In the story "Everyday Use," why is Wangero collecting old household items when she seems to hold both her mother and sister and the way they live in such disdain?  

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tmcquade | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Wangero, formerly known has Dee, has recently discovered her "heritage" and is trying to make an evident display of it by changing her name, her mannerisms, and her appearance, as well as by collecting old household items that represent that heritage.  She wants to display these items - various examples of African folk art -in her home to help her "remember" her African heritage and where she comes from.  To her, this is best shown in "things" rather than actual connections to and memories of people.

When "Wangero" travels home, to a place for which in the past she has shown great disdain, she asks her mother if she can take the old, hand-sewn quilts that are made from some of her grandmother's old dresses.  In the past, she had not wanted to take a quilt with her to school because she found them "old-fashioned" and "out of style". Now, they represent her heritage, and her "request" is really presented as an announcement that she plans to take the quilts.

When asked why she now wants them, Wangero says she wants to "hang them," as if that's the only reasonable thing to do with them.  When her mother says she has already promised them to Maggie, Wangero complains that Maggie is so "backward" she couldn't appreciate them and would probably put them to "everyday use," where they would quickly become rags.  To her, "these quilts" are the only ones that will do - none of the others that her mother offers are satisfactory since they show machine sewing on them.

Both the mother and Maggie remember the grandmother because they spent time with her and loved her.  Maggie learned to quilt from her.  Wangero has none of these memories or experiences - she can only "remember" with the thing itself.  This time, though, her mother stands up to her pushiness and takes the quilts away, saying they belong to Maggie.

 

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