What is the mother-daughter relationship between the mother and Maggie in "Everyday Use"?

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amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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niknakpattywak | Student

Dee (Wangero) is “the intelligent girl who graduated from high school in Augusta (lit24, 2009).” “Dee is seen as materialistic, complex, and a modern woman. Her idea of culture and heritage, as represented by the quilt, depends on the "trendiness" of the thing (Cuizon, 2009).” Mother describes Dee as “ used to read to us without pity; forcing words, lies, other folks’ habits, whole lives upon us two, sitting trapped and ignorant under her voice.... pressed us to her with the serious way she read, to shove us away at just the moment, like dimwits we seemed to understand (Walker, 2008).” Dee is clearly a very self-determined woman who is ambitious to achieve things in life despite her background.  

However, “Maggie, the homely, uneducated sister, knows more about her African American heritage than does Dee. Maggie and her mother live their cultural heritage; they are nourished by it through everyday use and versed in the craftsmanship needed to pass it on to future generations (epollock, 2009).” As described in the story, "Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes: she will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eying her sister with a mixture of envy and awe (Walker, 2008)."

I did not feel that the mother favored one daughter over the other. However, I do feel that the mother was very proud of Dee for all of her accomplishments, such as her education. But on the other hand I believe that she felt as if Dee did not appreciate her for all of the sacrifices she made. As for Maggie I believe that mother took pity on her, thus she took Maggie under her wing (so to speak). I believe that in the end she probably favored Maggie more. In fact, Mama's actions in giving the quilts to Maggie has boosted Maggie's self-esteem and made her feel loved and valued, and they share a moment of happiness together.

Justice has been done by the end of the story. That is, Maggie is often overlooked and under appreciated by her mother because Dee has an exciting and adventurous personality. Maggie is constant and caring, though. Dee wants the quilt because she has adopted a new superficial connection to her "roots."  She claims that she wants the quilt to show off her heritage. It is clear that she has no understanding of where she is actually from, though. She just wants the quilt to hang on the wall. Maggie truly understands her past and fully accepts it. She contributes in a real way to the world around her and is deeply committed to her family. She deserves the quilt because she will use it and she will better appreciate it and the hard work that went into making it.




Cuizon, G. (2009, February 10). Everyday Use by Alice Walker. Retrieved December 22, 2009, from suite101.com: http://african-american-fiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/everyday_use_by_alice_walker

epollock. (2009, December 14). every day-use. Retrieved December 22, 2009, from enotes: http://www.enotes.com/everyday-use/q-and-a/tags/Everyday+Use

lit24. (2009, December 15). Everyday-use. Retrieved December 22, 2009, from enotes: http://www.enotes.com/everyday-use/q-and-a/what-basic-situation-book-everyday-use-by-alice-124089

Walker, A. (2008). Everyday Use. In J. Bryant, Introduction to American Literature (pp. 695-753). Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing.