Taking Pride of One’s Heritage in the Story Everyday Use by Alice Walker

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The story centers around Dee Johnson, her sister, Maggie, and their mother, Mrs. Johnson. Although each possesses the same culture and live in the same environment, Dee chooses to live differently from them. Maggie and Mrs. Johnson are content with living a simple life, through which their heritage signifies pride and usefulness. Not only are they well versed about the family history, but they also utilize the skills that have been passed on to them by their ancestors. Dee, on the other hand, refuses to acknowledge that she is a product of her environment and instead longs for a life built on materialism and pretentiousness.

Dee goes off to school and experiences the world outside of the life she has endured with Maggie and their mother. Her nonconformity goes to new heights. On a return visit home, Dee flaunts not only her male companion, but also her new persona that includes a fashionable wardrode, a new attitude, and a new name.

Dee has changed her name to Wangero. She has always despised the fact that she was named after relatives, who she claims has oppressed her. Dee felt oppressed by her birth name because every preceding female relative named Dee worked hard–and she didn’t want to be associated with hard labor. To show off her newfound culture, Dee now considers her mother’s quilts and parts of the churn–all handmade by her relatives–as artistic or antiques, instead of parts of her heritage. Although she wants to, Mrs. Johnson doesn’t remind Dee that she offered her one of the quilts before she went off to college, and at the time, Dee said they were old-fashioned and out of style. Now Dee thinks they’re priceless. When Mrs. Johnson explains that she was saving the quilts for Maggie once she marries, Dee rebuts by saying, She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use.

Dee appears worldly and educated, but her arrogance and ignorance of her culture and heritage discredits her pretentiousness. She is a stranger to her own family culture and heritage and doesn’t value either one. Dee believes that changing one’s name and wearing fashionable clothes personifies refinement. But one’s heritage and culture should not be adopted simply because they’re considered the latest trends among the cultured and sophisticated–only to be used and discarded as conveniently as one would change a pair of pantyhose. Culture and heritage are passed down through generations, not things suddenly discovered like antiques found at a garage sale. A person who is in touch with his heritage and culture recognizes and utilizes these two important resources of living every day on a subconscious level. Before she ends her visit, Dee advises her mother and Maggie to make something of themselves, since it’s a new day.

The division of class among family members, as well as members of the same ethnic background, is still prevalent–even in the new millennium. It’s unfortunate that skin color, facial features, material wealth, and education (or lack therefore) continues to divide heritages. Although the division appears to be less pronounced today, some elements of this division continue to perpetuate. For example, it is no longer uncommon to see people of all classes shopping at Wal-Mart, where shoppers are more concerned about keeping as much of their money as possible in their wallets instead of putting it in the wallets of well-known designers. Yet, on the other hand, some members of society insist on wearing a designer name on their backsides or across their chest to signify affluence and to announce, I can afford to shop at the more affluent stores.

Dee’s actions are evident in some members of our society, especially in those who choose not to reveal their original hometown or birthplace for fear of being ostracized or stereotyped. But being a product of where you hail is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, this is where the foundation of our inner beings are laid, and it determines who we will be later on in life, whether we will be contributors to society or not, and what role we will play in society. After all, its not where you begin the race that counts, but where you finish.

Members of society who behave similar to Dee are in denial of their true selves and their heritage. One shouldn’t use his heritage or snatches of it to elevate himself to the level of others perceived as being more refined or sophisticated. One should embrace his heritage with genuine love and respect.

Cite this paper

Taking Pride of One’s Heritage in the Story Everyday Use by Alice Walker. (2023, May 21). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/taking-pride-of-ones-heritage-in-the-story-everyday-use-by-alice-walker/

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