Everyday Use, a Literary Analysis

“The True Inheritance”
In the short story, "Everyday Use," Alice Walker teaches us lessons on true inheritance, what it means to the characters and who receives it. The items that Dee (Wangero) comes to retrieve as her inheritance symbolize the true inheritance.   They put to “everyday use” the butter dish, churn, and quilts that become the center of conflict in the story.
Dee is a child different than the family in which she was raised. She is attractive, quick-witted, confident and educated. “Her feet were always neat looking, as if God himself had shaped them with a certain style.” “Dee is lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure.” In comparison, Mama, the narrator of the story, does not paint an attractive picture of herself; “…a large, big-boned woman with rough, man working hands…,” and Maggie, “homely” and compared to “a lame animal, perhaps a dog run over….that is the way Maggie walks.”   Dee exudes confidence, “She would always look someone in the eye. Hesitation was no part of her nature.”   According to Maggie, “… thinks her sister has held life always in the palm of one hand, that “no” is a word the world never learned to say to her.” Maggie “….will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eyeing her sister with a mixture of envy and awe.” Mama, being a black woman raised in the early 20th century, lacks self-confidence as well. She wonders, “Who can even imagine me looking a strange white man in the eye...I have talked to them always with one foot raised in flight,... my head fumed in whichever way is farthest from them.” Mama is an uneducated woman, “I never had an education myself,” and Maggie lacks the intelligence and physical ability; “Sometimes Maggie reads to me, she stumbles along good naturedly but can see well.” Although Mama seems bitter about her daughter’s inherent qualities, asking, “Why don’t you do a dance around the ashes?” Mama sees the need to cultivate Dee’s...