Portia Salvant Dr. Y. Sims Sophomore Seminar English 251-02 25 September 2012 Embracing Heritage The short story “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, the story is about two sisters and a mother. Despite the family being poor, the mother works hard to provide for the both of her daughters. Dee is the eldest daughter and despises where she came from. Dee later on gains an education, attends college, and obtains a degree. In the story she is going through an identity crisis and changes her name to “Wanegro.
” On the other hand, Maggie is a shy young girl.
At such a young age, she is still suffering from a tragic event. Maggie is intimidated by Dee; solely since Dee carries many accomplishments and her appearance. Soon after, Dee remembers the quilts made by her grandmother. She attempts to obtain the quilts and her mother decides to give the quilts to Maggie. The quilts are a symbol of customs in their family. In many different cultures there are a variety of customs that follow along with the generations.
The short story exposes that the two sisters are attempting to reach the same goal, but in unlike methods.
The mother is the narrator of the story and she shows the audience their differences. The mother describes herself to be “a large big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands” (pg. 65). Both girls are beautiful in their own way. Maggie is jealous of Wanergo’s beauty and it seems as if Maggie is ashamed of the way she looks. Mama then goes on to say that, “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” (pg. 64).
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” (pg. 65). In the story, Mama and Maggie are waiting at home for a visit from Wanergo, Mama explains Maggie as being nervous while her sister is around. The difference in the way Maggie and Wanergo look plays a large role in what makes them so different from each other. Maggie and Wanergo had completely different personalities from each other. Throughout the story Mama made it seem as if Wanergo had an outgoing personality and that she always got what she wanted.
Mama even says that Maggie “thinks her sister has held life always in the palm of one hand, that “no” is a word the world never learned to say to her” (pg. 64). Mama made Maggie out to have a very shy personality, due to how ashamed she was of the way her burn scars made her look. Wanergo wanted to go to a good school in Augusta so her mother, along with the church, raised the money to send her to college. Maggie, on the other hand, would seem like the type to go to school in the same place she grew up in. Everyone is raised within a culture with a set of customs and morals handed down by those generations before them.
Most individual’s view and experience identity in different ways. During history, different ethnic groups have struggled with finding their place within society. In the mid-nineteen hundreds, African Americans faced a great deal of political and social discrimination based on the tone of their skin. After the Civil Rights Movement, many African Americans no longer wanted to be identified by their African American lifestyle, so they began to practice African culture by taking on African hairdos, African-influenced clothing, and adopting African names.
By turning away from their roots, many African Americans embraced a culture that was not inherited, thus putting behind the unique and significant characteristics of their own inherited culture. Therefore, a search for self-identity is a universal theme in the community. The sisters in the story attempt to achieve the same goal, which they do achieve in different ways. Dee and Maggie both want their mother to be proud of them. Even though both of the sisters pose different physical characteristics and different personalities, they reach same the same goal.
Dee is the sister who is very knowledgeable and makes her mother proud of her accomplishments. She attends college and obtains a degree. Maggie, on the other hand, is the sister who likes the simple life. She does not find it interesting to question what she already knows about her heritage. In this society the need for a separate identity is a general keynote. In conclusion, the mother (Mama) is proud of both of her daughters and continues to support them as they go through life.
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