Compare and contrast the relationships between the mother and each of her daughters, Dee and Maggie, in "Everyday Use."

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I feel like the first line of the story sets the stage for the contrasting way Mama values and thinks of her daughters. She says, "I will wait for her in the yard that Maggie and I made so clean and wavy yesterday." Mama waits for Dee expectantly, fantasizing about what it would be like to be appreciated by her instead of being a source of embarrassment to her. She refers to the fact that she and Maggie worked on cleaning up the yard together, but there's no fantasy involving Maggie. Maggie's a fixture in Mama's life because they live together, and Mama seems actually to take her for granted in the beginning. The story's climax, when Mama says that "something hit [her] in the top of [her] head and ran down to the soles of [her] feet" and she hugs Maggie, giving her the quilts so longed for by Dee, indicates a change in the way she sees this quiet, overlooked daughter. In the end, Mama says that "the two of [them] sat there just enjoying, until it was time to go in the house and go to bed." It seems like this is the first time Mama has "enjoy[ed]" time with Maggie, and it's nice to imagine the two of them contented with one another.

At the same time, Mama doesn't seem to really enjoy her time with Dee. She knows that she and their home are a source of frustration and embarrassment to Dee. Dee once told her, after all, that "she will never bring her friends" to meet the family. Dee makes Mama and Maggie feel "like dimwits" who are too dumb to keep up with her. When Dee's on her way, Mama says, "No doubt when Dee see [this house] she will want to tear it down." Yet Mama has continued to love her, and certainly, I think, to notice her a lot more than she does Maggie. It's clear that Mama loves both her daughters, but neither her relationship with Dee nor her relationship with Maggie has been particularly satisfying for her. She longs for more with Dee, while it seems Maggie probably longs for more with Mama. At least, in the end, Mama seems to have a better perspective on which of her daughters truly does love her in a more meaningful way.

writergal06 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dee and Maggie are both loved in a way by their mother, though she clearly starts out favoring Dee. Dee is the independent, strong daughter who has gone away to make something of herself. The mother loves the stories that she can tell and admires her ability to pursue she dreams and do something different with her life. Their relationship is based on a sense of pride and awe that her mother receives from the life that Dee lives. As the story progresses her mother realizes that she has put Dee on a pedestal unjustly, and that Dee's exciting life has made her superficial and vain.

Maggie is the constant daughter who is always there. Her mother knows that she can rely on Maggie to be there, and takes advantage of that fact. Maggie is simple and open, and her mother treats her as if she is bored with her. In the end, her mother realizes that she has overlooked Maggie's love and loyalty, mistaking her constant presence for simplicity rather than love and devotion.