My conclusion about the main theme

The theme is the dangerous impact of education. Mama and the church contributed money to ensure Dee went to a good school (Walker 2), but in the end, education weakened the relationship between Dee and her family. Mama could not get a good education because of the closure of her school, which never reopened. She also gave up trying to continue learning due to racism that was widespread during her time (1). Still, she focused on giving her elder daughter what she did not achieve.

Unfortunately, the knowledge Dee gained through her exposure to a different environment only creates a wedge between her and her family heritage. Dee’s intellect threatens her sister and makes her few friends “worship” her (2). Maggie is personally frightened by Dee’s presence because of how education has changed her sister. As a result of education, Dee has grown worldly, and her knowledge greatly threatens the simplicity of Mama and Maggie’s world.

Dee shows determination to remind her family that she is knowledgeable and pitilessly forces them to listen to and accept her strange ideas, which criticize the family’s simple domestic status (2). Besides the family, education has alienated Dee from the real sense of self. She has lost connectedness wither heritage, identity, and background after embracing the ideals and opportunities that education offered her (5). It is the reason she arrives home as a stranger from a world that is far ahead of that of her family. Dee respects her new world so much that she disregards her roots.   

Similarities and Differences between the Sisters in the Story

Dee and Maggie belong to the same family and are Mama’s children. The sisters are, thus, colored and inhabited a common home during their early childhood. Both girls, for instance, recognize the older members of their family such as Big Dee and Auntie Dee, and their practices of using quilts and making dashers (5). They belong to a society that is dominated by racism. Moreover, the lack of or having an education has a negative impact on the sisters’ lives. Acquisition of education has separated Dee from the family while the lack of it undermined Maggie’s self-confidence and stifled her.  

The first and major difference between the sisters is that Dee is educated while Maggie is uneducated. Dee has experienced the world outside theirs and knows the differences between how her family lives and how others do it (3). On the other hand, Maggie only knows the world where she belongs, her heritage. Dee reads more fluently than Maggie who “stumbles” when reading. Since her fire accidents, she lives a sheltered life and waits to be told what to do. Secondly, the sisters vary in their physical appearance.

Mama describes Maggie as less attractive and shy as the scars on her body have harmed her emotions. She is often frightened and “quickness has passed her by” (1). Dee, however, is good-looking and ambitious. The attractive character has been shaped by her education. Thirdly, Maggie share more features in common with their mother than Dee does. Other than the lack of a proper education, they both follow their family traditions and treasure the memories of their ancestors.

Maggie has, for instance, learned to quilt like their grandmother (6). Contrarily, Dee has more focus on the traditions and heritage that opposes that of her family and has even changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. This move has made her reject her immediate heritage.

The Main Conflict in the Story

The disagreement erupts concerning the value for heritage, and the value for quilts. Mama wants the quilts to end up the daughter that will make use of them in her daily life, not one that will display them on the wall to show others her heritage. The conflict is about the daughters love for their cultural background. As the story narrates, Dee who appears to be the perfect daughter has gotten rid of the humble agricultural background after gaining education.

Dee has turned into an urban intellect. The outcome is a clash between her priorities or values and those of her mother and sister (5). Amidst the culture clash, Mama has to rise and assume the role of determining which one of her daughters should inherit the handmade quilts. Mama is not comfortable with the idea handing over the quilts to someone that already feels she has a culture that is superior to that of her family members.

She believes that the beautifully crafted quilts are too precious for a simple display on a person’s wall. This is the reason Mama despises Dee’s statement that the quilts are valuable artifacts and she wants to preserve them from damage by treating them as artwork. Even if it makes Dee unhappy, Mama has to take the quilts and give them to Maggie (6). The most appropriate use of quilt is for covering self so as to keep warm and this is something that Maggie will surely consider.

Insights of Life from the Story

As one reads Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use,” education’s role in the demise of culture becomes apparent. It is clear that education introduces a person to a world different from their traditional world. When this happens, therefore, a person must be strong enough to maintain their grip of cultural heritage because without it, they get lost in the newly found world of education. This is what has happened to Dee.

She took the newly introduced education-based ideals and values too seriously that she now thinks her people are backward. Her opinion and priorities also affect Maggie and their mother, who now dread her return for they believe Dee cannot see anything attractive in her family’s living situation. This is quite sad as one of Mama’s dreams is to see Dee proud of her, embracing her publicly (with tears in her eyes) and thanking her for contributing to her successful life “like they do in TV shows” (1).

Additionally, the story shows that one’s value for and pride in education makes them less attractive to their family members. In the story, Maggie expresses a negative viewpoint of Dee’s character. The rift built by education has completely separated the two sisters as none of them admires what the other does with her life.