In "Everyday Use," how are Maggie and Dee similar (apart from the fact that they have the same mother)?

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lizedwards eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Two sisters, Dee and Maggie, are the focal characters in the short story "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker. The two daughters are quite different in appearance and personality. Despite growing up in the same family, they live entirely different lives. Maggie is rural and follows many of her family's long-honored traditions, while Dee has chosen to leave behind her rural heritage and instead embrace African tribal traditions. 

In "Everyday Use," Walker highlights differences between the sisters as a way to develop the contrast between the life each has chosen. In comparing the sisters, it is easy to find differences between them. Maggie keeps her birth name, while Dee changes hers to Wangero. Maggie lives at home; Dee does not. Maggie has a limp, but Dee does not. Maggie has chosen to follow the traditions of her family, while Dee decides to affiliate herself with African tribal traditions instead. Maggie is content where she is; Dee is restless and seeks satisfaction outside of what her family's rural life can give her.

Though the sisters chose different life paths, the system that directed them into each of their respective roles is what they share in common. Arguably, each sister is in her current position as a result of the tumultuous social climate of the 1960s. Walker's writing about that time polarizes African-American women's options into two choices: embrace the past or forget it. The African-American community faced a wide reconsideration of its identity, and Dee and Maggie represent two directions African-American women could choose to go in that moment. The sisters are similar in that their respective lives are results of the social climate at that time. What they share is their heritage and the future they must decide to live, with or without that heritage.