Boundaries Our identity is highly important to us and is central to how we see and define ourselves. In “Everyday Use” Alice Walker tells a story of young woman who does not understand her heritage and her mother and shy younger sister. In the story, the author creates a cultural boundary between Dee and her mother and sister Maggie, with the use symbols to point out emotions, values, and differences in education. The author sets up an emotional boundary that separates Dee from her sister Maggie. In the beginning of the story Mamma explains that Dee looks at her sister with fear and jealousy. 61) This emotional boundary is caused because Dee gets just about everything she wants. One example of this is Dee’s graduation dress. When Dee was younger she got the graduation dress that she wanted, and also got the opportunity to go to college. In contrast, Maggie wasn’t so lucky, ever since Mamma’s old house burned down Maggie has not been the same. Maggie has scars from the fire and since then she turned into a very timid person. Maggie’s scars are a symbol of Maggie’s pain and the pain that she has suffered. In the end, we can see that Maggie’s feeling toward Dee sets her apart from her sister.
Another boundary that separates Maggie and Mamma from Dee are their different points of view and values. Dee wants Mammas churn and dasher and wants to display them at her house. She says “I can use the churn top as a center piece for the alcove table… and I’ll think of something artistic to do with the dasher. ” (pg 65). It was obvious that Mamma and Dee had different ideas about these two objects. Dee sees the historical value of the objects but by having this knowledge she also understands the monetary value of those pieces.
In contrast, Mamma values those objects differently from Dee the dasher and churn were not museum pieces for Mamma, instead they were tools that she used everyday. Finally, there is a difference in education between Dee and her mother and sister Maggie. In the story, Dee goes to college while her mother and sister do not have much education. Dee strongly believes that she is more of an intellectual than her sister and mother and thus this makes her believe that her mother and sister do not understand their heritage.
Dee’s belief that her mother and sister are ignorant and do not understand their heritage is summed up in the last scene where Dee argues with Mamma about the quilts. In the story Dee says, “You don’t understand” and Mamma asked, “What don’t I understand? ” Dee replies, “Your heritage” and then turned to Maggie and said, “You ought to make something of yourself , too, Maggie. It’s really a new day for us. But by the way you and Mamma live you’d never know it. ” (pg 67) This probably the biggest boundary that the author put between Dee and Mamma and Maggie.
The reader can see that even though Mamma and Maggie do not have much of an education they know about their heritage more than Dee does. This can be seen in many scenes through out the story. For example, both Mamma and Maggie know where the quilts come from and who made the churn and dasher, while Dee has no idea. All in all, while Dee might have a college education she truly is the one who does not understand her own heritage and this creates a boundary between Dee and her mother and sister.