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In Alice Walker's short story about family and its generational bonds, Mama perceives Maggie as self-effacing, thin, and scarred from burns.
She has been like this, chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle....
Consequently, the mother feels that Maggie
...will be nervous until after her sister goes, stand[ing] hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars...eyeing her sister with a mixture of envy and awe.
Unlike her sister Dee, Maggie has gone nowhere, finding her only security at home with her mother. She is too timid and embarrassed about her appearance to venture into the world. Even as they wait in the yard for Dee to pull up, Maggie tries to shuffle quickly into the house; when Mama demands that she stay, Maggie digs her toe in a circular motion in the dirt yard.
During Dee's visit, Maggie remains in the shadows; she interjects nothing into the argument between her sister and her mother over the churn, but she does correct her sister's memory of who whittled it, saying,
"Aunt Dee's first husband whittled the dash....His name was Henry, but they called him Stash."
When Dee asks for the old quilts, Maggie, who overhears this from the kitchen, drops something. Then, despite the arguments of Dee/Wangero that she should have the heirloom quilts and Maggie's humble offering of them,
"She can have them, Mama....I can 'member Grandma Dee without the quilts."
Mama feels something come over her, much like the feeling she gets in church sometimes. She
...snatched the quilts out of Miss Wangero's hands and dumped them into Maggie's lap.
Maggie is overcome. But, as Dee departs, Maggie smiles "a real smile, not scared." And, the mother knows that Dee has had her identity recognized and affirmed. Mama is no longer worried about what will become of Maggie, and she is proud of her.
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