Everyday Use

In the chapter “Attachment to Homeland” in his book Space and Place, Tuan mentions many concepts that pertain to Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use.” In the story, the narrator’s eldest daughter has made various efforts throughout her life to rise above her family’s social status by learning to read, moving away, and adorning herself with bangles and earrings, luxuries her family could never dream of. Tuan says that “exile [is] the worst of fates” for a person, but in the story, Dee leaves her home behind in search of something better (154). This, to me, indicates clearly that Dee was not interested in remaining connected to her family at all. Dee also changes her name to Wangero because it’s more “authentically” African than “Dee.” While this might seem like Dee is trying to connect back to a homeland that dates further back than Georgia, she disregards the fact that she was named after her aunt and other family members. Tuan quotes a Native American chief, saying, “our ancestors are sacred” and the Athenians saying that “our ancestors deserve praise, for they dwelt in the country without break in the succession from generation to generation” (154-155). While it’s true that the African Americans were forced into The States, Dee’s family was clearly one with much history in the country considering her great grandfather fought in the civil war. Yet she obviously disregards the ancestors that are closest to her by changing her name. Another interesting thing that Tuan point out in the chapter is about the specific landmarks of a homeland. He explains that the “visible signs serve to enhance a people’s sense of identity; they encourage awareness of and loyalty to place” (159). This is significant for the story when we reach the turning point as Dee tries to claim the family’s quilts instead of letting her younger sister Maggie have them. It becomes clear that Dee has no regard for the sentimental value of the quilts and only finds them “precious” in the same sense as a hipster might find a retro piece of jewelry. Dee has no loyalty to her homeland, would rather turn the sentimental pieces of her past life into artwork with which to adorn her walls, and hence storms off when she can’t get her way.

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Published in: on April 14, 2011 at 11:44 pm Comments (0)


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