What Is the Theme in “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker?

The main theme in “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker is the true meaning of heritage. The main character Dee confronts whether she sees herself as from her birth family or from Africa.

In the book, Dee decides to throw out her family heritage and gives herself a new name which she thinks better reflects her African roots. She gives herself the name “Wangero” and tries to act in an African way with clothes and jewelry that come from Africa. The problem is that this heritage is a false one because Dee doesn’t understand anything about what Africa is really like. Dee also becomes obsessed with family heirlooms like a quilt. She doesn’t actually use it though, and instead just displays it like a museum piece. One of the main themes of the book is that the meaning in something like a quilt is its use, and not some vague idea of heritage. At the end of the book, it’s clear that Dee still misunderstands what heritage means, at least from the point of view of the author. An additional theme in the book is about education and how just doing everything you’re told in the classroom limits your true potential, but having no education at all does as well.