Everyday Use by Alice Walker
In "Everyday Use," Alice Walker stresses the importance of heritage. She employs various ways to reveal many aspects of heritage that are otherwise hard to be noticed.
In the story, she introduces two sisters with almost opposite personalities and different views on heritage: Maggie and Dee. She uses the contrast between the two sisters to show how one should accept and preserve one's heritage. Beyond the contrast between two sisters there exist the judge figure mom, the narrator and the Dee's irony. The irony on Dee's opinion is the key to understand the story and why the mother let Maggie keep the quilts, which symbolize the heritage.
The two sisters in the contrast of Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" have different personalities and looks that are as opposite as right and wrong. It's seems like Walker is trying to say one of the sister is right and the other is wrong from the beginning. Maggie has poor, miserable image as Walker describes the way Maggie walks "…a lame animal, perhaps a dog run over by some careless people rich enough to own a car…". Maggie has burn scars down her arms and legs, which she got from the fire that burned the house they had earlier. Perhaps, because of her bad appearance, she is very shy and it is described where Walker says, "She (Maggie) has been like this, chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle…". Dee, on the other hand, is a very self-confident girl with beautiful look. Her body is described as "…lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and fuller figure. She's a woman now…" (Walker 1172). She is highly motivated and does everything it takes to get what she wants, as it is described in the story of her graduation from high school. She finished college education while her mom's education was stopped after second grade.
As the two sisters have different appearance and personalities, they have different perspectives on heritage that contrast each other. Walker uses quilts to symbolize the heritage and describes the two girls' view on quilts to show their perspectives on heritage. Maggie thinks of heritage as an attachment to her ancestors. She believes the everyday use of the inherited materials, how much ever value they may retain, will keep her connected to her ancestors. She values the attachment to the ancestors more than the inherited material itself. When she gives up the quilts to Dee, she states, "I can 'member Grandma Dee with the quilts." Dee, on the other hand, thinks of heritage as something that has an extrinsic value, for example its aesthetic value as an antique. She...