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Of all the short stories that I am reading, the story that speaks to me the most is "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker. I can see a lot of myself in Dee in the way we make decisions and how it changes us towards our families and heritages. Through the main character, Dee, and the theme of this story, I am able to share my personal beliefs and opinions of life just like Dee does throughout her life. Therefore, receiving a higher education, knowing my family history, and understanding my present life in relation to my culture has given me more knowledge of who I am today.
Living a simple life inspires Dee to get a higher education. Instead of staying home with her mama and sister, she goes to college to expand her knowledge to learn all she could learn. She wants more in life than her mama and sister. She is unsatisfied with her family's simple life and rural home in the Deep South. A lot like Dee, I was raised in a rural home in the country, too. I wanted to get away from the limited life at home just like Dee. The house Dee and her family live in symbolizes poverty. Just like poor people's houses, it has a tin roof surrounding a clay yard in the middle of a cow pasture. Even though my house was not in the middle of a cow pasture, I had a clay yard as well. I was ashamed to bring my friends to my house. I thought that they would laugh at our way of living. I was determined to do well in high school, so I would be rewarded the Hope Scholarship. Soon after high school, I went to college to earn a higher education like Dee. I am able to recognize the difficulties and conflict within Dee. She does something better with her life. I felt the same. Dee is a woman who wants the very best for herself and her family. There is no harm in that. Going to college changes her mind as well as my mind. She wants her family to step into the future and be a part of the world as it is today. As she leaves home, she tells her sister Maggie that, "â€¦It's really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live you'd never know it." (Walker 285). Dee wants her sister to be educated as well. I could not help but to compare the situation Dee is in to me. I can remember all of the helpless thoughts I would have as I begged and plead with my family the importance of getting a higher education. So, even though receiving the higher education will not suspend the awareness of one's family history and heritage, it can make one to attempt to reconcile his or her identity.
Furthermore, knowing the family history can give understanding to one's heritage of who he or she may be. I can remember many times being ashamed of my last name. I would hate when the teacher would say my last name out loud. When it would rain outside, all of my peers would make fun of the name. The name was Rainwater. My parents would tell me that I have nothing to be ashamed of. The name came from an Indian Creek tribe. Later, I learned my name was indeed something to be proud of. It was my family history. Similar to Dee in the story, I was unaware of my family history and heritage, too. I did not like my last name until I found out the history behind it. Everyone started to complement me on my last name. It was then when I felt honored to know my heritage. Similarly to Dee, I was confused about my heritage. Dee is following a cultural trend of going back to her roots and her family history. She wants the old items that her mother and sister still use every day. Dee wants the butter churn, dasher, and the quilts to satisfy her trend. It is not to understand her family history or heritage. When Dee realizes her mama is giving the quilts to Maggie, she is terrified. Dee states, "Maggie can't appreciate these quilts!" she said, "She'd probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use." (Walker 284). This statement that Dee made bothered me because she was offered the quilts before she had left for college, but they were not fashionable to her. So, she refused them. Now, she has changed her mind and expects she can get whatever her heart desires. In my opinion, this is not fair to her sister, Maggie. Dee thinks Maggie will probably use the quilts on her bed for a few years and eventually they will turn into rags. She feels like her sister does not deserve the quilt. Meanwhile, she is only going to frame the quilt for a piece of art to be displayed. The quilt is a symbol of Dee's family heritage. On this particular quilt that Dee wants are cloths sown together from people in her family history. Dee does not appreciate her family history. In my opinion, I do not believe she deserves the quilt. The grandmother made the quilt by hand. Dee does not understand the symbolic meaning behind the quilt. The quilt represents the love ones in the family who are missed. Dee does not miss them because she feels like they oppressed her. When mama and Maggie touch the quilt, they may feel that they are connecting with the people whom the quilt represents. Whereas before, I did not understand the meaning of my name; but now I feel as if I have connected to my heritage by keeping my name even as I have gotten married. All in all, she knows the items are hand-made but she is unaware of the knowledge and history behind them.
Moreover, one must understand his or her present life in relation to their culture. One must love and have that respect for those who came before them. According to Ross, "The central theme of the story concerns the way in which an individual understands his present life in relation to the traditions of his people and culture." Dee does not understand her present life, so therefore she does not respect the people of her family history who have made the quilts, the dasher, and butter churn. She wants the belongings for the latest trend. Dee, similar to me, struggled to move beyond her youth. I did not want to become like my mama and sisters, either. I felt it was so much more to life than staying around the country-side home. Sadly, I became confused about the meaning of my heritage like Dee. Although I did not change my name, I was ashamed of it because the name sounded like two parts of the nature put together. Now, I realize my name is beautiful and it has meaning. Therefore, I have to understand my present life in order to understand where my heritage lies, too.
In conclusion, Dee and I both were struggling to define our personal identities in cultural terms. It is important to come to terms of a sense of one's own identity because it helps one to overcome that inner struggle within them. I know more about my heritage and culture today than I have ever known. I have learned that no matter where a person may come from, he or she must always respect the family history and traditions. Even if one becomes successful, one cannot forget the roots he or she originally comes from. The conflict between the two daughters over who should rightfully own the quilts and how they should be used is essential to the theme of this short story. "Everyday Use" is the way to value the past, and to keep it alive by using the objects and belongings left behind from other family members who have passed on. It shows that love and respect for the objects that they made by putting them to everyday use. It is not keeping oneself from family or displaying objects for show. A higher education may give a person more knowledge, but it does not postpone the right to know his or her own heritage. Knowing the family history can make a person aware of where he or she came from. One must value his or her current life in order to know how they became the person they are today. So, therefore, knowing a person's heritage is essential to how he or she deals with life itself.