Dee Versus Maggie: A Struggle For Self-Understanding Essay

Dee Versus Maggie: A Struggle For Self-Understanding Essay

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The twenties, a time marred by prohibition and television's implantations, were widely known as a time of struggles such as the Great Depression and the beginning of what later became known as women's rights. However, presumably the greatest struggle was that of ‘colored' people. Because of limited resources, limited speech, and limited economic opportunities many ‘colored' people sought ways to escape ‘everyday' life and the hardships they often faced. One of these ways came by beginning to express themselves more freely. In addition, as a result, the Harlem Renaissance formed. In "Everyday Use", Alice Walker, one of the frontrunners of the Harlem Renaissance, tells the story of an oppressed and under-privileged African American family with differing values on what it means to live, or more importantly, of one who struggles with understanding of their present life in relation to the traditions of their ancestors and culture. The audience is introduced to both girls at the beginning of the story. From the narrator's vivid description of the girls, the reader quickly forms a distinction between the two daughters. The way Maggie walks is compared to that of "a dog run over by a careless rich person" (453). However, Dee is described as "lighter than Maggie, with nice hair and a fuller figure" (454). Just from the physical description, the readers can infer that Dee is the "prettier" of the two. Though they are totally opposites in physical features, both girls share a central theme. Alice Walker uses something as simple as a quilt to develop the central theme. This theme is that both daughters, Dee and Maggie, are confused about the meaning of their heritage. However, Dee's confusion is a result of her not wanting to acc...


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...is a symbol of the past, but only in a sense that she must move on and never look back. On the other hand, Maggie sees the quilt as something she could use everyday in order to relive the ways of her ancestors in combination with her future life and aspirations. Though Maggie is limited in beauty and education when compared to Dee, Maggie is way ahead of Maggie in a stage of self-understanding. Maggie knows her abilities and respects what she has. However, Dee has no disabilities and could care less about her ancestors. Dee's ultimate goal is to feel distant from her ancestors, while Maggie's ultimate goal is to feel as one with her ancestors and their way of life. The saying that ‘you must know where you come from in order to know where you are headed' is exemplified in this story. Without an understanding of the past, you can have no true self-understanding.

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