What are the differences between Mama's and Wangero's views on using cultural objects daily?

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The differences between the women’s perspectives are that Mama tends to believe that even cultural objects should be used every day, as the title suggests, while Wangero, formerly called Dee, emphasizes the cultural value of certain objects. In particular, she wants to preserve or display some handmade quilts. Alice Walker presents good reasons to support both perspectives.

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Alice Walker’s story presents different approaches to objects and cultural heritage among members of the same family from a rural Southern town. Mama, the mother of two young women, primarily appreciates the things around her as representations of their family. They represent earlier generations of women to her.

Wangero,...

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who changed her name from Dee after she moved away from home, has learned to value handmade things. Of special import are those associated with the family’s African American heritage and more distant African origins. The author provides information that could be used to support either perspective.

The cultural objects that arouse the most interest among the characters are handmade quilts. Mama is highly conscious of her daughter’s good fortune in being able to attend college in the North. She had probably not anticipated that Dee (as she still continues to call her) would change quite as much. Mama maintains a home with her other daughter, Maggie, who was badly burned earlier in her life and has some intellectual disabilities. Mama is strongly committed to providing for Maggie, since she continues to live at home and will not be attending college. For Mama, the quilts are valuable because their relative Grandma Dee made them.

Wangero, living in a big city, has learned a great deal about African American culture and its roots in Africa. These new interests led her to change her name. Returning home to visit, she looks at her family’s possessions with new eyes. She is particularly interested in handmade quilts, which she would like to take North with her and hang them on her walls. The family connections of the heirlooms are overshadowed by the broader cultural and historic significance. To her, the objects are symbols; the link between the generations of women named Dee is less meaningful.

Walker seems to suggest that Mama’s perspective is more valid, as she decides that Maggie should have the quilts. It is possible, however, that Mama’s decision is more influenced by her understanding of her daughters than a commitment to a particular position. She may be trying to do something nice for Maggie because she feels that her other daughter has more opportunities in the world. Maggie also represents continuity of tradition through making quilts.

Although Wangero comes across as insensitive and somewhat snobbish, her concerns are justified. An object used every day is more likely to wear out or be damaged. While her desire for the quilt may be selfish, her attitude necessarily centers the longer-term preservation of culturally significant objects for the appreciation of future generations.

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