What is "Everyday Use" saying about the two alternative paths of life the two daughters face? What about family heritage and tradition?no

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amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Dee and Maggie definitely take two alternate routes, although not by choice.  Maggie has been damaged in a fire which the speaker hints that Dee may have set.  Because of this, Maggie is not as outgoing, confident, or attractive physically as Dee.  She remains home and learns all the "homeschooling" that young ladies typically learned during this time--cooking, quilting, sewing, making butter.  Many of these skills she learned from her grandmother who has passed on.  While Maggie is not educated as Dee is, she is engaged to be married and has been promised her grandmother's quilts as part of her dowry.  She is very in touch with her heritage and knows the story behind every quilt, piece of handmade furniture, and family member.

Dee, on the other hand, is gorgeous, selfish, pretentious, and consumed with Africa. She is condescending to her mom and Maggie because they are ignorant country people who know nothing of their "heritage"...meaning Africa.  She comes waltzing in from college dressed in brightly-colored African costume, and accompanied by her male friend who thinks the way she does. She treats her family as if they know nothing about the value of the family's quilts, the butterchurn, etc.  She says it's horrible that Maggie will use these items for "everyday use" when they are valuable antiques.  She accuses her family of not being in touch with their heritage when she is the one who can not cook, quilt, sew, or make butter.

soya's profile pic

soya | Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

This story illustrates how Maggie will be the keeper of the family traditions even though she is uneducated and unattractive.  One does need beauty or a formal education to understand the significance of the African American struggle in the United States. When Dee returns home full of arrogance and disrespect, she relinquishes any chance of an inheritance. The little wealth this family does have is contained in their history which making quilts is a central part. The question to ask is: Which sister will pass down the traditions to her children with reverence and respect?

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