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Everyday Use by Alice Walker

By Rachmiele1 Jun 17, 2013 1053 Words
The short story "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker is about two sisters and a mother. Despite the family being poor, the mother works hard to provide for the both of her daughters. Dee is the eldest daughter and despises where she came from. Dee later on gains an education, attends college, and obtains a degree all because her mother and the community raised enough money to send her to school in Augusta. In the story she is going through an identity crisis and changes her name to "Wanegro." On the other hand, Maggie, the younger sister, is a shy young girl. The mother offend compares herself and Maggie to Dee, the successful daughter, which illustrates the jealousy she has towards Dee. At such a young age, Maggie is still suffering from a tragic event. Maggie is intimidated by Dee; solely since Dee carries many accomplishments and her appearance. Dee is said to be “self-conscious of her scars and burn marks and jealous of Dee’s much easier life” (Everyday use, 256). Soon after, Dee remembers the quilts made by her grandmother. She attempts to obtain the quilts and her mother decides to give the quilts to Maggie. The quilts are a symbol of customs in their family. In many different cultures there are a variety of customs that follow along with the generations. The short story exposes that the two sisters are attempting to reach the same goal, but in unlike methods. In some ways it also shows that one is trying to be better than the other. The mother is the narrator of the story and she shows the audience their differences. She also seems to be jealous of Dee in multiple ways. The mother describes herself to be “a large big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands” (Everyday Use. 256). Both girls are beautiful in their own way, but Maggie is jealous of Dee’s beauty and it seems as if Maggie is ashamed of the way she looks also due to her scars. Maggie and Dee have completely different physical appearances than each other. Maggie has a thin body figure, and her arms and legs are scarred from the house fire. Maggie is jealous of Dee’s beauty, and she seems to be ashamed of the way she looks. Mama says, “Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes: she will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eyeing her sister with a mixture of envy and awe” (Everyday Use, 256). This proves that Maggie is nervous in her sister’s presence. In contrast, Dee is much prettier than Maggie. Mama describes Dee in the story as being “lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure” (Everyday Use, 256). The difference in the way Maggie and Dee look play a major role in what makes them so different from each other. This also shows how the mother constantly compares Maggie to Dee. She wants Maggie to be more like her. She also compares herself to Dee by saying things like “I never went to school beyond second grade” (Everyday Use, 257), this shows that she is jealous of Dee’s education. She is also jealous of Dee’s education and compares Maggie and Dee again since “Maggie can read only in a limited capacity” (Everyday Use, 257). In the story, Mama and Maggie are waiting at home for a visit from Dee, the mom explains Maggie as being nervous while her sister is around. When Dee arrives, Mama grips Maggie to prevent her from running back into the house. Dee emerges from the car with her boyfriend, Hakim-a-barber. Right when Dee appears the mother starts looking at her with envy, she says things like “Her feet were always neat looking…Earrings gold, too…Bracelets dangling” (Everyday Use, 257), this is showing how the mother is noticing a different life style than what Dee grew up with. Then Dee does on to tell her mother that she has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo to “protest being named after the people who have oppressed her” (Everyday Use, 258). The mother asks “What happened to Dee?” Dee (Wangero) answers “She’s dead” (Everyday Use, 258). Mama tells Dee that she was in fact named after her Aunt Dicie, who was named after Grandma Dee, who bore the name of her mother as well. Mama struggles with the pronunciation of Dee’s new African name but eventually gets it. After dinner Wangero (Dee) goes through a trunk at foot of the moms bed and reappears with quilts. The quilts contain small pieces of garments worn by relatives all the way back to the Civil War. Dee asks her mother for the quilts, Mama “hears something fall in the kitchen and then a minute later the kitchen door slam the door” (Everyday Use, 259). Mama suggests that Dee take other quilts, but Dee insists, wanting the ones hand-stitched by her grandmother, not the ones done by machine. Mama gets up and tries to tell Dee more about the garments used to make the quilts, but Dee steps out of reach. Mama reveals that she had promised Maggie the quilts. Dee gasps, arguing that Maggie won’t appreciate the quilts and isn’t smart enough to preserve them. By Dee saying that she doesn’t think Maggie will appreciate the quilts and see is not smart enough that even she looks down on her just like her mother. If everyone is looking down on Maggie then the mother is going to get jealous of her successful daughter and want things up to her standard. But for once Mama Stands up for Maggie and Mama hopes that Maggie does, indeed, designate the quilts for everyday use. She says that “Maggie knows how to quilts and can make more” (Everyday Use, 259). Dee begins to leave and on her way out she tells Maggie to do something with herself, Maggie just smiles. Within “Everyday Use” the mother shows a lot of jealousy towards Dee, whether it’s always comparing herself or comparing Maggie to Dee. Not only does Mama look down on Maggie but Dee also does which may cause Mama to be more jealous since Maggie is not up to Dee’s standard and Dee doesn’t think she’s smart enough.

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