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Theme Of Heritage In Walker's Everyday Use

1616 words - 6 pages

"Growing up in Different Eras of time
and disparities between the quality of education
affect peoples’ perception of heritage."

"Everyday Use" by Alice Walker was an inspiring story of family and heritage. Simplicity against
complexity. The old ways and the new ways. It was about people fighting for change and other people
who were content with the way things were. The story takes place in the 60’s or 70’s and is written in
the first person from the mother’s perspective. She has two daughters Dee and Maggie who are
complete opposites. Maggie is a shy, not so smart black woman who is scarred from a fire that the
family went through when their house burned down. She is always at Mama’s side and has pretty much
the same educational background and understanding of heritage that Mama has. Maggie has always
lived under Dee’s shadow. Mama notes, " Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes: she will
stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burned scars down her arms and legs, eyeing
her sister with a mixture of envy and awe. She thinks her sister has held life always in the palm of one
hand, that 'no' is a word the world never learned to say to her."(Walker 157). Dee usually got
everything she wanted and it was probably at Maggie’s expense. Mama and Maggie’s understanding of
heritage differs from Dee’s. To them heritage is living the way their living. Memories of past relatives
and the passing on of customs and items from generation to generation. Heritage is working on the
farm and living simple lives not caring to complicate themselves. Just believing in the Lord Jesus and
appreciating what has been given. Heritage is the way they speak. The black English that has evolved
into a full sub language that has added another dimension to the English language which enables us to
better express ourselves through another means of rhetoric and grammar and has birthed many
beautiful black literary scholars. Dee is an attractive, outgoing, educated, strong minded black woman
who is tired of being oppressed by white society and discovers her African roots, knowledge of self and
takes great pride in it. It seems that she looks down on or pities her mother and sister because they are
simple country folk who are uneducated and seem content with the way their lives are. The different
perceptions of heritage between Mama and Dee are due to the different eras of time they grew up in
and the disparities of the quality of education between them.
Mama or Mrs. Johnson grew up in the 1920’s and was forced to stop going to school when she was in
the second grade because the school was closed down. Alice Walker notes that Mama says, “Don’t ask
me why: in 1927 colored asked fewer questions than they do now.”(walker 158) This reveals that Mama
only had a second grade...

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