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Everyday Use

Upon how you interpret Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use”, depends whom enlightens you personally. Walker lets you envision the “extended living room” from Maggie and Mama’s vantage and feel the power in Mama’s rough hands. On this balmy, breezy day, Walker set the scene for the return of Dee. With what we already know of Maggie and Mama, Dee’s return is greatly anticipated and seemingly long over due, yet things have changed since she has last visited, people have changed as well. Dee’s especially riddled with various personality conflicts which have surfaced since the days of her youth. Mama’s recollections of Dee as a teenager, Dee’s selfishness around the house, and her determination and strength as a woman are just a few of the issues raised throughout the course of Dee’s development as a round, dynamic character.

There is no room for comparison concerning Dee and her younger sister, Maggie. They both have little, to nothing in common, expect for the same blood lines:

Dee is lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure. She’s a woman

now… Dee wanted nice things. A yellow organdy dress to wear to her graduation from

High school; black pumps to match a green suit she’d made from an old suit somebody

Gave me. She was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts. Her eyelids

Would not flicker for minutes at a time. Often I fought off the temptation to shake her.

At sixteen she has a style of her own: and knew what style was. ( 411. 10.12)

Dee’s younger sister was physically and emotionally scarred ever since she was a little girl. Dee was quick to find fault, not only in Maggie’s disfigurement with the fire and all, but also in the boys in which she (Dee) dated. With the insecurities, which go alone with being a teenager; the quick wit, rebellious attitudes, and disrespectful ignorance, all seem to compensate for the pain she was feeling inside.

Even though it all seems so unexplainable, Mama does her best to piece it all together for Maggie. Dee and her guests arrive, along with her long lost attitude. A dispute seems to erupt upon the discovery of a couple of old quilts passed down from a previous generation to Mama. Maggie the beginnings of an argument brewing between Mama and Dee and heads along outside to keep from blowing her top in front of Dee. Another life long quarrel between two sisters, fighting for their mother’s love. Or is it as simple as it seems. For what reason should Dee feel left out, while Maggie’s been living in her shadow her (Dee’s) shadow her whole life? Maggie’s had been promised these quilts, yet Dee still pushes the issue over who’s to receive them. This not only reflects her (Dee’s) selfishness, but also supports how determined, strong, and blind she is all round about the same time. Dee ends up trying to rationalize with her Mama over the issue, even after Mama knows full well she promised them to Mags. “She can always make some more,” I said “Maggie knows how to quilt.” (414. 69)

The respect Maggie has for her family is unlike the respect or lack there of Dee exhibits. These particular quilts are partial to Maggie in especially due to their sentimental value, whereupon Dee wants them for stated decorative purposes. What good is a quilt, really, if not used for its intended purpose? Mama realizes the situation she has upon her hands. She quickly takes the quilts back upon handing them over to Dee and keeps them until Maggie is to be married, like she had promised before. Dee’s dumbfounded response explains how much she doesn’t really desire the quilts nor does she deserve them. Dee was just determined to get what she wanted, which is the way it always was around the house with Mama and Maggie, and Dee felt things would never change.

For this reason, I feel that Dee is the only true Dynamic Character. Up until this point, Dee has always come first, possibly because Maggie didn’t have a voice before or that Mama didn’t think she realized it. On either level, Dee’s personality developed from that of a little girl, who even then kept a position and status of control and stature, yet through experience and growth, learned how to utilize these traits as a woman. This upbringing kept her eyes open and set on life’s struggles and trials, which she’s sure to confront in the near future. While Maggie has been kept in the, she has learned through both her sister and her Mama and has developed yet her own voice. “Everyday Use” was strong tale of three strong Negro women determined to take life and grip it to the hilt.


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