother, Mama, and her two daughters, Dee and Maggie. Maggie is the youngest, she is shy, has burn scars on her arms, and is meek. The oldest daughter, Dee, is beautiful, smart, and ambitious. Both daughters’ views of heritage are contrasted when Dee comes home to visit after being away at college.
When Dee returns home to visit Mama and Maggie, she informs her mother that she has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. When Mama asked what happened to “Dee,” Wangero tells her, “She’s dead, … I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me” (Walker 414). Mama tries to explain how “Dee” is a family name passed down through each generation, but the explanation of this tradition is dismissed by Wangero. While sitting down to eat, Wangero notices the benches at the table are the same ones her father made years ago, admiring the rump prints from years of use, thus reminding her of wanting familial heirlooms to take back with her from the house. First, Wangero went to the butter churn Mama still uses and currently had clabbered milk in it, claiming she needed the churn top and dasher to use as decoration. Both items made by family members cause Mama to reminisce about the dasher and the indentions in the wood from the many uses over the years.
After dinner, Wangero went to a trunk by Mama’s bed, pulls out two old quilts, and tells Mama she wants to take them with her as well. To Mama the quilts are priceless, hand stitched together by her sister, herself, and their mother, using scraps of old clothing worn by family members. Mama recalled when Dee (Wangero)...