Rejecting Heritage: Wangero's Greed Illustrated In Walker's, Everyday Use

1655 words - 7 pages

It was a little girl’s second Christmas and, although she does not remember now, she was so excited to open the big red package from grandma. She ripped open the package and the soft, handmade brown bear went poof in her hands. She has kept the ratty, old bear not for its beauty but because it has sentimental value of a simpler time. Like this example, many people have memories of items they grew up with that have more than monetary value, most people forget the real value of these items, however, and commercialize them as art or sell them away as junk in garage sales. In Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use,” we are shown a vivid example of what can happen when people take these once treasured items for granted. Walker’s character Dee/Wangero is an estranged daughter and sister who has not seen her family for six years reappears at her mother’s home to take away her family’s most sentimentally valuable possessions. Because Wangero’s view of her own heritage has been skewed and distorted by her peers, Wangero forgets the value of her mother’s possessions in an attempt to impress her contemporaries. Through Wangero, Walker reveals how misunderstanding one’s heritage can lead him to search for his place in a fake legacy invented to help him reconcile his misunderstanding of his own origins, and can even cause him to cheapen his family heritage because of a desire to stand out among his peers.

From the moment Wangero, who changed her name to fit into the continental African image that her peers were emulating, arrives to her mother’s house, she has obviously changed from the time she was last with her family, not only has she changed her hand-me-down name, but she has also taken up a strange new interest in her family heirlooms. Wangero changed her name from Dee because it fit more into the traditional African image that her peers were emulating at the time. Wangero appears at the house with Asalamalakim, dressed in African clothing, greeting Mama and Maggie in another language, and Mama replies saying:
“Well,” I say. “Dee”
“No, Mama,” she says. “Not ‘Dee,’ Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo!”
“What happened to Dee?” I wanted to know.
“She’s dead,” Wanger said. “I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me.”
“You know as well as me you was named after your aunt Dicie,” I said…
“But who was she named after?” asked Wangero.
“I guess after Grandma Dee,” I said.
“And who was she named after?” asked Wangero.
“Her mother,” I said, and saw Wangero was getting tired. “That’s about as far back as I can trace it,” I said. Though, in fact, I probably could have carried it back beyond the Civil War through the branches(144).
Wangero has obviously lost the point of why she was named after these women, and only sees a legacy of under-cultured and ignorant women because it does not fit into her view of reality, and also does not support the selfish reason for her name change, the reality is that the name “Dee” has a much greater...

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