What is Dee’s attitude toward her heritage with the attitudes of her mother and sister?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The character of Dee, or Wangero, in Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" does not quite accept who she really is or where she really comes from. Instead, she has turned her heritage into a montage of artistic, historical, and eclectic nothings that make up a brand new idea of what she feels is the African heritage.

Coming from a poor family of sensible means and living the reality of being a minority, one would think that Dee would use her new-found position in society and her education to expand upon what she knows, and make her heritage be well-known.

Contrarily, she adopts a new name loosely based on her heritage, "Wangero", and she looks around her mother's house for objects that look colorful or traditional enough to make some silly "collection". The objects for which she looks around the house, such as the family quilt, mean a lot to the family in terms of , like the story's title says, everyday use. To Dee, however, these objects represent more gadgets that she can use to claim a culture that she has poorly re-created and renamed for her own pride and ridiculous ego.

Therefore, when Dee confronts her mother and sister saying that they do not really know about heritage the way that she does she is absolutely wrong. The "heritage" that Dee aims for is one she can turn into a pop-icon. Something aesthetic and tragic at the same time. That is not the reality of culture: You are who you are and you live through the hardships that come with your heritage. If your people are oppressed and treated unfairly, your job is to fight against injustice and move forward.

What Dee actually does is going backward. She is hiding the truth of her heritage: The pains, the tears, the blood shed in the past. She turns her heritage into an idealistic cloud where only that which is beautiful or grave can exist. Like the saying goes, if you do not accept your past you cannot embrace your future. Dee has very little future because she is basing her persona in something that, really, does not exist but in her imagination.

skwon1022 | Student
Relvoing around a family conflict triggered by a proud, confident character Dee's desire to obtain her personal and cultural heritage but inability to appreciate genuine identity of other characters, her mother and very disparate sister, Maggie, "Everyday Use" underscores a generation gap and a contrast between two distinctively different attitudes toward heritage. Although Maggie and their mother do not attempt to understand their cultural heritiage intellectually, they know and can feel it everyday by simply living their cultural heritage, maintained int he form of family relics: the quilt.
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Everyday Use

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