Prior to Dee’s arrival home, Mama is recalling her recurring dream of how she thinks Dee would prefer Mama to look and act. It is unfair of Mama to assume that Dee would prefer her “a hundred pounds lighter, my skin like uncooked barley pancake” (456). Mama is putting words in Dee’s mouth and intimating that Dee is shallow and critical of her Mama’s appearance. Susan Farrell writes that it is Mama who is “ashamed of her own appearance and very much seeks her daughter’s approval” (1).
Heritage in Alice Walker’s Everyday Use Does Dee really understand her heritage better than Mama and Maggie? In the story Dee makes a big show of understanding her African roots but shows no appreciation for her own family’s history. She visits her family home looking for items that she can use to exhibit her heritage. Dee only has a shallow understanding of her heritage and no desire to live it. Wangero’s quest for her racial and cultural identity mirrors that of the African American community in general.
These details are obviously the reasons why Dee feels so much more better then her family. Dee is inherently backwards like many African Americans are today. She fails to appreciate where her and her family came from but finds peace with the motherland, Africa. Dee changes her name to “Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo”. After being asked by Mama why she changed her name she replied, “She’s dead…I can’t bear it any longer, being named after the people that oppress me.”(#) She left her own heritage to go into another one.
Now stop and think about how you should treat your heritage. Do you simply think your heritage is something to just remember, or do you believe you should apply the things inherited from heritage to everyday use? In Alice Walker’s short story, “Everyday Use,” Mama, Maggie, and Dee, three very different characters, have controversy over this topic. Mama is a tough and robust woman, who has worked all her life to provide for her family. Mama’s always had a soft spot for her daughter, Dee, but when Mama finally stands up to her, she sends the message that the things you inherit from your heritage should be applied to everyday use.
The Mother is a static character who remains unchanged throughout the story. Olsen paints an image of herself as that of a strong and caring Mother with a lot of guilt. The conflict for the Mother is the remorse for neglecting her first born child even though the neglect could not be helped. Olsen states, “I will become engulfed with all I did or did not do, with what should have been and cannot be helped” (290). Emily is a minor character in the story and is the Mother’s first born child.
The first comparison I made between the girls was their difference in looks. I think, Maggie is a little jealous of Wanerg’s beauty, it seems as if Maggie’s ashamed of the way she looks. While Mama and Maggie are waiting at home for a visit from Wanergo, Mama explains Maggie as being nervous when her sister is around. In the story Mama says : “She will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eyeing her sister with a mixture of envy and awe”. Mama then compares Wanergo’s beauty to Maggie’s looks, she says, “Dee (Wanergo) is lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure”… Compare Wangero”s beauty to Maggie’s looks , she says: ”Dee (Wanergo) is lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure”… This difference in the two sister , Maggie and Wanergo look, plays a large role in what makes them so difference from each other .
Mama and Maggie's connections to their heritage comes from their memories, not their race so they're confused about Dee's new image. Each of them values their possessions for different reasons because of their differing viewpoints. Mama has strong family ties and views family as important. She believes that her heritage is something to be cherished. One can see this in the way she handles the situation with her daughter Dee.
The Two Worlds of Misunderstanding “Everyday Use” is a short story from Alice Walker that juxtaposes two opposing views on identity, heritage, and worth. Every generation chooses their way of life. Some progress and excel while others settle and become comfortable, knowingly or unknowingly deciding to live the life they were given. This story is about a mother and two daughters who struggle to accept the others’ decisions in life and what happens when the new clashes with the old. Though the story is of first person perspective, seen through the eyes of “Mama”, the daughter Dee is seen as brash and pompous.
Dee on the other hand says she will appreciate them as a piece of family history, but in reality she wants to hang them on the walls like a piece of art. Dee lives in a demanding, sophisticated way of life as to where Maggie and Mama are still simple and humble and appreciate things for what they are and what they mean to the family. Mama finally stands up to Dee and instead of giving her the quilts like she has always given her everything she’s ever wanted, she tells her she promised the quilts to Maggie and she is not breaking that
When they go into the kitchen for something to drink, Dee gets up and starts packing the butter churn that her mother still uses. Mrs. Johnson just lets her be, with out saying anything or trying to stop her. Dee proceeds to go through the chest of her mother’s quilts. When she finds the quilts that her grandmother made, she tries to tell her mother that she is taking them to hang up and display in her home. When Mrs. Johnson tells Dee that she cannot have them because she has already given them to Maggie; Dee gets furious that Maggie could come before her.