Dee is one of the people W.E.B. Du Bois refers to in The Souls of Our Striving, who struggle with the apparent incompatibility of their family heritage, and the Black heritage that is filtered through the context of American life. In contrast, Maggie, who still lives in the family home, lives her culture every day, shown simply by the fact that she will use those quilts every day, and by the fact that she realizes the quilts themselves are less important than the family memories that they represent. In Everyday Use Walker uses characterization and symbolism to show the reader that culture is something that people live, and that culture as a learned institution does not provide one with full understanding.
Complex and well-developed characterization forms a significant part of understanding the way culture is portrayed in the story. We are first introduced to Mama, whose first name we never learn - she simply identifies herself as "a Johnson". (Walker 518)Mama lacks education and quick wits, but she "can work outside all day" (Walker 518) and "kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man". ...Show more