What is Maggie's conflict in the short story "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker?

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teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In "Everyday Use," Maggie has two conflicts:  one external and the other internal.  Maggie's external conflict revolves around her sister Dee getting everything that she wants while Maggie remains in the background.  Mama has promised Maggie the quilts, but when Dee visits, she says that she wants to take the quilts so that she can display them as artwork.  Maggie is used to Mama giving Dee her way, so she remains quiet and does not stand up for herself.  Maggie is shocked when Mama takes her side and tells Dee to take one of the machine-sewn quilts instead.  Based on this external conflict, Maggie has developed the internal conflict of low self-esteem.  Maggie has been burned in a previous house fire, and she walks with a shuffle.  She is not as intelligent or outspoken as her sister Dee, so Maggie internalizes feelings of not being as good as her sister.  Maggie often recesses into the shadows of conversations, and several times throughout the story, Maggie makes guttural utterances to voice her feelings rather than actually speaking up for herself.  The end of the story suggests that Maggie is on the path of resolving both her external and internal conflicts:  Dee leaves and it seems that she will not return, and Maggie sits right next to Mama outside suggesting that they have a renewed relationship that puts value on Maggie as a person.

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