Compare and contrast Mama in "Everyday Use" with Lucinda Matlock in the dramtic monologue in "Lucinda Matlock" by Edgar Lee Masters?

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

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Mrs. Johnson ("Mama") from Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" and "Lucinda Matlock" from Edgar Lee Masters' poem of the same name feature two self-sufficient, small town, domestic matriarchs who have a no-nonsense attitude toward the "spoiled" generation who have taken them for granted.

Specifically, Mama chides her daughter Dee for forsaking her backwoods culture by pretending to be a Black Nationalist college rebel.  She give Maggie the heirlooms (quilts) because her younger daughter is humble and hardworking like her.  This corresponds to the last part of "Lucinda Matlock":

What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness, Anger, discontent and drooping hopes? Degenerate sons and daughters, 20 Life is too strong for you—

Dee is a "degenerate" daughter, not because of her "sorrow and weariness" necessarily, but because of her fickle identity and shame of her native culture.  Instead of using the quilts for everyday use, Dee will hang them on her college dorm wall as a sign of "culture."  In other words, Dee does not live life: she borrows from it.  Maggie, on the other hand, knows how to generate life: she can quilt, sew, clean, cook, and eventually raise kids.  Maggie, it seems, will live long, like Mama and Lucinda.

Some differences: Mama is single, unmarried, or divorced.  She's had to go it alone for a long time.  There's no mention of a "Mr. Johnson" at all.  Obviously, Lucinda Matlock has had a husband for a long time:

And then I found Davis. 5 We were married and lived together for seventy years, Enjoying, working, raising the twelve children,

Lucinda has had many more children than Mama as a result.  She seems not have issues with her own children, like Mama has with Dee, but she has issues with the next generation of "sons and daughters," so her denunciation of them is not literal, but metaphorical.

Also of note are differences in tone/style.  Obviously, Mama's narration is in the form of a short story, while Lucinda uses a poetic and dramatic monologue.  But, Mama's voice is much more regional/vernacular: she uses slang, intimate language.  Lucinda's voice is more metaphorical: she's speaking more abstractly from the grave.  As such, Mama's narration is grounded more in realism, while Lucinda's is more supernatural, not as naturalistic.

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