In “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, the author shows that heritage is valued objects and qualities that are passed down from generation to generation, and it represents the family’s importance, and because Dee does not understand this true meaning of heritage, her interest in her heritage is very hypocritical and splits her relationship with her family apart. Dee changes her heritage to fit her own beliefs rather than, keeping her actual heritage and learning about her own family history.
It is first seen that she changes her heritage, when Dee changes her name to “Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo” because she “couldn’t bear… being named after the people who oppress [her]” . The author shows that Dee gets rid of the name passed down from generation to generation and throws away a piece of her heritage. Dee indicates that her ancestors and elders whom she was named after oppress her, because she refuses to accept the culture and heritage of her family.
Another example of her changed heritage is when she gets out of the car, wearing “a dress down to the ground… A dress so loud, it hurts [Mama’s] eyes. ” After being away to college, the author portrays Dee with a completely different style of clothing, not leaving one piece of traditional clothing, which gives a sign of Dee fading away from her heritage. Here, the author allows the reader to see that Dee does not understand her heritage and that her new appearance does not accurately represent her heritage.
Even though Dee changes her heritage, she still thinks that she is still in touch with her family history and culture. We see that Dee is unaware that she forgets about her original heritage when she demands to have grandma’s quilts to “hang them” instead of putting them to “everyday use”, the way she assumes Maggie would do. The author explains that Maggie would build upon the history of the quilts, honoring her heritage rather than Dee who would only hang them to prove that she is in touch with her culture.
The author reveals that Dee only wants to show them off and she disrespects the heritage of the quilts by not wanting to put them to “everyday use. ” Also, even after Mama gives the quilts to Maggie, she still thinks that it is Mama and Maggie who “don’t understand their heritage” . The author gives this passage a sense of irony because Dee claims that Mama and Maggie do not understand their heritage, but it is she, who does not accept her family heritage and throws it away to look for her true meaning.
Dee’s arrogance and ignorance causes her to even scold her mother on their heritage, which is really what should have been done to her. Dee had no interests in her real family heritage and only has a fondness towards her made up heritage which does not mean anything or say anything about her real history or her true culture. She does not understand that she pushes her traditions and heritage away, even when her relatives and mother try to teach her about it. Her ignorance makes her view of heritage hypocritical, because she never accepts her heritage, but still defends it as if she has the correct view of her heritage.