The short story “Everyday Use for your grandmama,” by Alice Walker, is about a black mother and her two daughters who are of African American descent. The two sisters are very different with one being uneducated and clinging to her heritage, while the other seeking a better life with getting and an education and leaving it far behind. This leads to the theme of the story, which is the meaning of heritage. Walker uses setting, symbolism, and diction to reinforce the theme that heritage is passed on to the future generations.
This story takes place in the late 1960s or early 1970s in a small house that is located in a pasture. Mama’s description of the house is “A three room house, with no windows, just some holes cut in the sides, like the portholes in a ship, but not round and not square, with rawhide holding the shutters up on the outside” (Walker 428). The way Mama describes the house lets the reader know that they are poor.
Next, the symbolism in this story has a lot to do with the theme. The story opens up with a mom and her two daughters. The youngest daughter Maggie is not the brightest and is uneducated. Dee, which is her older sister, is determined to get an education. In the story the author states, “Dee wanted nice things” (Walker 428). Mama and the church raised enough money to send Dee off to a school in Georgia. When Dee returned to visit Mama and Maggie, she asked if she could have the old quilts. Shocked by the question, Maggie dropped something while standing in the kitchen. Walker states that Dee “Held the quilts securely in her arms, stroking them” (431). It is apparent that Dee wanted these quilts badly. But did she want these quilts for actual use or just for decoration and was Dee actually proud of her heritage? Before Dee left for her education she was offered the quilts, but she did not want them then. Walker states that Dee said that the quilts were “old-fashioned, and out of style” (432). All of this leads back to the theme of the story, which is heritage. The quits represent their heritage, because “Scraps of dresses worn by her Grandma Dee fifty plus years ago were in the quilts and one tiny faded blue piece from Great Grandpa Ezra’s uniform that he wore in the Civil War” (Walker 431).
Finally, the diction the author used in this short story has great significance to the theme of the story. Mama informs the reader that she never had an education and states “Don’t ask me why: in 1927 colored asked fewer