AUTHENTICITY IN EVERYDAY USE 3
Authenticityin Every Day Use
Authenticityin “Everyday Use”
Theimportance of cultures and traditions cannot be gainsaid as far asthe safeguarding one’s authenticity and heritage is concerned.Unfortunately, the increasing migration of individuals from theiroriginal areas of existence has ensured that cultures and traditionsare mixed, with some values and customs being relegated to theperiphery or becoming extinct altogether. This is the case for theAfrican Americans who were brought to the United States as slavesfrom Africa. Nevertheless, as much as quite a large proportion oftheir cultures and customs may have been eliminated, they still holdonto some of the African traditions that set them apart from peopleof other parts of the globe. This heritage is the key theme in AliceWalker’s short story “Everyday Use”. Walker uses this shortstory to provide an insightful look at the manner in whichindividuals wrestle with their heritage, as well as a fascinatingexample pertaining to how far some people would go so as to shun thethings that are theirs or their heritage.
Thetheme of authenticity comes out strongly in the short storyespecially with regard to the conflict between the two sisters. Thisis especially considering the place of the quilt in the entire story.The quilt is not just a collection of pieces of cloth from differentgenerations. It is essentially a symbol of the connection between thevaried generations that have given rise to the current one. It iswell noted that the quilt is made up of pieces of clothes from thegrandmothers, great-grandmothers and other ancestors. In essence,they have been infused with the existence and presence of theindividuals who used them and also made them. Unfortunately, as muchas they are part of Dee’s origin and identity, she has extremelylittle understanding of them. Nevertheless, the heirlooms and quiltsmake up a distinctively authentic aspect of the African Americans,something that is not prevalent in other cultures.
Onthe same note, Dee and Mama have different ideas pertaining to thethings that make them authentic. In an effort to go back to her rootsand appear more African, Dee changes her name to Wangero. She isangry at what she sees as a history of oppression that has plaguedher family, in which case she rejects her real heritage and creates anew one for herself. This is in utter disregard for the family legacyencompassed in her given name. She believes that the new nameWangero, is a more accurate representation of her African heritage.Unfortunately, this new name is meaningless as she barely understandswhat African heritage is, in which case the things that she sees asher real heritage are false and empty. The fact that she sees thefamily quits and the carved dasher as mere artifacts that are deadrather than living and continuous creation betrays her falsecomprehension of her African heritage and her inauthentic nature. Sheviews them as artifacts pertaining to a lost time, appropriate fordisplay rather than practical actual use, thereby setting herselfapart from her own history and rejecting her real history whilefavoring an entirely new one. The fact that she makes mistakespertaining to crucial facts about the making of the quilts despitepretending to be immensely linked to the folk tradition underlinesher ignorance. It is no wonder that Mama feels that they should begiven to the younger daughter Maggie as she is more likely to respectthem and use them in the manner that they were intended to be used.