What's the relationship between Maggie and Dee in Everyday Use?

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dee is determined and successful. She aims to be a modern woman who is worldly, cultured, and educated. When she goes to college, she learns of her African heritage and embraces it, thus supplanting her African-American heritage. Dee is progressive but her interests in modernity and cultural heritage (both African and American) seem a bit too superficial. Still, she does try to educate her mother and sister, Maggie, even if they don't want to listen. 

Maggie is Dee's younger sister. Maggie was burned in a house fire and is incredibly shy. These two traits may account for Maggie's reserved personality. She has no real interest in Dee's progressive worldview, or maybe she is just too shy to attempt to live in that world. 

Dee has tried to instruct Maggie (and her mother) in a more feminist, modern way of life for American women. So, there is something of the guiding, big sister in the way she relates to Maggie. When Dee arrives, Maggie is concerned with how she looks, so there is some part of her that looks up to Dee. But Dee also seems to flaunt her new way of life and she is condescending towards Maggie, basically calling her ignorant and backward. As Dee is leaving, she says, "You ought to try to make something of yourself, too, Maggie. It's really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live you'd never know it." Deep down, Dee might have good intentions in trying to open Maggie's eyes to a new, better way of life. But her approach is too domineering and almost scolding. Maggie is too shy to talk back to her. When Dee insists on taking the quilts, Maggie "looked at her sister with something like fear but she wasn't mad at her." This look of "something like fear" is vague but suggestive. Maybe Maggie's subtle look indicates that she is fed up with the entire subject of the quilts. It is her shy way to simply relent and end the discussion.