When, where, and how a person grew up can not only define their character, but the extent of their knowledge that person has about their family’s past. The division of cultural heritage and its’ teachings are evident between the rural and urban settings in Alice Walker’s Everyday Use. Walker uses the two daughters, Dee/ Wangero and Maggie, to point out this contrast as Mama tells her story upon Dee’s return home.The rural setting of the Johnson household gives the idea that family has more importance than the tangible items. Mama and Maggie spend more time outside in the yard because “it is like an extended living room” (77). Maggie would read under the elm tree to Mama, while she, in exchange, probably told her stories about the family’s past and the contributions they made to society. Those stories were passed down from great-grandparents to grandparents, so on and so forth.
Just like the quilts that “had been pieced by Grandma Dee and then Big Dee and me…” (83).
Even with a lack of proper education, Mama instills the heritage of her ancestors without realizing it.Before African-Americans were able to attend school, most of their lives consisted of hard labor and days spent outside to bask in the fresh air and freedom from the walls that constrained them. The first distinct division between the two daughters happens when the family’s first home burnt to the ground in a mysterious way. Maggie was tragically affected by losing the home. Not only by the scars on her arms, but the way she refrains herself from the outside world.
Mama even describes her as always “chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle” (79). Dee, however, had hatred towards the old home and the new one alike. The hatred was obvious enough her mother even thought to ask her, “Why don’t you dance around the ashes?” (79). This brings attention to the fact Dee only thought of it as a ragged house in a pasture, not a place where memories and tradition were he..