Character Analysis: “Everyday Use”
The mother in this story has lived a hard, long life, doing the job of a man, never complaining, just doing the things to survive. Then we have her daughter, Dee, who I picture as never having broken a sweat in her life. As a child she hated her house, her living, her culture. When the fire had burnt down the old house, she just sat there in amazement under an old gum tree, as if she wanted to dance in the ashes. She did all this while her mother was carrying Maggie, with arms burnt so bad they were sticking to her, and whose hair was singed and smoking with the foul stench of burning flesh. Why then, if her heritage means so much to her, didn’t she lift a finger to save any of the house or items in it? Instead she sat under a tree admiring the disaster that was taking place.
Like the house, her family was of little importance to her. She was ashamed of their lack of knowledge and seemed very much bothered by the poverty in which she lived. In her mind, to be important was to be worldly. To have riches and “style” were what mattered, not her family.
It’s ironic how when she was younger she could not wait to get out of her lifestyle, but now she claims her culture is important to her. She even goes through the extent of changing her name since in her mind, “Dee” was the name given to her by her oppressors when in reality it was the name passed down by her own family. Dee changes her name to Wangero Lewaninka Kemanjo, which supposedly goes back to her African roots. The mother passively accepts the change with no argument. She doesn’t even say a word when Dee takes the churn top off the butter churner that has milk in it that has already clabbered, and claims it as her own. Dee doesn’t even stop to think that it’s still in use, just that she wants it and that’s that.
The mother’s slowly being nudged and pushed; like the cow she doesn’t mind! Then Dee demands that she be able to take the two quilts that were made by her...