The author utilizes paradox to expose a meaning of heritage hidden under the perceived concept of African-American identity. From the start, the oldest daughter, Dee, pretends to honor and accept her roots, yet she rejects her past and her forefathers. When she comes home to visit Mama and her sister Maggie, she uses an extravagant yellow gown, gold earrings, and hanging bracelets. She utilizes the African welcoming “Wa-su-zo-Tean-o!” and asks not be called Dee, but Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, since she does not wish to be “named after individuals who oppressed [her] (Schmidt 350).
Dee alters her name to reconnect with, what she believes is, her African heritage. Nevertheless, this relies on be ironic since she was called after her auntie Dicie, who was called after Granny Dee, and by changing her name, Wangero is evading the important aspects of her name and the traditions of her family. Although Wangero is really educated, she does not have the most important understanding. Throughout the story, she depicts a conceited mindset of supremacy towards Mom and Maggie.
Mama states,” she used to read to us without pity; requiring words, lies, other folk’s practices, whole lives upon us, sitting caught and ignorant underneath her voice. She washed us in a river of make-believe, burned us with a great deal of knowledge we didn’t necessarily require to know” (Schmidt 348). Mother does not feel pride for her child’s achievements; instead, she feels daunted by Dee’s egocentrism. The irony comes when Wangero thinks her understanding puts her above her family, yet Mom’s understanding has a higher worth. Mother is “a big, big-boned lady with rough, man-working hands” (Schmidt 347).
She takes pride in her hard work and ability to butcher bull calves and milk cows; after all, she learned this from her mother, who discovered it from her mother. This is the type of understanding the author wants the reader to see and appreciate– the type of knowledge that conveys African-American tradition. Although Wangero discovers in a churn and dasher her African-American identity, she is blind to the significance of these items. Dee values the churn and dasher because they are old, and her uncle whittled them in the past.
She states she “can utilize the churn leading as a focal point for the alcove table, […] and [she]’ll consider something artistic to do with the dasher” (Schmidt 351). With this attitude, Wangero reveals her view towards the products as incredible antique collectibles. Maggie, on the other hand, discusses that “Auntie Dee’s very first husband whittled the dash […] His name was Henry, however they called him Stash” (Schmidt 351). The truth that she knows the story behind the churn and dasher highlights her deep appreciation towards the items.
Likewise, when Mother holds the dasher, she reflects on its origin and its significance to the household: “You didn’t even need to look near to see where hands pushing the dasher up and down to make butter had left a sort of sink in the wood. In fact, there where a great deal of little sinks” (Schmidt 351). The sinks in the wood represent the hard labor her family sustained and the tenacious efforts Dee would, ironically, never even acknowledge. Wangero also discovers a connection to her African culture with Mom’s quilts; nevertheless, she does not comprehend the standard value of these products.
Dee wants to keep the quilts to flaunt her heritage and hang them on her wall as designs; she thinks her sis will dislike them and will put them to daily use. Maggie consents to give up her guaranteed quilts due to the fact that after all, she “can ‘member Grandmother Dee without the quilts” (Schmidt 352). Nevertheless, Mother will not let Dee keep them since deep inside, she knows that Maggie deserves them. Maggie found out how to quilt from auntie Dee, who found out how to quilt from Grandmother Dee; therefore, she will have the ability to keep their culture and their history alive.
After this decision, Wangero responds furiously, “You just do not understand […] your heritage” (Schmidt 323), and recommends that the quilts have a materialistic a worth that has to be protected in order to keep the household’s African heritage. Paradoxically, the quilts are not valuable because they are old and their forefathers stitched them; instead, they are valuable since they represent a tradition that many hard working black females followed for several years. The author recommends that Maggie has a comprehending her sibling never ever will; she comprehends the genuine meaning of African heritage.
Wangero was among the lots of African-Americans in the 1970s who had a hard time to specify their identity within the framework of American society. She altered her name and her look in efforts to accept her African roots and tried to collect antique products to maintain her household’s heritage. Nevertheless, Dee’s arrogant mindset blinded her from seeing the traditional value of the African culture, and left her with a shallow understanding about her heritage. Alice Walker uses Wangero’s and Mama’s clashing ideologies to recommend that the substance of a things is more valuable than its design.