Self Identity Shaped by Traditions

6 June 2016

The identity of one’s self can largely be defined by one’s culture and heritage. Family makes up the most part of your culture as well as the place you call home. To fully understand yourself you have to investigate all the cultures you are comprised of through your family and heritage. In “Everyday Use” Alice Walker takes a deeper look at the concept of heritage through the conflicted relationship of Mamma and her two daughters. The story shows was heritage will shape yourself along with your life to make you the person you are today. Culture is an important element of self- identity and contributes to how individuals view themselves and the community they live in. Family is our foundation. If we do not have a foundation to build on, having a strong sense of self might be difficult. Your family is where you get your basic beliefs and understanding about life. In the short story “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, the author portrays opposing ideas about one’s heritage.

In Dee’s case, she goes out to make all that can of herself while leaving her past behind, in comparison to Maggie, who stays back with her roots and makes the most out of the surroundings that she has been placed in. This story gives a great example of how culture can shape your self-identity. Both characters decided to take their culture and do different things with it. Dee decided to change her name and shy away from the way that she was raised, to make herself her own person (Walker 420). On the other hand Maggie does the complete opposite. The family quilts bring out issues relating to heritage to Mama, and she is able to reasonably decide which of her daughters has a real appreciation for the quilt, and can pass it on to her. Dee and Maggie shed a new light on the actual meaning of heritage through their personality traits, lifestyle decisions, and relationships with specific family members (Walker 422). Similar to Walkers argument, Amy Schalet’s piece, Teenage Sex – The Sleepover Question, brings to light whether or not parents should communicate with their teens about sex and whether to promote it or forbid it. Traditions are very important to keep going in families around the world. Most families have different traditions that they live by, and have different opinions about how to live their life. In this case, many people have their own opinions on “the sleepover question”.

Self Identity Shaped by Traditions Essay Example

Amy raises the point of stating that to attempt to understand one’s teen can help them communicate better and additionally help influences their choices which promote more responsible sex education, even if that means agreeing to sleepovers. Through her study she explores American’s traditional “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy versus the Dutch’s accepting and open attitude. Teenager’s sexual activity is undeniable in today’s day and age and there is no point attempting to hide it or sweep it under the rug anymore (Schalet 483). This shows that different cultures feel different ways and act upon situations very differently. The way people are raised will usually stay with them their whole lives, and eventually get passed down. For most American families, it’s tradition to not have the opposite sex sleep with you unless you live together or are married. This is something that is valued and passed down through generations. The ways in which people live within the community are passed down from generation to generation. Heritage is the commonality for the members within the community that builds feelings of belonging to their community. I think of cultural individuality as a state of mind and heart.

A person’s self- identity begins with our cultural heritage and ethnic integrity. We need cultural identity because of the importance of self and how we relate to others around the world. It defines who we are and how others view us. The conflict in “Everyday Use” climaxes when Mamma must decide which daughter will receive the quilts. It is through the characters Mamma, Dee, and Maggie that the meaning of heritage is explored. From this description, and a reference to her having no more than a second grade education (Walker 418) , it is apparent that she takes pride in the practical aspects of her nature and that she has not devoted much time to the contemplation of abstract concepts such as heritage. Although all of the character’s views on heritage are expressed, Dee’s character is given the more detailed description of ways she strays from her heritage. From the beginning, Dee despises the home that they live in. When it is destroyed in a fire, her mother wants to ask her, “Why don’t you do a dance around the ashes?,” expressing Dee’s utter aversion towards the home (Walker 419). Most people take pride in their home and cherish it for all of the memories that it holds for them, but Dee is insensitive to the family’s loss.

After becoming of age, Dee decides to go to college, where she begins to hold her newly found knowledge against her family because of their lack of it. This opportunity to go out of her town and see the world gives Dee a taste of a better lifestyle that she wants to become a part of, and leaves her family behind. Even so, her lack of schooling does not hamper her from having an understanding of heritage. Arriving at Mama’s house, Dee greets Mama and Maggie saying, “Wa-su-zo-Tean-o!” (Walker 420). “With a dress down to the ground; a dress so loud it hurt Mama’s eyes” (Walker 420).

As well as changing her name to “Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo”, she returns with her college education and new personality telling her mother and Maggie what they are doing wrong. Not even recognizing her true heritage, it seems as Dee wanting to have an extravagant lifestyle. Thinking that she is becoming closer to her ancestors by changing her name, she is actually rejecting the name of the people that are related to her. Mama is always saying, “We need to keep our families ties close to us”. In this story, the quilts are used all the time and have been constantly used since she made them. They were actually made by Grandma Dee as well as other family members. These quilts play a big role on understanding the true meaning of heritage. Throughout her stay at Mama’s house she attempts to take the quilts thinking that she knows what to do to protect her.

Family Traditions and cultural legacies contribute a huge role in families. Families like to practice these traditions in order to keep their family name alive. Having traditions is almost like have a reminder that you have your family behind you. Passing traditions down keep your name alive and remembrance of your ancestors. Each family’s traditions take a part in who you grow up to be. The things you do every day and ways you feel about certain situations will shape the person you turn out to be.

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