In "Everyday Use," what is the significance to the family members of Dee's having changed her name to Wangero?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Dee's having changed her name is symbolic of the conflict between two definitions of the family's heritage in Alice Walker's story. For, as part of the new movement of Black Nationalism, Dee has rejected what Malcolm X called "slave names," names. Her hair now is in an Afro hairdo.When she alights from the car, Wangero greets her family in African, "Asalamalakim, my mother and sister!" 

Clearly, Dee/Wangero has adopted a new identity. As a Black Muslim, she will not eat pork, a meat she ate regularly as a child. Her perspective of the old butter dish of Grandma Dee now intrigues her as well as the butter churn; however, she does not wish to use them. Instead, she desires them as museum pieces since she is now part of a new culture.

When she asks for the quilts which represent for the mother the connection of the family's past and their roots--their real heritage-- the mother refuses, snatching them from Dee's hands and giving them to Maggie, who appreciates the history of those who have toiled on these quilts. For, Maggie will use these quilts and not put them on display.

"You just don't understand," she [Dee] said, as Maggie and I came out to the car.

"What don't I understand?" I wanted to know.
"Your heritage," she said..then she turned to Maggie....It's really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live you'd never know it.

After Dee departs, Maggie smiles "a real smile, not scared." She is now a person of her own, no longer in the shadow of her sister who has forfeited her family history for an identity that has become merely fashionable.

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