In the short story “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, she introduces a rural black family who struggle with the meaning of heritage. To Mama, the narrator, and Maggie, the youngest daughter, heritage is whom they are, where they come from, and the everyday use of the things around them. Dee, the oldest daughter, has rejected her heritage from the beginning. She wants the better things in life and goes off to college to find them. On her return, she seems to have a newfound sense of heritage. Through a confrontation about family quilts, Mama realizes that Dee’s view of heritage is that of artistic and aesthetic value: not the everyday use of the objects that hold significant meaning in Mama and Maggie’s lives.
Mama states “her Maggie eyes seemed stretched open, blazed open by the flames”¦” (655). Maggie understands the connection to her heritage is burning with the house. Maggie knows how to quilt because Grandma Dee and Big Dee taught her, as they have taught Mama. Through these descriptions, Walker gives a sense of poverty, but also shows that the lessons taught to Mama and Maggie by their ancestors are what keep them alive. They can feed themselves, cloth themselves, and are self-sufficient, even if they do not have money. Mama and Maggie are proud of where they come from and the fact that they are keeping the traditions alive through their everyday lives.