In Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” Mama Johnson is the narrator of the story. She raised her two daughter, Dee and Maggie, different ways. She is a very hard worker and she do much for Dee to give her an education and hopefully help her find what she wanted. In the beginning of the story, Mama Johnson is more attentive, caring, loving and justice to the Dee because Dee has nicer hair, lighter skin and attractive figure that makes her Mama’s favorite. On the other hand, she is less caring, loving and attentive to Maggie, because She looks Maggie as hopeless, homeless and ashamed of her scars person. Through the story, Mama realize, Dee’s behavior is still same such as ungrateful and displeased with her life despite of her mother’s hard work. Resulting from her disrespect, she pushes her mother around. Finally, Mama realize that it is the inner beauty of a person matters, not physical appearance, which Maggie has from her childhood. Mama grows from being shallow person to enlightened person by not giving the ‘quilt’ to dee. This is what makes her dynamic.
Mama Johnson is one tough lady. She tells, “One winter I knocked a bull calf straight in the brain between the eyes with a sledge hammer and had the meat hung up to chill before nightfall” (153). It’s not like she’s just physically strong, she’s clearly been through a lot, what with her whole house burning down and everything. She doesn’t say very much about having a husband or partner to help her out, so she is very well raised Dee and Maggie as a single mom. she never had education in her life, but she wants to give education to her daughter Dee. The church and she raised money to send Dee to Augusta for college.
In the beginning of the story, Mama and Maggie waiting for Dee to visit home after many years. Mama and Maggie made the yard “so clean and wavy” in the preparation for beloved Dee. From this, its look like Dee is treated as guest in her house. Preparation for Dee’s arrival in such fashion proves that Mama has placed Dee on a pedestal, extremely too high. Mama’s description of Dee is comparable to that of an angel, “Her feet were always neat-looking, as if God himself had shaped them with a certain style.” (154), however her description of the younger Maggie is rather unusual. Instead of describing Maggie in a positive light, Mama chooses to point out all of Maggie’s flaws, and goes as far as comparing her to a “lame animal, perhaps a dog” (153). Mama’s view of Maggie is not quite accurate. Because of, Maggie was severely injured when their house burned. Since that time, Maggie has become extremely shy and nervous when she is around other people. She anxiously awaits her sister’s arrival. They have nothing in common. She knows Maggie will be nervous when Dee comes to visit home.
Mama is faced with new issues when Dee arrives. Trying to buy into the African-American black power movement, Dee has changed her name to Wangero. Mama accepts how Dee is dressed and her new name. she says Mama, “Dee is dead. I couldn’t beat the name any longer, being named after the people who oppress me.” (155). It is Dee’s attitude that gets to Mama. When she comes home, she is moving around restlessly and stealthily in search of things. Despite the fact that she told her mother when she left, that her things were old-fashioned, Dee wants remembrances to use as decorations in her home. After rummaging through a truck, Dee finds two quilts that had been made by grandmother, and her mother. There were pieces of material that went back to the Civil War. These quilts were important to Mama because of the inheritance they represented of Mama’s family. And yet, she wants the quilt that those oppressive people made. Mama has had enough of Dee’s foolishness. She tells her that she cannot have the quilts because she has given them to Maggie. Reacting to this rejection, Dee states that Maggie will just make everyday use of them and ruin them. Mama does not care. Dee does not appreciate the family heritage. Maggie offers to give them to Dee, but Mama says the quilts will stay. When Dee tries to take the quilts, she tells her that she promised Maggie she could have them one day, and she did not back down. “God knows I’ve been saving ’em for long enough with nobody using ’em. I hope she will!” (157). This shift shows the mother finally being fed up with Dee. By standing up for Maggie, she let her daughter know that she cared. “I did something I had never done before: hugged Maggie to me… Maggie smiled… a real smile, not scared,” (158). For the first time, Mama really looks at Maggie. Maggie had been taught by the grandmothers to quilt and that she understands that the family is the most important thing in life. Mama sees that Maggie is kind and gentle. She goes to Maggie and hugs her and grab the quilts from Dee. As they both watch Dee drive away, Mama has a new appreciation for her younger daughter. Mama will gladly sit on the front porch with her snuff and Maggie.
At the end, Mama Johnson finally stands up to Dee for Maggie and her own beliefs. She realizes the unchanged behavior of Dee from childhood to current like selfish and self-centered. Who The disregard for her sister’s pain, ingratitude for the money raised for her education, and the desire for quilts indicates her static behavior. She recognizes Dee for the selfish, hateful person she is, and she recognizes the depth of Maggie’s loving nature, despite the suffering she has endured in her young life. From that Mama gives quilt to Maggie who never ask for anything and sweetest and family caring daughter.
Walkers, Alice. “Everyday Use.” Approaching literature: Reading +Thinking+ writing, edited by Peter Schakel and Jack Ridl, 4th ed., Bedford/St.Martin’s,2017, pp-152-158.