Family Past Means a Lot to the Present This essay is on the short story "Everyday Use," by Alice Walker. The assignment was to describe how the quilts are symbolic.

Essay by sprngllcs4College, Undergraduate November 2004

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"Everyday Use"

Family Past Means a Lot to the Present

In "Everyday Use," by Alice Walker we meet two sisters, Dee and Maggie, who are completely different from one another. The story takes place in the South during the 1960's. It was the time of the Black Power Movement, when African Americans were fighting for their rights. Many had to struggle and decide whether they wanted to assimilate and blend in with the world around them, or instead choose to hold onto their heritage and traditions. In our story, Maggie and her mother live the old fashioned way and cherish the traditions, while Dee just wants to move forwards and modernize. She views her mother and sister as somewhat backwards. When Dee comes to visit, Mama is faced with a dilemma: which of the two sisters should receive the quilts that are a family heirloom? The quilts signify a lot more than just beautiful pieces of patchwork.

The quilts are symbolic of the rich heritage that the family possesses.

First of all, the fact that the quilts were composed of such sentimental pieces of fabric makes them very symbolic. These two precious quilts were not at all made up of random scraps of material! On the contrary, they contained "scraps of dresses Grandma Dee had worn fifty and more years ago," as well as "bits and pieces of Grandpa Jarell's Paisley shirts," and even a piece from "Great Grandpa Ezriel's uniform that he wore in the Civil War." Imagine! If appreciated and understood correctly, these quilts really told a story; the story of this family's past.

Another great significance of the quilts is the fact that we can learn so much about the characters of Dee and Maggie by observing their differences in attitude towards...