3. Who is the mother proud of? Who does the mother prefer? How is this suggested?
At the beginning of the story, Dee is definitely the one Mama is proud of, although it is not very clear who she prefers. There are subtle hints of it though: she subconsciously pairs herself with Maggie because it is this daughter that has been with her and in her life for the longest. Although Dee is successful and confident, Mama gives readers the impression that she is homely and simple, who enjoys an uncomplicated way of life, which is what draws Maggie to her. As the story progresses we slowly begin to see that what Mama feels for Dee is not exactly pride, but pride mixed with awe and a little fear. Maggie is the one she prefers, despite her shortcomings. Hints are present in the story from the start that Maggie is the one beside Mama at all times but it is not until the end when Mama finally realizes what she truly feels about her two daughters. p.334
“Maggie and I” ( companionship, closeness
“wait for her in the yard…made so clean and wavy” ( makes careful preparations for her return, desire to please “held life always in the palm of her hand” ( has Mama in the palm of her hand as well? ““no” is a word the world has never learned to say to her” ( suggests Mama herself is too, reluctant to deny her eldest anything
A hint of longing seeps into Mama’s tone in her imaginations p.345
“Sometimes I dream a dream in which Dee and I are suddenly brought together on a TV program of this sort. Out of a dark and soft-seated limousine I am ushered into a bright room filled with many people. There I meet a smiling, gray, sporty man like Johnny Carson who shakes my hand and tells me what a fine girl I have. Then we are on the stage and Dee is embracing me with tears in her eyes. She pins on my dress a large orchid, even though she has told me once that she thinks orchids are tacky flowers.” This seems to indicate that although Mama is proud of her daughter and her achievements in life, Dee seems strangely distant from her mother. The fact that Mama fantasizes about happy reunions and tearful embraces with Dee show that intimacy with her daughter Dee is rare or maybe even nonexistent. They do not even share the same likings (Dee thinks orchids are “tacky” while Mama thinks they are nice)
As Mama’s mental narration progresses, readers get a clearer picture of Mama’s relationship with her daughter Dee. “I am the way my daughter would want me to be: a hundred pounds lighter, my skin like an uncooked barley pancake. My hair glistens in the hot bright lights. Johnny Carson has much to do to keep up with my quick and witty tongue.” These are the traits that Dee wants her mother to have, and this implies dissatisfaction with what her mother is now – “a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands” Perhaps Mama is somewhat in awe, or maybe a little afraid of Dee because of her differences. Where Dee is now at in her life is beyond Mama, although she still thinks of her as her “fine girl”. She also admires her daughter.
“Dee, though. She would always look anyone in the eye. Hesitation was no part of her nature.” Whereas she herself cannot even speak to a white man properly. “Who can even imagine me looking a strange white man in the eye? It seems to me I have talked to them always with one foot raised in flight, with my head fumed in whichever way is farthest from them.”
A hint of whom she prefers sneaks in again.
“This is the way my Maggie walks.” ( fondness
On the other hand there are also hints of the distance between Dee and Mama. p.346
“She's a woman now, though sometimes I forget.”( Dee is often away from home and absent from Mama’s life? (this also explains why Mama dreams of a reunion with Dee) Reminisces of the fire in the past also draws our attention to the relationships of the two girls with her mother. “Sometimes I can still hear the flames and feel Maggie's arms sticking to me…And Dee. I see her standing off under the...
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