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Genuine Meaning

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Autor:  anton  05 November 2010
Tags:  Genuine,  Meaning
Words: 815   |   Pages: 4
Views: 282

Stanley Crouch stated, "The point is, you have an ethnic heritage and you have a human heritage. Your human heritage includes everything of human value." By comparing the characters in "Everyday Use", Walker illustrates that some people just understand heritage solely in material objects. Walker presents Mama and Maggie, as an example, that heritage passes from one generation to another through a learning and experience connection, not only through knowledge. However, Dee, the older daughter, thinks of heritage as material. To fully understand heritage, one must grasp its understanding, meaning and the connection it holds within a families way of living. During Dee's visit to Mama and Maggie, a conflict evolves because Dee doesn't understand the true meaning of her heritage.

Mama and Maggie prove to have a connection between generations and the heritage that passed between them. Mama and Maggie continue to live together in their home. Mama is a strong woman who does the needed upkeep of the land, "I am a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands. In the winter, I wear overalls during the day. I can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man. I can work outside all day, One winter I knocked a bull calf straight in the brain with a sledge hammer and had the meat hung up to chill before nightfall" (Walker 344). Maggie is the daughter that is, "homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs," (343) who also helps Mama in the yard a little, and washes dishes "in the kitchen over the dishpan" (348). Neither Mama or Maggie are educated; "I never had an education myself...Sometimes Maggie reads to me...She stumbles along good-naturedly...She knows she is not bright" (345). However, by helping Mama, Maggie uses the handmade items in her life, learns the life of her ancestors, and knows the history of both, unlike her sister Dee.

Unlike Mama and Maggie, Dee only wants part of her heritage without understanding the heritage itself. Unlike Mama who is rough and man-like, and Maggie who is shy, Dee is shown to be confident in that "Hesitation was no part of her nature," (344), and beautiful because she was always noticed and recognized by her nice physique and appearance. "...first glimpse of leg out of the car tells me it is Dee. Her feet were always neat-looking, as if God had shaped them with a certain style...A dress down to the ground Earrings gold, too..." (346). Also, Dee has an education, having been sent "to Augusta to school" (345). Dee attempts to connect with her racial heritage by taking "picture after picture of me sitting there in front of the house with Maggie cowering behind me. She never takes a shot without making sure the house is included" (346-347).

Dee takes another name without understanding her original name. Also, Dee takes some of the handmade items of her mother's such as the churn top which she will use "as a centerpiece for the alcove table" (348). Dee associates the items with her heritage now, but thought nothing of them in her youth when the house burnt down. Dee only wants to have several of these items to display them in her home. Dee wants the items because she thinks they have value, as shown in the conversation between Dee and Mama about the quilts after dinner. Dee's valuing of the quilt conflicts with Mama's perception of the quilts. Dee considers the quilt "priceless" (349) because the quilt is hand-stitched, not machined, by saying, "There are all pieces of dresses Grandma used to wear. She did all this stitching by hand. Imagine!" (349). Dee plans to display the quilts or "Hang them," (350) unlike Maggie who may "put them to everyday use" (349). However, Mama "promised to give them quilts to Maggie, for when she marries John Thomas" (349). Mama knows Maggie truly understands her heritage; Mama knows that "It was Grandma Dee and Big Dee who taught her how to quilt" (350). Because of Maggie's understanding of her heritage, Mama takes the quilts from Dee who "held the quilts securely in her arms, stroking them" (349), and then gives them to Maggie.

After Mama gives Maggie the quilts, Dee says, "You just don't understand...Your heritage" (350). Dee thinks heritage is the quilt on the wall, or the churn top as a centerpiece for the alcove table. Dee knows the items are handmade but doesn't know the history behind the items. Mama does know the history and knows that Maggie does too. Ironically, Dee criticizes Mama for not understanding heritage when, in fact, Dee really has the misunderstanding of heritage. Dee mistakenly places heritage only in what she owns, not what she knows.

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