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The Meaning of Tradition or Family Heritage

Autor:   •  March 15, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,023 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,584 Views

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Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" and Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" are two short stories that surround the subject of heritage or family history. Although the short stories have different backgrounds, the common subject of tradition and honoring family plays a significant part in both stories. Both authors' uses irony and symbols to accumulate the theme of the stories.

In "Everyday Use", Mama deals with her daughters, Maggie and Dee, who had different views of their heritage. The theme of this short story is the meaning of heritage. Dee rejects her own heritage by replacing it with one that she thinks fits her truly. Walker presents Dee's ignorance of her heritage when she introduces herself as Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. When Mama asked her what happened to Dee, she said that Dee was dead and could not bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppressed her (Walker 316). The mother is able to trace it beyond the civil war. The heritage that Dee thinks fits her more accurately is Islam. African American Muslims believed that Jesus was a blonde hair blue eyed Caucasian, which is the same color of the people that captured Africans. Before being brought to America, Africans practiced Islam. A flaw is presented in Dee because at the table, Hakim-a-Barber mentions that he does not eat pork because pork is unclean but "Wangero went on through the chitlins and corn bread, the greens and everything else" (316). Wangero (Dee) disrespects the culture that she claims to be her true culture. This flaw shows that she does not have any knowledge of the heritage or culture that she claims fits her more accurately. Instead of financial inheritance, the family's handcrafts are considered a treasure to them. Dee sees the family handcrafts as objects of lost time and sees them suitable for display. The churn top that was made by her Aunt Dicie's husband, she wants to use it as a center piece for her alcove table, and the dasher to do something artistic with it. Dee wanted the quilts that were made by but just as she did not understand the meaning of the other family crafts, she did not understand the meaning of the quilts. The quilts represent the pride the family has. Each piece tells what the family been through such as scraps of Grandma Dee dresses that were worn over fifty years ago, bits of Grandpas Paisley shirts, and a piece of Grandpa Ezra's uniform that was worn in the civil war. Dee did not realize that because first she was offered the quilts before going to college but said the quilts were old-fashioned and out of style but now says the quilts are priceless and that Maggie will not understand the point of the quilts. Ironically Dee says that Maggie will not understand the point of the quilts but she is going to hang them instead of putting them to everyday use, like have been used generations ago. Even though Dee was used to getting her way, Mama gave the quilts

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