Everyday Use Summary

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The Johnson family lives in a poor, rural section of Georgia in the early 1970s.  The head of the family and the narrator of the story is Mrs. Johnson, a husky self-suffient woman who is not afraid of doing man's work (butchering a hog).  She lives with her younger daughter Maggie who has an inferiority complex: she has a stammer and scars from a house fire.  At the beginning of the story, they wait in the front for her older, more beautiful and popular daughter Dee.

When Dee arrives, she is accompanied by Hakim-a-barber, a male college friend.  Mrs. Johnson is surprised that Dee has changed her name to Wangero, giving up her Christian name in favor of a more African one as part of the Black Muslim movement.  More, Dee wants and feels deserving of some of the family heirlooms, namely a quilt made by Grandma Dee.

Mrs. Johnson finds out that Dee/Wangero wants the quilt to put on the wall, not to use for its intended function (as bedding).  Mrs. Johnson decides to give the heirlooms and quilt to her more deserving daughter Maggie who will use them, not as a pretense of displaying African heritage.

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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The short story "Everyday Use" is a story about two sisters and a mother.  The family is black and poor.  The mother has worked hard all her life to provide for her daughters.  She lives in a house that is made from old wood with windows that are holes cut into the walls.  The yard which is hard clay swept neatly serves as an extended living room because it has more of a breeze.

The daughter Dee has always hated where she came from.  She wanted out of the poverty and the environment.  Dee was smart and gained an education, went away to college, and found her way to a different social class.  She is going through an identity revolution and changed her name to "Wango."  Her mother is extremely proud of her accomplishments.

Maggie is shy and introverted.  She is the sister that is an adult but still lives with her mother.  She has scars on her arms from a fire in their other house.  Maggie is intimidated by Dee.  She almost fears her because of her success.  She feels like her mother may love Dee more because of her accomplishments.  Maggie is simple minded and will probably marry one of the local boys one day.

Dee comes to visit the mother and daughter.  She brings a man with her and a new found excitement about everything old and the poor look and ambiance.  It has become traditional to flaunt ones heritage and she takes pictures of her mother and sister in their poor abode.  She talks about the benches that were handmade. Suddenly, she remembers her grandmother's quilts.  She tells her mother that she wants them, but not the ones with any machine stitching.

Mattie looks at her mother expecting that she will give the quilt to Dee that she had hoped would be hers.  The mother has to decide who will get them.  She thinks they should be Maggie.  Dee tells her mother that Maggie will only use them for everyday use while she wants to display them.  The mother till gives them to Maggie.  Maggie is proud and recognizes her mother's love for her.

 

 

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