What are the similarities between Mama and Dee in "Everyday Use"?

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teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Everyday Use," Mama and Dee do not share the same values, and each lives a very different lifestyle from the other.  However, one could argue that both women have a sense of pride in the lives that they lead and that this sense of pride is unshakable.  At the beginning of the story, Mama reveals through the privacy of first-person narration that she has dreamed of being a different woman, one of whom her daughter Dee would be proud.  However, Mama has never in reality tried to be that imagined person, and she seems content with the life that she leads.  Mama is humble in her description of herself, giving the honest details of her "large, big-boned" structure.  Mama makes decisions based on her own view of cultural heritage, hence her decision to give the quilts to Maggie.  Similarly, Dee has always wanted "nice things," and her style of dress and educational pursuits have reflected this aspect of Dee's personality.  She has never liked the Johnsons' lifestyle, so as an adult, Dee has found a path that is better suited for her.  Both Mama and Dee share their differing views on culture, but they will not bend to appease the other.

edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mama and Dee are both strong-willed and determined; Mama's determination is reflected in how she meets the challenges in her life headlong. On her own, she can kill and butcher a hog, endure freezing weather outdoors, and kill a bull calf and hang it to preserve its meat. She perseveres after a fire claims her home and scars her other daughter, and she works to raise money to educate Dee in the city. She raises two daughters on her own. She is indomitable.

Dee is also strong-willed and determined; however, her determination is expressed differently than her mother's. In fact, her mother describes Dee as "determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts." Dee is determined to reinvent herself. She adopts an African name, telling her mother that she didn't want to be "named after the people who oppress me."

Inevitably, these two strong-willed women clash. Dee wants to take some family heirlooms, including handmade quilts, as cultural artifacts to be displayed. This offends her mother, who gives the quilts to Dee's younger sister, Maggie, who will put them to "everyday use."