Heritage is an important factor to every developing family. Heritage helps to
develop a persons values showing what they believe in. Particularly about the values of
their family. In the story Everyday Use, by Alice Walker, value of heritage is a main topic.
Throughout this story there are many different words used to describe what Wangero
(Dee), Maggie, and their mother value. These choices of words all play an important role
in the contrasting values of these people and the battle over heritage.
The mother of Wangero and Maggie is the narrator of this story. It is evident at
the beginning of this story, when the narrator describes her clean yard as an extended
living room, that she is proud of her home. Her house is somewhat of a shanty, meaning
well run down and not very luxurious. Being proud of her home shows that she values
what she has and doesn’t complain about not living in luxury.
The narrator also shows that she believes in having a close family. This is evident
when she describes a dream of hers. The dream is about being on a TV program where
Dee, her daughter also known as Wangero, comes on and hugs her; telling her how she
appreciates all she has done. This experience of the hug in public shows that she values her
daughter being close to her. This hug being in public shows that the narrator wants the
world to see the family’s interconnectedness. The narrator also shows her closeness with
her other daughter Maggie, later in the story, by referring to her as “my Maggie.”
The mother also demonstrates a strong value in hardwork. This value of hardwork
is proven when she describes herself as a women who can hunt and work outside all day.
She is a single mother and it is apparent that she is devoted to her family because of how
hard she works to support their needs.
Maggie is the youngest daughter of the narrator; she has many of the same values
as her mother. She was burned in a fire at a young age and is ashamed of her appearance.
She is often intimidated by her older sister which is confirmed when Dee arrives to visit
and Maggie attempts to run into the house. The intimidation is a result of Maggie’s belief
that Dee gets whatever she wants and is not accustomed to the word no.
Maggie’s main value is her heritage. She appreciates things made by her ancestors.
She also has knowledge about her ancestry. An example of this knowledge is when Dee
asks to have a dasher. When asked if Uncle Buddy whittled the dasher Maggie is quick to
respond “Aunt Dee’s first husband whittled the dash; his name was Henry but they called
him Stash.” Showing that Maggie knows who did what and appreciates the
accomplishments of her relatives.
Dee, on the other hand, is very different from Maggie and her mother. She has
been put through college and is well educated as a result. Dee returns to visit her mother
and asks for several objects within the house. Her value of heritage seems to serve more as
a memory of where she came from, rather than an appreciation of her family’s
achievements. She asks for household objects such as a butter churn top, a dasher, and
some old quilts. She wants to use these objects for different purposes than what they were
originally for which exhibits that she doesn’t appreciate their uses and is more accustomed
to higher luxuries.
Another factor that shows Dee’s disrespect of her heritage is her name change. She
changes her name to Wangero maybe suggesting a change in religion. When Dee is asked
by her mother why she changed her name Dee replies, “I couldn’t bear it any longer, being
named after the people who oppress me.” Her mother then tells her she was named after
her Aunt Dicie, but Dee continues to argue about the name. Obviously Wangero is not
happy with her family name showing a lack respect for her ancestors. The mother gives in
and says she will call her by Wangero, letting us know that she is only concerned about
her family being happy.
The choice of words a person uses can portray the values they have. Choice of
words can often reveal intelligence, anger, respect, or disrespect. When referring to an
individual heritage, choice of words is important. From words used by someone to
describe their heritage we can tell how they feel about issues pertaining to