Explain what Dee meant in the story "Everyday Use" when she had stated, "It's really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live you'd never know it."

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cldbentley | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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In the story "Everyday Use," which was written by Alice Walker, the narrator's daughter, Dee returns home for a visit after having been gone for some time.  Dee, who now calls herself Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, was not content to live a simple, country life like her mother and sister do, so she left home as soon as she was able.  The home that her mother and sister, Maggie, live in was a terrible embarrassment to her.

When Dee tells her mother, "It really is a new day for us.  But from the way you and Mama still live, you'd never know it," she is referring to the way her mother and Maggie live.  Mama and Maggie live in a "poor" house in the middle of a pasture; they work very hard and are content with what Dee believes is very little.  Dee does not understand or care that they are happy with their lives.  Instead, Dee believes that they should rebel against what she feels is a life of oppression.  She cannot see that her mother and sister don't need to leave their lives and homes in order to appreciate the equality and freedoms that were finally being granted to African-Americans. 

Dee fails to realize that Mama and Maggie are truly more aware of their family history than she is; Dee doesn't take pride in the beauty of working hard and learning the skills necessary to provide for her family, but in owning artifacts. The significance of the fact that Mama and Maggie are happy to be able to "[sit] there just enjoying, until it was time to go in to the house and go to bed"  escapes Dee, who doesn't understand that such a simple luxury is truly a sign of the progress that had been made.

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