Who are the major and minor characters in the story "Everyday Use"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The narrator of this great short story is Mama, who is described as a large woman with rough hands. She tells stories which describe her as a woman of tough mettle who is able to do any man's job.

Other characters include her daughters, Maggie and Dee. Maggie is described...

See
This Answer Now

Start your subscription to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your Subscription

The narrator of this great short story is Mama, who is described as a large woman with rough hands. She tells stories which describe her as a woman of tough mettle who is able to do any man's job.

Other characters include her daughters, Maggie and Dee. Maggie is described as somebody who lacks self-confidence and has suffered trauma since their former home burned down. According to her mother, Maggie is neither intelligent nor attractive.

Dee is probably more difficult to get along with than Maggie. She wants an education and the finer things in life and does not appear to be above manipulation in her quest to get them. She is portrayed as beautiful, intelligent, and cruel.

Hakim.a.barber is Dee's partner, who arrives at the house with her.

Grandma Dee, after whom Dee is named, had a quilt made out of her old clothes, which Dee wants.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The major characters in the story are:

Mama, the narrator. Mama is the mother of two daughters, and the story is told from her perspective. She is the most important voice in it, because it is her understanding of the situation that we see. A black woman in middle age, Mama is large, "big boned," and physically strong, able to kill a hog on her own. She knows she is darker and fatter than her elder daughter, Dee, would like her to be; however, she is very confident in herself. Her primary concerns seem to be for her younger daughter, Maggie.

Maggie, the younger of the two daughters, is a "nervous" and retiring girl who has always lived in the shadow of her sister. She is being courted by a boy she will almost certainly marry, and she speaks little and is plainer and less educated than her elder sister.

Dee, the older daughter, is an interesting character. She is a forceful personality—her mother thinks she once burned down the house they lived in because she hated it so much. She imposes her views upon her family, believing that black people today should embrace their true heritage and reject their recent past. Clever and well-dressed, she wants nice things for herself. She wants to take quilts to hang on the wall as a symbol of this. She has changed her name to Wangero.

Minor characters in the story include:

Asalamalakim/Hakimabarber, a "short, stocky" man Dee brings with her when she comes to visit her mother and sister.

John Thomas, the boy Maggie is going to marry.

Grandma Dee and Aunt Dicie, Mama's relatives who contributed to making the quilts in the story.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "Everyday Use," the major characters include Mama (Mrs. Johnson), Dee, and Maggie. The minor characters include Grandma Dee and Hakim-a-barber. Mama is the protagonist and narrator of the story, so she is the most important character in the story. Throughout the story, Mama goes on a journey of coming to an understanding about the value of her two daughters and her values regarding family heritage. Dee and Maggie are also major characters because they create the dynamic of conflict in the story: Dee has always been given her way because people assume she is knowledgeable, while Maggie has been overlooked largely because she is not bright. In addition to the major characters, the story also includes minor characters that represent thematic concerns in the story. Grandma Dee is a pillar of the family's heritage, while Hakim-a-barber represents Dee's new affinity for African cultural heritage.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team