In the short story Everyday Use, an African-American author and activist Alice Walker brings up a burning issue of culture and heritage. She aims at representing both the harmony and the conflicts within her native African-American culture as exemplified by the usual Johnson family. However, the theme may be interpreted on a global scale as the problems of home and self-identification are essential to people of any nationality.
The reader can see two different approaches to the culture. One of them belongs to educated and sophisticated Dee and the other one to her younger sister Maggie and their uneducated mother. Mrs. Johnson’s interpretation of life values and family ties is closer to the readers. They feel that she is at home with herself and she is certain that she belongs to a great culture. Though Maggie is quite unattractive and frightened, she is a likeable girl who has learnt a lot from her grandparents and keeps the family traditions.
Ambitious and good-looking Dee also tries to keep to her ethnic background; she has even changed her name for Wangero to get in touch with the heritage of African people. The irony is that her previous name was much more authentic. Her male friend took a Muslim name and withdrew from the traditional culture of his people. They have got knowledge which is foreign and odd to their families; thus, it creates tension.
Heritage and culture are to be a part of day-to-day routine, not just a colorful decoration. Mere knowledge of historical facts does not make you a part of a nation. It is possible to remember the ancestors without having their things as souvenirs or art objects. It is essential to be connected with the roots to have a decent future. National feeling, patriotism and appreciating the heritage should be intended for everyday use.