Alberto Alvarez Macias
Professor Penny Claudio
Writing about literature
1. In Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use,” two sisters have a different notion of what heritage means. Who has it “right”? Do they both have an argument? Explain and support your answer with specific references to the text.
The story 'Everyday Use', written by Alice Walker, is a story of heritage, pride, and learning what kind of person you really are. In the exposition, the story opens with background information about Dee and Maggie's life, which is being told by Mama. The reader learns that Dee was the type of child that had received everything that she wanted, while Maggie was the complete opposite. The crisis, which occurs later in the story, happens when Dee suddenly comes home a different person than she was when she left. During the Climax, Mama realizes that she has often neglected her other child, Maggie, by always giving Dee what she wants. I think that’s when Mama is soon realizing that she has been unfair to one of her daughters, Maggie. Mama notices that while she loves both her daughters equally, one seems to understand and value their heritage more than the other. One sees it as for what it is, their pride, history, and the other daughter sees it as nothing more than a materialistic item.
While Maggie being the maladjusted, low confidence but a beacon of purity, uncorrupted by selfishness or complex emotional needs. While both sisters love their family and have a sense of pride for their heritage. Maggie values their heritage more, but in a sentimental way. She takes pride and knowing the quilts represents their lineage, having pieces of their past family members belongings quilted on the quilt. While Maggie’s relationship with Dee is rife with jealousy and awe. Maggie had always thought Dee had been gifted with an easy life in which her hopes and dreams were ever something she could ever put priority over. Maggie seems to have taken both sisters’ difficulties onto her own shoulders, and although she never says explicitly that she finds it unfair, she clearly thinks so. In any case, Maggie does have a stronger an argument, when Maggie said, “She can have them, Mama.” (p7) Maggie decided to be a better person and not cause any conflict within her family, she always prefers living a simple, conflict-less life. She told her Mama that she can remember Grandma without needing to have the quilts in her possession. Maggie is the type of person that will not forget her heritage in due because she does not have the quilts. Maggie understands what it truly means to understand heritage rather than her sister who seems to only accept its presence. Maggie and her mother hold the opinion that one's culture is based on a foundation of inherited objects as well as methods of thinking. Dee on the other hand, views culture as something that is no longer relevant in the modern society since it has been washed away by history. Even though the quilts had been promised to Maggie, and Dee through a tantrum about this matter. Maggie kept her composure and told Mama to give the quilts to her, she understands the meaning of those quilts better than her sister. Maggie has the higher ground on this matter.
Dee is the object of jealousy, awe among her family members, while as an individual she searches for personal meaning and a stronger sense of self. Dee’s judgmental nature has affected Mama and Maggie. Dee is the type of person that does not try to try to win the approval of Mama and Maggie. Dee comes across as arrogant and insensitive, and Mama sees even her admirable qualities as extreme and annoying. Mama sees Dee’s thirst for knowledge as a provocation, a haughty act through which she asserts her superiority over her mother and sister. Dee is also portrayed as condescending, professing her commitment to visit Mama and Maggie no matter what ramshackle shelter they decide to live in. Far from signaling a brand-new Dee or truly being an act of resistance, the new persona, Wangero, comes across as an attention-seeking ploy in keeping with Dee’s usual selfishness. Dee says she is taking back her heritage, but she has rejected it more than ever before. Dee selfishly praised quilts as "priceless" whereas she thought the same piece was old fashioned and out of style when offered to her for college. By carrying the quilts, she claims to carry the heritage, however, she feels shame of the lifestyle of her family, which is of course a part of her heritage. The behavior of overlooking her sister's, Maggie, and Mama's feelings since her childhood to the present indicates Dee's character as a person who disregards others. While Dee feels that she views her position as being the correct view, it isn’t so. The way Dee views her heritage is very different from how Maggie and Mama view it. She forgets that family heirlooms are something that are passed down to help them remember from what they came from, their lifestyle, their old way of life etc. From an objective standpoint, Dee’s view is a view that holds very little ground. She does not have it right, her view on their heritage is almost comical. She only acknowledges her heritage only when it suits her narrative.
Both Dee and Maggie’s views on their heritage are opposites, both understand that the quilts have a profound meaning to them. They both want them, but I feel that Maggie has a deeper understanding of the significance of the quilts. Maggie has a stronger argument than her sister, Dee. Dee just wants to have the quilts to parade them around and for showmanship, not for what they are truly are and their worth. Her argument doesn’t hold any ground. Maggie can really appreciate the worth of the quilts, its why Mama decided to hand them over to her and tells Dee to take from the other quilts. Mama realizes that Maggie has a greater understanding of their heritage, making Maggie the one who has it “right.”
Everyday Use By Alice Walker - Abebooks