In "Everyday Use," what does Mama mean when she says, "Just like when I am in church and the spirit of God touches me and I get happy and shout. I did something I never had done before: hugged Maggie to me."

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In “Everyday Use,” Mama fully appreciates her daughter Maggie perhaps for the first time just before she says the quoted words.

Maggie is a simple woman, and she has burn scars on her arms and legs from a fire years before. Maggie is quiet and unassuming, often looking...

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In “Everyday Use,” Mama fully appreciates her daughter Maggie perhaps for the first time just before she says the quoted words.

Maggie is a simple woman, and she has burn scars on her arms and legs from a fire years before. Maggie is quiet and unassuming, often looking at the ground and shuffling along shyly. She is clearly insecure, and she is especially insecure around her sister, Dee. Maggie is not overly bright, but she is kind. She reads to her mother and plans to marry John Thomas one day soon.

When Dee comes to visit, she throws herself around pridefully, with her new African name and her “appreciation” for the rustic artifacts of her family heritage. She wants to take many things with her to display them as “art,” but she doesn't really understand them nor the meaning behind them. Dee also wants to take some quilts that were pieced from the family's old clothing. Mama tells Dee that she has promised the quilts to Maggie. Dee is horrified; Maggie will actually use the quilts rather than “appreciate” them.

Maggie comes into the room and tells her mother to let Dee have them. “I can 'member Grandma Dee without the quilts,” she says. At this point, it is like Mama looks at Maggie for the first time. Maggie is always the one who gets the raw end of the deal, yet Maggie is also the one who is generous and kind and giving of herself more than anyone else.

Mama now feels like something has hit her on the head, like she has been touched by the “spirit of God.” She sees, finally, that Maggie, plain, quiet, shy Maggie, is good, really good. And she loves Maggie. The moment of insight makes her do two things. First, she hugs Maggie. Then she grabs the quilts from Dee and puts them into Maggie's lap. Maggie, not Dee, knows what is really important in life. Maggie, not Dee, sees the true value of things. Maggie, not Dee, really understands the meaning of those quilts. Mama knows that now, and by the end of the story, Maggie smiles a real smile, for her mother has understood her at last.

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