Describe the narrator Mama from "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The mother as narrator of Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" is a fairly simple woman who self-esteem is rather low at the beginning of the story.  She has made the best preparations that she can with her yard, but is anxious about seeing her daughter, who has gone to college when she has had no education herself; she has trouble looking some people in the eye, whereas Dee does not: "Hesitation was no part of her nature."  As she anticipates the arrival of her successful daughter, the mother imagines a prettier, slimmer version of herself meeting her on a TV show.

However, as the story progresses, there is a transformation in the mother.  For, she realizes that Dee's new thinking is not necessarily better.  The articles in the house that Dee wants are valued because they are stylish; Maggie and her mother are endeared to them because they remind them of their loved ones.  With this realization, Mrs. Johnson looks at Maggie:

When I looked at her like that, 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.  I did something I never had done before:  hugged maggie to me, then dragged her on into the room, snatched the quilts our of Miss Wangero's hands and dumped them into Maggie's lap.  Maggie just sat there on my bed with her mouth open.

No longer worried about what Dee thinks of her, Mrs. Johnson rewards the daughter most deserving.  "Maggie smiled;...a real smile, not scared....And then the two of us sat there just enjoying, until it was time to go in the house and go to bed.

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