Describe the relationship between Maggie and Dee in "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker.

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Maggie is a shy, introverted girl. She has scars on her arms and legs from the fire that burned her house about twelve years ago. Maggie is a slow reader. Mama says she has always been slow. Maggie lives with Mama and works hard along side her mother. She is not ambitious like Dee. Maggie is withdrawn from society. Mama describes Maggie as not too bright:

Maggie has a little education, but according to her mother, 'she is not bright. Like good looks and money, quickness passed her by.' 

On the other hand, Dee is vibrant, gregarious--outgoing. She is well educated. She has been attending the university and she is proud of her education. Dee has been studying her African heritage. She has changed her name to an African name. She is dressed in African clothes with bright colors. She wears large dangling earrings. She is a picture of her African heritage.

She has come to visit to gather some heirlooms in order to decorate her house. Although she desires the quilts that are heirlooms, Mama says they belong to Maggie. Dee pouts. Mama says Maggie will really appreciate the love that was sewn into the quilts form generation to generation.

Dee is always the winning type. Maggie lives a life of defeat. When Mama insists that Maggie will get the quilts, Maggie smiles a real smile, and for the first time she is not afraid in her sister Dee's presence.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Maggie believes that Dee has not been exposed to any real struggles, and to some extent, she is jealous of her sister. Maggie is of the opinion that she has sacrificed a lot for her sister’s happiness. The family did not have enough money to send them both to school, and it took the Church's intervention to enable Dee to pursue an education.

Maggie is also clearly intimidated by her sister and believes her sister to be cold even towards her.

She wrote me once that no matter where we “choose” to live, she will manage to come see us. But she will never bring her friends. Maggie and I thought about this and Maggie asked me, “Mama, when did Dee ever have any friends?”

Thus, apart from being sisters and sharing a mother, there is nothing else that defines their relationship. Although Maggie is intimidated by her sister, she does not hesitate to demonstrate her displeasure when Dee asks to have the old quilts.

Dee, on the other hand, looks down upon her sister and believes she is backward. She suggests that Maggie would not appreciate the quilts and would instead put them to everyday use. Dee feels a sense of entitlement, which defines her relationship with Maggie.