Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. ” If that is the case, then Maggie wins hands down over her older sister, Dee, whom, from what seems the beginning, has been her family’s ultimate representation of the externally cosmopolitan, debased, and contemporarily delusional woman “getting-in-touch-with-her-inner-self-through-learning-about-her-heritage-in-a-white-and-‘americanized’-educational-institution. ” And, whereas Maggie is the soft, gentle, and truly “educated” woman of their ancestors as shown through Alice Walker’s quilt motif utilized in her story, “Everyday Use. ”
First, consider Dee, also known as “Wangero,” as she likes to call herself because she says she can no longer bear being named and called after the people who oppress her Walker 29. This woman, the very same person that was borne of the same mother as Maggie, has a totally different outlook of and approach to life than her counterpart. As mama describes it, she is the type of person that “wanted nice things” and one whom, from sixteen, “had a style of her own: and knew what style was” 26. Additionally, that she is a woman of “flair,” “brightness,” and “intense colorfulness of style which veritably blocks the sun,” as Houston A.
Baker and Charlotte Pierce-Baker speak of in their critical essay on Alice Walker’s use of the quilt in “Everyday Use” “Patches: Quilts and Community”159. Her outlook seems to be for great aesthetics and grandeur provided by and through her artificial non-functional definition of art and heritage illustrated, for example, in her want to use the churn top whittled by her Uncle Buddy as a centerpiece for her alcove instead of as an actual churn top, and, her mother’s quilt to be hung rather than used Walker 31; 33. In her obvious misunderstanding of the term “heritage,” she defines it as objects the bench, quilt, etc. ather than the people who preserve its traditions through participation in themâ€”people, like her sister, who has learned to quilt Walker 33-34.
She stands as the great opposite of Maggie. Ever since the house that her sister hated burned down and she got partially burned by the fire, Maggie’s character, physical and mental difference, as well as ability, from her sister, Dee, has gotten more defined Walker 25. As time from there passed and they grew into women, she got the darker skin color, the shallower figure, the uglier hair, the burn scars, and the academically ill-educated mind Walker 25-26.
And, at the same time, she also got the authentic culture, the ability to quilt, and the true and continuing connection to her cultural heritage through living in the same type of area that imaginably her ancestors had lived that Wangero Dee can now only appreciate from afar Walker 33-34; 23. Additionally, as Barbara T. Christian says it in her critical essay, “Alice Walker: The Black Woman Artist as Wayward,” of her mother’s two daughters, she is the scarred and caring one, whereas her sister is the selfish and stylish, who “glibly delights in the artifacts of her heritage” 129.
And sure, her mother does reckon that she would be backward enough to use the quilts for everyday use, but at least she can continue to be authentic, not a fad like Deeâ€”something that comes and goes as easily as a wind in springtime Walker 33. At least she has no need to “remain fashionable in the eyes of a world of pretended wholeness, a world of banal television shows, framed and institutionalized art, and Polaroid cameras,” as the Bakers say 161.
And, although she, like her mother, is not well educated in the manner of mainstream academia, at least she may truthfully say that she has no “faultfinding power” and does not put on sunglasses that hide everything above the tip of her nose and chin Showalter 212; Walker 35. At least she, Maggie Johnson, can say that she is the living representation of the patchwork quilt that Wangero dubs “priceless” Walker 33. Moreover, and in another respect, that she also is the symbol of functioning heritage and life not encapsulated and dead in a frame, hung on a wall, or sitting as a centerpiece.
And, perhaps most greatly and simply, that she is the truly wholesome, compassionate, understanding, and intelligent woman of culture and living between them and that she is the one without unnecessary tumult and complication. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Perhaps Dee would do well to encapsulate this philosophy. In her attempts to get to know her self and culture, she is badly and greatly wounded by her bought education. She sees things in ways that her family perhaps never will, but is the price that she has paid worth it?
Is the payment and exchange of her integrity, cultural heritage, and family fair and just to obtain possession of academic knowledgeâ€”so-called “understanding,”â€”clutter, family alienation, waywardness, isolation, and aesthetics’surely, her inability to be part of the pictures she takes of her sister and mother with “their” rural background remonstrates and echoes a certain and defined distance between her family and her innermost self that cannot simply be atoned for through her external want to reconnect with her heritage Walker 28-29.
In the instance, the reader’s witness of Wangero’s epiphanic interaction with her family harmonizes with the idea that she had sacrificed her true connection with her family, and accordingly, heritage, by not being able to quilt, insisting on a change in lifestyle from the established way of her family a rural life, and by refusing to be called Dee, her birth-given name.
Additionally, that she, in fact, in this whole process of knowledge accruement, had lost her integrity because she consciously allowed herself to be manipulated by the doctrines taught her in school that partly coincides with her want to be called “Wangero. ” However, for Maggie, the answer was and is still, “No,” to the question of whether the payment and exchange of her integrity, cultural heritage, and family is a price she is willing to pay for academic knowledge. How about someone else out there?
Is that a price that person is willing to pay? Like Dee, is there another that wants to be an externally cosmopolitan, debased, and contemporarily delusional person? Well, maybe not admittedly, or consciously even. But surely, there probably are some that are and have situations like Dee and her sister, Maggie. And so long as there are people insisting on being complicated, then surely there will be great divides among brothers and sisters as so ingeniously communicated by Alice Walker’s story and her commentators.