In “Everyday Use,” Alice Walker navigates the cultural gap between a mother and her two daughters. It is a story which depicts life from two perspectives, but seen through one set of eyes. One daughter stems life from tragedy, seeing the world for what it is, and welcomes each of life’s challenges with cautious acceptance; meanwhile, the oldest daughter abhors anything standing in the way of what she feels she is expected. The mother has to maintain a position in the middle of the two, although, Maggie is clearly more dependent than her sister is toward their mother.
Maggie, the younger of the two sisters, was badly burned when the house they used to live in caught fire. The mother describes that horrible evening: “Sometimes I can still hear the flames and feel Maggie’s arms sticking to me, her hair smoking and her dress falling off her in little black papery flakes. ” Maggie was literally scarred for life both physically and emotionally. She would never be the same again; she will always be ashamed of her scars. She takes life day by day, and she stays under her mother’s protective wing.Order now
She resents her sister, “… eying her sister with a mixture of envy and awe. She thinks her sister has held life always in the palm of one hand, that “no” is a word the world never learned to say to her. ” Dee, the oldest daughter, has had everything given to her all through life. She is the definition of spoiled, “She was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts. At sixteen she had a style of her own, and knew what style was. ” In a perfect world, Dee would not be told what to do, she would be the one telling everyone else what to do.
Ironically enough, the way the two girls were raised caused them both to go separate ways socially. The mother wants to see Dee succeed, but at the same time she feels she owes more to Maggie because of the accident. They will both be successful, but Maggie will appreciate it, and Dee will not appreciate it. Dee finally arrives at the house, beginning the start of the epic battle for the love of a mother. Everything is going well, until material possessions get in the way of the family.
Dee begins asking about various antique items in the home and their ownership status. There are a couple of quilts that she decides she absolutely has to have. The mother hears her argument, but in the end, has already promised them to Maggie. Dee, flies off the handle stating, “Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts! ” she said. “She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use. ” The battle, it seems, will be on going with no end in sight. The mother finally decides she has had enough and grabs the quilts from Dee and throws them in Maggie’s lap.
Walker vividly illustrates maternal instinct through perception of how the mother deals with the way her daughters have matured through life. Maggie has been through a lot, but she still takes comfort in knowing her mom will always be there. Dee, never having any want or need seemingly ungratified, allows material things to come between her and the love of her family. The quilt shows through time everyone changes, but it is those that value the symbols of the past, that will carry on the heritage of the family.