In "Everyday Use," what does the mother's dream about going on a game show reveal about her relationship with Dee?

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liesljohnson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this story, the mother's daydream about appearing on television with Dee is more focused on a talk show rather than a game show. You can tell because she describes how the show's host would be someone charming ("a smiling, gray, sporty man like Johnny Carson") who would bring together long-separated family members on stage to share their tearfully joyous reactions with the audience, and that host would have to work to keep up with the guest's "quick and witty" talk. This description should remind you of a talk show, like those hosted by Oprah or Ellen, rather than a game show, like Jeopardy! or Family Feud.

In her mind, Mrs. Johnson (Dee's mother) imagines the scene, thinking what it would be like to have herself and Dee on public display, Dee being a sophisticated girl who had made something of herself in life, and Mrs. Johnson still being a hardworking homebody. She considers how all those parents and children on the television programs cry happily and hug each other when they're reunited. "What would they do if parent and child came on the show only to curse out and insult each other?" she wonders. This reveals that Mrs. Johnson and Dee have spent time apart and have a strained relationship.

Note, also, that in Mrs. Johnson's daydream, she herself appears thin and lighter-skinned and handles herself with witty aplomb. But in real life, this woman is strong, large, and--especially with strangers-- reserved. This contrast between the real-life Mrs. Johnson and the television-fantasy Mrs. Johnson reveals that Dee would prefer for her mother to be like the latter: the idealized, feminine, dainty, television-ready version of herself. And by extension, we understand that Dee doesn't appreciate her mother for who she actually is.

Considering this difference between Mrs. Johnson's real personality and the false one Dee might like her to don for a television appearance, Mrs. Johnson notes that Dee herself is quick-witted and totally self-possessed. "Dee, though. She would always look anyone in the eye. Hesitation was no part of her nature," Mrs. Johnson muses. Here we notice that Dee and her mother have opposite personalities; it's another thing that causes their relationship to be so strained. They're just really different people with different values and attitudes.