The Views of Heritage based upon the book Everyday Use

Essay by AmandaLeighCollege, UndergraduateA+, October 2009

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Through the differing family members and views in "Everyday Use", author Alice Walker demonstrates the importance of understanding our present lives in relation to the traditions of the people in our families and culture that comes from them. “The story is reflecting the times in which they were written and the particular cultural heritage out of which Walker writes” (Messud). Using descriptions and viewpoints from the characters, Alice Walker demonstrates which factors contribute to the values of someone’s heritage and culture. She illustrates that these are represented not by the possession of objects or their appearances, but by the person’s lifestyle and attitude toward the things they use and do. “Walker uses the story narrative to combine her highly particularized experience with literary allusion and symbolism helping her bring ’real life’ onto the pages.” (McMillan) In "Everyday Use" Alice Walker represents the different sides of culture and heritage in the characters of Dee, Maggie and the Mrs.

Johnson, their mother and narrator of the story. The actions and speech of the characters also further define their representative roles in the story. Dee can be seen to represent a materialistic, complex, and modern way of life where culture and heritage are valued only for their stylish and artistic appeal to others. Mother and Maggie on the other hand, represents a simple content way of life where culture and heritage are valued for both its usefulness as well as its personal association with their lives. The story clearly states Mama and Maggie’s simple, straightforward view of heritage, and Dee's materialistic connection to her heritage. “Part of Walker’s impetus is, not surprisingly, her critical assessment of the African American experience in the South reclaiming of her African roots.” (Smith)Dee (Wangero) had always been embarrassed by their less-than-modest residence and had remarked once “that...