How do the mother’s observations about family reunions as presented on television introduce the conflicts in the plot of "Everyday Use"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Conflict is introduced when television shows cause Mrs. Johnson to "dream a dream" of a happy reunion even though she is not "the way my daughter would want me to be."

As she anticipates the arrival of her successful and modernized daughter, Mrs. Johnson envisions a joyful reunion like those on television shows where families reunite tearfully and happily after years of separation. For her, it is "a dream I dream" because she is really a sharp woman with glistening hair that her daughter will embrace.

Mrs. Johnson is a simple, country woman who has grown up in the Jim Crow South without a husband, so she has not owned much. She has only a second grade education because the school house that she attended was closed.

To prepare, she has "swept the front yard," an area of level dirt which Mrs. Johnson considers an extension of the house. When Dee arrives, she does not hug her mother as in the television programs; instead, she takes photos of her in the chair before the old house. Then, she kisses her mother on the forehead, demonstrating a cold, slight affection. 

Dee, who has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, now perceives the house as quaint, the people in it backward, and some of the furniture and contents of the house, such as quilts, as "folk art." Furthermore, she wishes to take these things from the house and put them on display as art. Rather than their reunion being tearfully happy like the television program This Is Your Life, Wangero reunites with the purpose of taking away her mother's everyday life and making her everyday things into a display.

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