Maggie is the quiet, introverted younger sister to Dee. The narrator, who is the mother, and Maggie are expecting a visit form Dee, the older sister. Maggie has burn scars on her arms and legs. She survived a house fire ten or twelve years back.
Maggie is slow in her walk; she sort of shuffles of her feet. She has been this way since she was burned in the house fire.
Dee is the older sister who is beginning to appreciate her African heritage. She used to take so much for granted.
Dee is sophisticated as she comes back home for a visit. Her clothing is bright and her jewelry dangles. She has large sunshades which cover her face. She has beautiful feet. Dee has "nicer hair and fuller figure" than Maggie, according to the narrator.
Dee has changed her name to a name of her African background. She desires the homemade quilts that the narrator has preserved for Maggie. She sees the beauty in them that she once took for granted. Dee is with a man who also has an African name.
The narrator used to think Dee hated Maggie, but that was before they raised money to send her to school in Augusta. Dee is the educated one who can read well.
The narrator is a tougher than any man around. She can kill a hog and milk a cow better than any man she knows. She is "a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands." She admits that she is fat but declares it keeps her warm in cold weather. She can eat "pork liver cooked over the open fire minutes after it comes steaming from the hog." She is a Southern country girl no doubt and proud to be so.
The narrator imagines herself as 100 pounds lighter if she were to appear on television show like Johnny Carson. She imagines her skin is "like an uncooked barley pancake..." with "hair that glistens..." She adds that this is the way Dee would want her to appear.
This statement causes the reader to think the Dee is not proud of her mother the way she really looks.
Dee seems high-minded and affluent when in reality she is her mother's daughter, a Southern country girl, raised on a farm.
These three women have similarities in that they are all Southern country girls. Although Maggie is withdrawn, it is due to being burned in the house fire.
Dee, on the other hand, is now sophisticated...she appears interested in her African heritage. She visits her mother for one purpose--to gather heirlooms for her home's decoration.
When the narrator will not give Dee the quilts she has promised Maggie, Dee is frustrated, exclaiming that Maggie will use them for everyday use, thus explaining the story's title.
Maggie is the winner for the first time in her life, and after her sister leaves, she smiles "a real smile, not scared."