Explain the betrayal theme in "Everyday Use."

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cldbentley | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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In "Everyday Use," a short story written by Alice Walker, a heavy undercurrent of betrayal is present throughout the majority of the story.  There are multiple elements to this theme: Dee betrays her mother and sister in her failure to help save Maggie from the fire and her apparent enjoyment at the loss of their home; Maggie and her mother are betrayed when Dee seems to make every effort to change her identity and become different from the way she was brought up; Dee continues to betray her family heritage by being embarrassed by the way she was raised, yet greedily taking every pretty, valuable, or impressive material possession she can get her hands on, especially when she does not even inquire about her mother's or sister's feelings about those things. 

The most unforgiveable occurrence of betrayal in "Everyday Use" takes place when Dee ("Wangero") attempts to take the family quilts that have been promised to Maggie.  Dee not only hurts her mother and sister in her insistance on taking the quilts to use as art pieces, but betrays her culture, ancestors, and heritage by insisting that it is wrong to use them as they were intended and by implying that Maggie does not deserve them.

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