Characterize the......Q1) Characterize the speaker and evaluate her reliability as a reporter and interpreter of events. Where does she refrain from making judgements? Where does she present less...

Characterize the......

Q1) Characterize the speaker and evaluate her reliability as a reporter and interpreter of events. Where does she refrain from making judgements? Where does she present less than the full truth? Do these examples of reticence undercut her reliability?

Q2) Does the mother refusal to let Dee have the quilts indicate a permanent or temporary change of character? Why has she never done anything like it before? Why does she do it now? What details in the story prepare for and foreshadow that refusal?

Q3) Is Dee wholly unsympathetic? Is the mother’s victory over her altogether positive? What emotional ambivalence is there in the final scene between Maggie and her mother in the yard

Expert Answers
favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To address your second question, Mama's refusal of Dee's request for the quilts seems to indicate a permanent change in her character.  She says that, when Maggie told her she could let Dee have the quilts, "something hit me in the top of my head and ran down to the soles of my feet.  Just like when I'm in church and the spirit of God touches me and I get happy and shout."  She then does something she claims never to have done before: hug Maggie tightly and give something, the quilts, to her, instead of Dee.  It sounds like Mama has had some realization of truth here, and she understands Dee's shortcomings while recognizing Maggie's strengths.  

Mama seems like she has never done anything like this before because Dee has always wanted more and more, while Maggie rarely, if ever, asks for anything for herself.  Mama says of Maggie "She stood there with her scarred hands hidden in the folds of her skirt. She looked at her sister with something like fear but she wasn't mad at her. This was Maggie's portion. This was the way she knew God to work."  Mama seems to realize that Dee has gotten everything she has ever wanted. Dee would refuse Maggie, who would treasure the quilts because of their relationship to her family, and call Maggie "backward" for the crime of putting a quilt on a bed.  Dee is never satisfied because she always wants more, while Maggie has gotten nothing.  

Dee demands the churn top as well as the dasher from the family's butter churn—something they still use.  She says she will use the churn's "top as a centerpiece" and plans to do "something artistic" with the dasher.  After Dee wraps them up, Mama holds them, noting where generations of "thumbs and fingers had sunk into the wood"; she describes its beauty.  Dee does not even say thank you, and she does not listen to the stories of the family members that made these items.  Mama does not say how she feels here, except to describe the way the wood has been shaped as a result of her family's hands; this certainly makes it seem like she is somewhat unhappy to give this item up, and she may not look kindly on Dee's desire to take other things that are important to her.

sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

All of your questions are very interesting, but I'm afraid we can only address one at a time in our responses. I will begin with the first.

It is an old adage that mothers often offer more nuture and care to her children that need it most, and such might be the case with the narrator in "Everyday Use."  The narrator's sympathy for Maggie can be seen when she tells us about the fire that maimed Maggie, for then she wanted to ask Dee "Why don't you do a dance around the ashes?" Even early on, the narrator resented Dee for her beauty, her aloofness, her desire to break out of the poverty. This narrator is "a large, big-boned woman," very different from her gorgeous daughter, and might have often wondered how they could even be related. Surely, too, the narrator must have resented Dee "hating the house that much," when that house was all the narrator, as mother and provider, could give her daughters. The camaraderie experienced by Maggie and the narrator at the end certainly excludes Dee, almost gleefully, forgetting that Dee might in fact be hurt by all of this. The mother does not try to teach Dee; she wants to protect Maggie, for there she finds someone similar to herself.

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Everyday Use

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