Everyday Use Essay: Sisters with Nothing in Common

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Sisters with Nothing in Common in Everyday Use

   When two children are brought up by the same parent in the same environment, one might logically conclude that these children will be very similar, or at least have comparable qualities. In Alice Walker's "Everyday Use," however, this is not the case. The only thing Maggie and Dee share in common is the fact that they were both raised by the same woman in the same home. They differ in appearance, personality, and ideas that concern the family artifacts.

     Maggie is not as attractive as Dee. She is a thin and awkward girl. Her

mother notes "good looks passed her by" (88). Furthermore, she carries

herself like someone with low self-esteem, "chin on chest, eyes on ground"

(87). On the other hand, Dee is an attractive woman. Her mother describes

Dee as having, "nice hair and a full figure" (87). Dee takes pride in the

her appearance. She dresses in fashionable clothes. When Dee arrives for her

visit, her mother says, "Even her feet were always neat-looking" (88).

     Besides their appearances, Maggie and Dee have unique personalities.

When Maggie is first introduced in the story, she is nervous about her

sister's visit. In fact, Dee's arrival makes Maggie so uncomfortable that

she tries to flee to the safety of the house (88). Maggie is also

intimidated by Dee, as shown when Maggie is unable to confront Dee about the

quilts. Maggie gives in and says that Dee may have the quilts because she is

not used to "winning" (91). Unlike Maggie, Dee is a bold young woman (88).

As a young girl, Dee has never been afraid to express herself. Her mother

remembers that "she would always look anyone in the eye. Hesitation was no

part of her nature" (87). Dee also shows herself to be selfish when she sets

her sights on the butter churn. Dee does not seem to care that her family is

still using the churn. She states that she will "display part of it in her

alcove, and do something artistic with the rest of it" (90).


     The family artifacts are important to both Maggie and Dee, but for

different reasons. Maggie values the family quilts for their sentiment and

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usefulness. She learned how to quilt from her grandmother and aunt who made

the quilts. Her mother has been saving the quilts for Maggie to use after

she is married. The quilts are meant to be used and appreciated everyday.

Maggie hints that she sees the quilts as a reminder of her grandmother and

aunt when she says, "I can 'member them without the quilts" (91).


     Dee also values the family quilts. She sees the quilts as priceless

objects to own and display. Going off to college has brought Dee a new

awareness of her heritage. She returns wearing ethnic clothing and has

changed her name to "Wangero." She explains to her mother and Maggie that

changing her name is the way to disassociate herself from "the people who

oppress [her]'? (89). Before she went away to college, the quilts were not

good enough for her. Her mother had offered her one of the quilts, but she

stated, "They were old-fashioned and out of style" (91). Now she is

determined to have the quilts to display in her home. Dee believes that she

can appreciate the value of the quilts more than Maggie, who will "be

backward enough to put them to everyday use" (9l). Dee wants the quilts for

more materialistic reasons. She considers the quilts "priceless" (91).


     Indeed, Maggie and Dee are two sisters who have turned out very

differently. Maggie is awkward and unattractive, while Dee is confident and

beautiful. Maggie is content with her simple life, while Dee wants to have

an extravagant lifestyle. Maggie is nervous and intimidated by Dee, who, in turn, is bold and

selfish. Maggie values the sentiment of the family quilts, while Dee wants

to display them as a symbol of her heritage. Walker has shown that children

raised in the same environment can and many times do turn into unique individuals.

Work Cited

Walker, Alice. "Everyday Use." Literature- An Introduction to Reading and Writing 5th ed. Eds. Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1998. 86-92.

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