Alice Walker's modern classic "Everyday Use" tells the story of a mother and her two daughters conflicting ideas about their identities and ancestry. The mother narrates, in first person, because Mama can characterize her daughters and herself in an unbiased light that only a mother could love or know. the story takes place of the day the oldest daughter, Dee, visits from college and clashes with the other daughter, Maggie, over the possession of heirloom quilts. The story begins with the narrator, a "big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands" awaiting the homecoming of her daughter Dee, an educated woman who now lives in the city. Accompanying her is her younger daughter, Maggie, a shy girl who regards her sister with a "mixture of envy and awe." As they wait, the narrator reveals details of the family history, specifically the relationship between her two girls. A fire when they were children destroyed their first house and left Maggie badly scarred on her arms and legs. Maggie tries to impress Dee by dressing up for her arrival. Mama is ashamed of their house and knows Dee will disapprove, as she did with the old house. To her amazement Dee takes picture after picture of Mama and Maggie making sure the house is in the background. Mama and Maggie have a strong connection since they were both involved in the fire.
The contrast between Dee's beliefs and those of her mother and sister is emphasized by the different values the characters place on some old quilts and other objects in the home. The main theme in the story concerns the characters' connections to their ancestral roots. Dee believes that she is affirming her African heritage by changing her name, her mannerisms, and her appearance, even though her family has lived in the United States for several generations. Dee puts on glasses that cover most of her facial features. Like a mask to hid what she is humiliated ethnic features. Maggie and Mama are confused and seem to be...
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