Cultural identity in Everyday Use for your grandmama
Every race has its own culture, so does its own cultural identity. However, with the same culture and history, the cultural identity may vary from person to person. In Alice Walker’s short story Everyday Use
for your grandmamma, there are two different cultural identity. The story happened in the year 1970, during the heyday of the Black Power movement, when African Americans were trying to gain racial equality and called for self-determination and racial dignity. The traditional attitude to heritage is put them into everyday use, the new one is to keep them and show them off.
In the story, Mrs. Johnson and Maggie are the representative holder of traditional cultural identity. They had little knowledge but they are deeply rooted in their family’s history. They share a common understanding of
heritage, which comes quite naturally and does not need any artificial definition or material proof. Maggie is the younger daughter of Mrs. Johnson, who is not bright, slowness and bears severe scars on her arms and legs , but she can tell the names of her ancestors by heart and knows well about their history. The same goes for Mrs. Johnson who is a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands, as she can trace the name Dee easily back “beyond the Civil War through the branches”. But
her practical approach to heritage gets even clearer when she takes the handle of the dasher in her hands. For Maggie and Mrs. Johnson, heritage
is nothing that lies in the past, on the contrary, they live it and they are able to connect it with things of their everyday life.
Dee is another kind of representative character of the cultural identity .she is the elder daughter of Mrs. Johnson, who is bright, confident and beautiful, but she does not really fit in her family. She knows little about her family history. On the contrary, she seemingly goes with the flow and is very much into the ideas of the Black Power movement. She changes her name and her dress style , which is not belong her family tradition. Despite of her good education, she is unable to see the value of her most important roots – her American roots. After
leaving home for several years, she merely wants to come home to collect some pieces of family history with which she can superficially identify and take some photos as a kind of proof and leave. Her concept of heritage is built upon personal memories and feelings which most importantly concerns the two quilts. These quilts carry a lot of family history but Dee simply regards them as a kind of art and wants to “hang them” on the wall.
In this story, the old quits are made of the scraps of dresses their grandparents had worn more than fifty years ago and stitched by grandma’s hand, which are clearly a symbol of the cultural heritage of the black people. What Mrs. Johnson and Maggie care about are not the quits’
economic value but their traditional culture and family history, they show
their attitude and feeling to heritage and culture into the everyday use, which is the really living things. However, Dee’s so called cultural
identity is superficial, owning the old quits only is a way to show herself
ie rather off. Finally, the result that Mrs. Johnson gave the quits to Maggthan Dee reveals that the traditional cultural identity beat the impractical modern one.