In the short story "Everyday Use," how does the physical setting give support to the contrasting attitudes of both Mama and Dee?

"Everyday Use" takes place at the Johnsons' home in rural Georgia, and the physical setting gives support to the contrasting attitudes of both Mama and Dee in that Dee's unexpected appreciation of the house and the items in it contrast with her mother's feelings about her home. This draws attention to the difference between the women's attitudes regarding heritage and family history.

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Although the family home, which provides the setting for this story, is a simple construction, Mama creates a warmth in the space. She takes pride in sweeping her yard, which she considers an extension of her living room. Mama enjoys the modest lifestyle that the home affords, and the simple...

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Although the family home, which provides the setting for this story, is a simple construction, Mama creates a warmth in the space. She takes pride in sweeping her yard, which she considers an extension of her living room. Mama enjoys the modest lifestyle that the home affords, and the simple items in her house are practical, from the butter churn to the quilts. At the end of the story, Mama sits with Maggie on the porch and the two share a comfortable silence. Mama's comfort in their simple lifestyle reflects her genuine appreciation for a life of simplicity.

This attitude contrasts sharply with Dee, who has never been content with the life Mama has provided. As a young girl, Dee had watched their first house burn down, and Mama noticed that Dee held a look of concentration on her face that reflected joy in being rid of the home she hated. When she returns home as an adult with a new name, Mama finds that it is even difficult to look at Dee through the bright sun. Adding to the visual discord is Dee's dress, a bright yellow and orange garment that "throw[s] back the light of the sun." As Dee moves through the house attempting to claim family heirlooms as her own, she has to ask about the history of the items, unfamiliar with how they were constructed.

Mama and Dee's attitudes about the simple yet comfortable lifestyle that Mama has provided demonstrate their differing attitudes about what is important within a culture. As the conflict escalates regarding ownership of the quilts, this contrast in perspective proves an important factor in Mama's ultimate decision.

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The physical setting of "Everyday Use" is the extremely humble home of Mama and Maggie. Mama has no doubt that Dee will scorn this house as much as she did their last one, which burned to the ground some years earlier, leaving Maggie with unsightly burn scars.

The house consists of three rooms with a tin roof, and it suits Mama perfectly well. Mama's priorities in life are simple: all she wants is a happy life for herself and Maggie. Dee's derisive attitude towards the home shows that her priorities and needs are very different. For Dee, life is about the finer things in life. While Dee has worked hard to get where she is, she cannot understand her mother and sister's simplistic approach to life.

When Dee arrives, she snaps some polaroid pictures of the house, which tells the reader that she sees it as some kind of quaint spectacle. This tactless action shows that her world is far removed from that of her mother and sister.

In a nutshell, the physical setting of this story sets up an image of the humble life that Mama and Maggie live. This is placed in stark contrast to the high-paced and sophisticated world from which Dee has come to visit.

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The physical setting of the story is the Johnsons’ home in rural Georgia, sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s. This is at least the second home the family has shared, because the former one burned to the ground a few years before. Mama Johnson, the narrator, explains how much Dee had hated that first house as a child, and she anticipates that Dee will not care for this one either, because it is so similar. To Mama, it is home, comfortable and clean; but when Dee arrives, it becomes apparent that she feels differently from the way her mother expected her to feel, and she treats the home as though it were something of great value to her.

Dee not only seems deeply appreciative of the home, but also takes picture after picture of it, even before she greets her mother. She wants to take home several family items that her mother and sister actually use on a daily basis so that she can do “something artistic” with them; however, she has no apparent interest in actually learning the family history or the stories behind these objects. She only wants the pictures and the quilts to take home and display as some sort of proof of her heritage, though she doesn’t truly identify with these things as her mother and sister do.

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In Alice Walker's classic short story "Everyday Use," the narrator shares a story about the conflicting ideas of her two daughters Dee and Maggie. Dee and Maggie have conflicting ideas about their identities and ancestry.  

In "Everyday Use," the mother lives in the Southern setting of a hard-working woman. There are no frills in her clothing. The mother is ordinary and down to earth:

Mrs. Johnson's "man-working" hands symbolize the rough life she has had to forge from the land on which they live.

The rural Southern setting represents the home of a strong black woman who grew up knowing how to work hard.

The homemade quilts are an important part of the setting. In reference to the quilts, Dee sees the family objects which are the most important part of the setting as objects to be hung on the wall. Truly, Dee wants the quilts to hang on her wall.

Maggie sees the people who made the quilts as the most important part of the story. Maggie desires to use the quilts that were made by family members who have kept the traditions alive for the family.

Dee does not even appreciate being named after the family member who made the quilts. Dee changes her name to an African name. Dee does not truly appreciate her heritage. She is caught up in an African heritage that does not truly represent who she is. 

Dee sees the quilts as folk art. She declares them as priceless. Dee thinks about the value of the quilts.  Maggie remembers Grandma Dee who made the quilts. Mrs. Johnson desires to give the quilts to Maggie. She feels Maggie is more deserving because she remembers Grandma Dee who made the quilts. Dee wants to disassociate herself from her Grandma Dee by changing her name. Mrs. Johnson does the right thing in giving Maggie the quilts. Maggie will use the quilts and appreciate her ancestors who made them:

When Maggie tells [Dee] she can have the quilts, because she "can 'member Grandma Dee" without them, the mother knows instantly who is the most deserving... After Dee departs without the quilts, Maggie smiles a ''real smile'' for the first time.

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