Analyze "Everyday Use" from a postcolonial point of view.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One angle that you can use to examine this story that is so important from a postcolonial perspective is the whole issue of identity. It is clear that Dee, in trying to understand herself, her heritage and her identity, has ironically rejected the identity of her immediate past by trying to pass herself off as African and changing her name and her way of dressing herself. However, it is clear from the way that she treats Mama's things that she now does not appreciate the immediate past of her ancestors in America by being so desperate to return to her African identity. To Mama, such objects as the quilts and the churn top and dasher are fundamental parts of her history. To Dee, they are just objects of artistic beauty to be shown off:

"I can use the churn top as a centerpiece for the alcove table," she said, sliding a plate over the churn, "and I'll think of something artistic to do with the dasher."

To Mama, things are all about their practical usage and the way that they had been used everyday by her family. Note what she thinks of when she looks at these items:

You didn't even have to look close to see where hands pushing the dasher up and down to make butter had left a kind of sink in the wood. In fact, there were a lot of small sinks; you could see where thumbs and fingers and sunk into the wood. It was beautiful light-yellow wood, from a tree that grew in the yard where Big Dee and Stash had lived.

To Mama, every bump on the churn and dasher reminds her of somebody's hand, and the wood itself reminds her of a particular tree. This object is valued precisely because of the way her family have used it over the years. The irony is that when Dee says to Mama and Maggie that they "do not understand their heritage," she is blind to the fact that her attempt to embrace her African distant past has meant that it is she who does not understand her heritage and culture: a key postcolonial theme.

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