Homework Help

In the short story "Everyday Use," how does the physical setting give support to the...

user profile pic

mrmck595 | eNoter

Posted November 18, 2012 at 6:59 PM via web

dislike 1 like

In the short story "Everyday Use," how does the physical setting give support to the contrasting attitudes of both mother and Dee?

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted November 18, 2012 at 8:41 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

In Alice Walker's classic short story "Everyday Use," the narrator shares a story about the conflicting ideas of her two daughters Dee and Maggie. Dee and Maggie have conflicting ideas about their identities and ancestry.  

In "Everyday Use," the mother lives in the Southern setting of a hard-working woman. There are no frills in her clothing. The mother is ordinary and down to earth:

Mrs. Johnson's "man-working" hands symbolize the rough life she has had to forge from the land on which they live.

The rural Southern setting represents the home of a strong black woman who grew up knowing how to work hard.

The homemade quilts are an important part of the setting. In reference to the quilts, Dee sees the family objects which are the most important part of the setting as objects to be hung on the wall. Truly, Dee wants the quilts to hang on her wall.

Maggie sees the people who made the quilts as the most important part of the story. Maggie desires to use the quilts that were made by family members who have kept the traditions alive for the family.

Dee does not even appreciate being named after the family member who made the quilts. Dee changes her name to an African name. Dee does not truly appreciate her heritage. She is caught up in an African heritage that does not truly represent who she is. 

Dee sees the quilts as folk art. She declares them as priceless. Dee thinks about the value of the quilts.  Maggie remembers Grandma Dee who made the quilts. Mrs. Johnson desires to give the quilts to Maggie. She feels Maggie is more deserving because she remembers Grandma Dee who made the quilts. Dee wants to disassociate herself from her Grandma Dee by changing her name. Mrs. Johnson does the right thing in giving Maggie the quilts. Maggie will use the quilts and appreciate her ancestors who made them:

When Maggie tells [Dee] she can have the quilts, because she "can 'member Grandma Dee" without them, the mother knows instantly who is the most deserving... After Dee departs without the quilts, Maggie smiles a ''real smile'' for the first time.

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes