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"Everyday Use" by Alice Walker
Transcript of "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker
“No, Mama,” she says. “Not ‘Dee,’ Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo!”
“What happened to ‘Dee’?” I wanted to know.
“She’s dead,” Wangero said. “I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me.”
Even though change is seen in Dee before this point, here she makes it clear that she doesn’t want to be associated with her past. She really has changed on the inside and outside.
"They didn't tell me and I didn't ask whether Dee [Wangero] had really gone and married him"
Dee and her mother have such a strained relationship, that they can't even communicate on very important issues. These miscommunications lead to many of their conflicts throughout the story. Mama-
“In real life I am a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands. In the winter I wear flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls dur.ing the day. I can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man. My fat keeps me hot in zero weather.”
"I can eat pork liver minutes after it comes steamin' from the hog"
She is as rough as any man, works hard to keep up her farm, and doesn't care what anyone else thinks.
"I didn't want to bring up how I had offered Dee a quilt when she went off to college. Then she had told me that they were old- fashion, out of style"
“Dee wanted nice things. A yellow organdy dress to wear to her graduation from high school; black pumps to match a green suit she'd made from an old suit somebody gave me. She was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts. Her eyelids would not flicker for minutes at a time.”
Dee is the opposite of her family, wanting material goods that are the latest trend and finest quality. She is emmbaresed by her family and their homey ways. Maggie-
"Have you ever seen a lame animal, perhaps a dog run over by some careless person rich enough to own a car, sidle up to someone who is ignorant enough to be kind to him? That is the way my Maggie walks. She has been like this, chin on chest, eyes on ground, feet in shuffle, ever since the fire that burned the other house to the ground.”
"'She can have them, Mama' Maggie said, like someone used to never winning anything or ever having anything reserved for them."
Maggie lives in her sister's shadow, with very little attention and only hand-me-downs. She is painfully shy and has grown used to surrendering to her sister's wishes.
“It looks like Asalamalakim wants to shake hands but wants to do it fancy. Or maybe he don't know how people shake hands. Anyhow, he soon gives up on Maggie.”
"He said he didn't eat collards and pork was unclean."
He feels superior to Maggie and Mama and rejects the ways with which they have lived their entire life. Characters Continued "There were no real windows, just some holes cut in the sides...with rawhide holding the shutters up on the outside"
“It is like an extended living room. When the hard clay is swept clean as a floor and the fine sand around the edges lined with tiny, irregular grooves, anyone can come and sit and look up into the elm tree and wait for the breezes that never come inside the house.” Maggie and Mama live in very modest accommodations, but are satisfied with their humble home. Their living conditions also show how much Dee has changed since her simple beginnings. “Mama,” Wangero said sweet as a bird. “Can I have these old quilts?”
I heard something fall in the kitchen, ad a minute later the kitchen door slammed.
“Why don’t you take one or two of the others?” I asked. “These old things was just done by me and Big Dee from some tops your grandma pieced before she died.”
This is the start of an argument that will escalate to the point that Dee and Harkim-a-barber decide to leave. Heritage is not legitimate based on the clothes one wears or the chosen name one goes by, but on family history and tradition. Plot Continued "I did something I had never done before: hugged Maggie close to me, then dragged her on to the room, snatched the quilts out of Miss Wangero's hands and dumped them onto Maggie's lap."
This is the first time in Dee's life that someone has chosen Maggie over Dee. Everyone has always bowed to Dee's wishes and completely ignored Maggie, so this is a huge moment for Maggie to finally be recognized.