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Heritage in Everyday Use by Alice Walker (Term Paper Sample)


select one theme in Alice Walker's everyday use and write a paper about it


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Heritage in Everyday Use by Alice Walker
Alice Walker is the author of the short story, Everyday use. It’s a short story showing a mother’s relationship with two daughters. She is a well-known social activist championing for human rights, feminist, poet and a writer of not only short stories but also novels. She was born in Eatonton, Georgia to a rural family of sharecroppers. Her father was Lee Walker and her mother’s name was Minnie Grant. Her education commenced when she enrolled to East Putnam Consolidated. She later joined Butler Baker High School and finished as a valedictorian. Afterwards, she joined Spelman college via scholarship through the state of Georgia. It’s during the college that she met mentor professors namely Staughton Lynd and Zinn Howard. The professors helped a great deal to shape her future as an author. Later, she would transfer to Sarah Lawrence college after getting another scholarship to complete her studies (Britannica).
After graduation from college, she joined the Departmental of Welfare in New York City and worked there. She would later join the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Mississippi as part of the Legal Defense Fund. Besides civil rights work, Walker also worked as a writer in Jackson State University as well as Tugaloo college. She has produced variety of literary works over the course of her writing career. These include the novel the Third Life of Grange Copeland in 1970, The color people in 1982, collection of short stories such as Way Forward is with a Broken Heart among many other writings. Her writings explored important areas such as racism, violence in the society, patriarchy, culture, poverty among other important topics. She has additionally participated in political criticism on areas such as Israel-Palestine conflict, support for Chelsea manning over her arrest for releasing classified documents and so on. Walker was once married in 1967 but later divorced to Civil rights lawyer Melvyn Leventhal. They were blessed with a daughter in 1969. She has received many awards for her works including the Pulitzer, National Book Award, Lennonono Grant for Peace among others. Walker can thus be said to be a successful person in the literature world which has touched many lives (Britannica).
Walker’s story Everyday Use is the focus of our research as we try to explore how heritage was portrayed in the story. It was published in 1973 as part of collection of short stories. The story encompasses the question of heritage in the 1960s and 1970s. It explores the heritage of the Afro American people at the Centre through the characters Mama, Dee also Wangero as well as character Maggie.
The story is set at a rural area where Mama resided with her daughter, Maggie. Dee on the other hand is daughter that lived in city while schooling there. The story takes place when Dee comes home to visit during the day and arrives to find Mama and Maggie waiting for her. Mama and Maggie having lived in the rural happen to hold more onto the heritage than Dee who has been living in the city. Of course Dee acknowledges and is proud of the Afro American heritage but does not entirely appreciate it as Mama and Maggie do (Martin, 41).
Mama is thus the main character in the story. She narrates the story of the happenings when Dee arrived from the city in the company of her friend Hakim. She employs a mixture of first person especially when giving direct quotes as well as third person when narrating the stories. All while in the course of narration, the question of heritage is furthered through the course of the story. There is significance of heritage vary in the family. Walker goes ahead to portray Afro African heritage and the role it plays in the family. She does that fruitfully through employing the family of Mama and her daughters. By doing so, it makes her unique as well as worthwhile.
A look at the quilt is one of the concepts that will assist in understanding how heritage has been portrayed in the family making Walter’s work unique and worthwhile. How Dee views the quilt is not the same way Maggie does (Hoel, 38). Mama is at the middle trying to connect the two daughters. Mama and Maggie hold the contention that a heritage is based substantially on inherited objects where the quilt is one such object. Dee on the other does not appreciate such value of the objects having lived in the city thus sees such objects not as important as the other two characters do.
The theme which is the central argument is the heritage. The views held by the characters differ on what is the constitution of effective practice of Afro American heritage. Each character practices what they deem appropriate for the heritage. Dee would arrive dressed in African attire and an Afro hair style. Mama described her on arrival as “I hear Maggie go “Uhnnnh” again. It is her sister’s hair. It stands straight up like the wool on a sheep.” (Walker 28). She would also want the churn which is an essential piece of inheritance as heritage to place in her table. On other hand, the Churn is not just for beauty to be placed by the table from Maggie’s and Mama’s point of view, its symbol of the history for the family having been passed down from Dee’s late uncle (Ala Eddin 159). Such an item just but an example of how heritage is central in the story.
Walker uses the technique of contrasting among the characters and their view points to demonstrate heritage and the dictates of what one perceives as heritage. Through that style, Walker shows that heritage cannot be just depicted as possession of mere objects, it’s about the kind of lifestyle that one leads and attitudes of a person that shows the heritage. Just as highlighted in the previous paragraph, Dee happened to think owning the objects as what showed one appreciates the culture. However, Mama and Dee don’t just see the objects but go ahead to value the heritage not just for show but for the importance it has in their lives. The contrast technique thus assists in bringing out what the content of heritage encompasses.
Moreover, while still furthering the contrast technique, Walker shows the heritage can have passed from generation to another without any alterations. She thus shows the smooth transition of the heritage among generations. That happens when Maggie and Mama happen to share common inferences of culture. Since their views such as on relevance of quilt are the same, it depicts passing of heritage from a generation to another by learning from past generations. For instance, quilt is an item that has been passed in Mama’s lineage (Walker 33). Appreciating the relevance of quilt across lineage from ancestors of Mama to Maggie demonstrates the how the author was successful with the contrast technique while furthering the heritage theme.
The characters hold varying misconception of the heritage which can be demonstrated by characterizing them. Dee was described as “lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and fuller figure” (Walker 25). Mama thus described her as beautiful. On the other hand, Maggie was portrayed as rough with “burn scars down her arms and legs” (Walker 25). These were from the incident of their burning house. Dee further schooled away which shows the aspect of being determined to be something else in life. Her visit home took place during civil rights movements which counts for her trying to appreciate the heritage through dress code. She had even changed her name to and told her mother “No, Mama,” she says. “Not ‘Dee,’ Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo!” (Walker 29). in order to be seen as more of her appreciating the heritage. The attempts are not convincing enough that there is full appreciation of the heritage (Martin, 43).
While visiting home, an aspect of conflict can be seen. Dee had come home in the company of Hakim, her boyfriend. Hakim deemed pork, which was part of the prepared meals by Mama as unclean hence didn’t not eat (Walker 30). The conflict heightens when Dee wants to take some of the items and keep for herself as part of the culture. This was actually the climax when she wanted the handmade quilts stitched with pieces of clothes worn by her past relatives. On the other hand, we have Maggie who had promised to own the quilts. The conflict and the climax of the story furthers the question of heritage as each character moves to try and satisfy what is deemed proper for the heritage.
Walker applies unique way to present the arguments about heritage and how it should be safeguarded. During the arguments relating to the items such as old quilts, Dee goes ahead to demand them in order to keep them safely. She deems Maggie as “backward enough to put them to everyday use” (Walker 33). At this point in the story, Walker posits the question of whether heritage should be safeguarded somewhere, may be for display purposes, or employed as daily part of life. The everyday use which is the title of the story is thus deeper than just about quilts. It’s about how people preserve the heritage. The author thus challenges the notion of just keeping heritage as a symbol. It should be something that is part of the everyday life. This is reason why Maggie was given the quilt and not Dee as Dee would not out is to use. In essence, Dee would n

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