What is the overall theme of "Everyday Use?"

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The overall theme is family heritage and the connection, or disconnection, between a life lived to impress peers and a life lived to continue and respect the family lineage. Dee contrasts with Maggie and Mrs. Johnson, showing her disdain for old traditions except where she can use them to make herself look more caring and intelligent. Mrs. Johnson sometimes dreams of living a more modern, socially acceptable lifestyle, but knows that she does a good job keeping her family alive and bringing useful skills into the modern age.

Dee has no respect for old traditions, preferring to live in what she sees as a socially-acceptable, modern lifestyle. She even rejects her given name:

"I couldn't bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me."

"You know as well as me you was named after your aunt Dicie," I said.
(Walker, "Everyday Use," xroads.virginia.edu)

She has no real sense of the heritage behind her name, or the "old-fashioned" things that she covets. She wants the quilts not because she likes them, but because she can point out their history and impress other people. In this way, she contrasts her self-absorbed, selfish outlook with Mrs. Johnson's straightforward, simple outlook.

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