How isthe characterization presented?

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amymc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The characterization in "Everyday Use" is presented from the first person point of view narration of Mrs. Johnson, a rural Southern black mother of two girls.

The readers learn about Mrs. Johnson from Mrs Johnson herself, primarily through her words and actions.  She admits that she is a simple, large Southern lady but is proud of her ability to slaughter animals, hang meat and do other typically male chores with great finesse.  She does note that Dee might prefer her to look different, but that she is who she is:  "In real life I am a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands."

Mrs. Johnson characterizes Maggie through noting her actions.  The reader sees a shy, shuffling, slightly disfigured young woman who has little intelligence and less confidence.  Yet, the way that Mrs. Johnson seems to protect Maggie shows her dedication to her.

Dee is also characterized through the eyes of her mother, but this is primarly through listening to Dee.  She appears to have become a successful woman who has adopted an African name and abandoned her traditional upbringing.  Her interest in the home is not out of love but out of a need to decorate with actual items from heritage - a butter churn and some handmade quilts.  We see her true personality when she laments that Maggie has been promised the quilts: " 'Maggie can't appreciate these quilts!' she said. 'She'd probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use'."

Interestingly, it is through this very incident that we see Mrs. Johnsons' personality and conviction clearly.  She announces her loyalty to Maggie and their family lifestyle and heritage by snatching the quilts from Dee and giving them to Maggie.