•Traditional culture—can it be protected and betrayed? How is culture preserved? Does change necessarily exclude cultural preservation? Or, can change, progress, and culture coexist?

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In “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, the central conflict surrounds Mama and her daughter Dee, who is an educated cosmopolitan unlike her mother and her sister, Maggie. Dee, who has changed her name to the Africanized Wangero, thinks she knows best how to “preserve” the cultural artifacts of her family’s history, including the handmade quilts Mama has promised to Maggie.

Mama, in contrast, sees these cultural artifacts as everyday items that were created for practicality’s sake. Mama understands that honoring her family’s traditions means continuing to use these objects in the ways they were intended. Dee disagrees, and when Mama refuses to give her the heirloom quilts, Dee accuses Mama of not understanding her own heritage.

Your first question, of course, is seen in Dee’s perspective. One can preserve cultural artifacts, but it requires transforming its original use from practical object into idle decoration. This could be seen as a betrayal of the traditional culture.

On the other hand, one might see continuing to use these cultural artifacts as a destruction of history. Once these objects are destroyed, their connection to heritage will be also. Yet, if one agrees with Mama’s perspective, this “everyday use” is actually the best way to honor one’s traditional culture because it continues the traditions of the past.

It seems that traditional culture can only be preserved in a way so that something must be lost: its usefulness or its existence.

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