The theme of heritage is seen in this story by the way that Dee thinks her education has allowed her to learn about her heritage, but really by her moving away and becoming educated, she has forgotten about her true roots, and cannot even relate to her own family anymore. This theme is implied by the actions of Dee and the way she relates to her family. This shows how she does not really understand her heritage, because she is out of touch and unconnected with her family. Dee only looks at the theoretical part of her heritage, and because of this, she thinks she is connected to her heritage by changing her name to a tribal name. Yet, in reality, her former name was actually a family name and held real meaning and heritage. Dee says he cannot bear any longer to be “named after the people who oppress me,” when in reality she is named after her own aunt and grandmother (PAGE #). The author, Alice Walker, uses irony to show how Dee thinks she is connected to her heritage, but in reality she is very disconnected but cannot see it.
Another theme that Alice Walker shows through the characters words and actions is the idea of education. The theme of education is implied through Mama’s description of Dee, and the way Dee speaks to her family. The idea of becoming educated is supposed to mean that you are learning more and understand more about the world. Yet, it seems that Dee has become more educated, and seems to understand less about her family, her past, and her heritage. She does not understand why her family would want to “ruin” the quilts by using them every day for their intended use, when in reality, that is what they are meant to do. Dee believes that her education has made her better than her family, and she tries to show this to them and make it seem like she is smarter, more powerful, and more successful because of her education. This can be seen in the way that Dee tells her mother “You just don’t’ understand,” when in reality, Mama understands just fine, it is Dee who cannot see the simple things (# page). In Dee’s case, her education does not seem to represent her gaining more understanding; instead it makes her further removed from her family.