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In Alice Walker’s short story titled “Everyday Use,” the two sisters – Dee and Maggie – are initially and consistently described in ways that emphasize their differences. Of the two sisters, the one who perhaps most resembles Walker herself (at least at the time the story was written) is Maggie.
- Whereas Dee is self-confident and attractive, Maggie is described as a “nervous” person who is
homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eying her sister with a mixture of envy and awe.
- Whereas Dee has lighter skin than Maggie and is more attractive physically, Maggie is said to have a “thin body” and is compared to a “lame animal.”
- Whereas Maggie was burned in a fire that destroyed the family’s earlier house, Dee was untouched by the flames and was not bothered by the house’s destruction.
- Whereas Dee is well educated and proud of her education, Maggie’s education is limited; her own mother describes her as “not bright.”
- Whereas Dee dresses well and is stylish, Maggie dresses very plainly.
- Whereas Dee is financially comfortable, Maggie is not.
- Whereas Dee has a male partner, Maggie does not.
- Whereas Dee has changed her name, Maggie has not.
- Whereas Dee is highly race-conscious, Maggie is not.
- Whereas Dee speaks loudly and brashly, Dee speaks “so low you almost couldn’t hear her.”
- Whereas Dee “has a temper,” Maggie does not.
- Whereas Dee is pretentious and assertive, Maggie is humble.
- Whereas Dee is self-centered and demanding, Maggie is generous, as when she offers Dee the quilts.
- Whereas Dee is ambitious in a worldly way, Maggie is not.
Of the two sisters, Walker probably identified most strongly with Maggie, especially because of “her childhood memories of the visits home by her brilliant and accomplished older sister, who, as she wrote in her poem 'For My Sister Molly Who in the Fifties,'
FOUND ANOTHER WORLD
Another life With gentlefolk
Far less trusting
And moved and moved and changed
(See Susan Belasco and Linck Johnson, eds., The Bedford Anthology of American Literature 2 vols. (Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s, 2008), 2: 1450.
- In addition, like Maggie, Walker herself had suffered an early physical impairment: she became blind in one eye after having been shot in that eye by a BB gun.
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