Everyday Use

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Everyday Use

When we meet our narrator, the mother of Maggie and Dee, she is waiting in the yard with Maggie for Dee to visit. The mother takes simple pleasure in such a pleasant place where, "anyone can come back and look up at the elm tree and wait for the breezes that never come inside the house." (Walker 383) This is her basic attitude, the simple everyday pleasures that have nothing to do with great ideas, cultural heritage or family or racial histories. She later reveals to us that she is even more the rough rural woman since she, "can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man." (Walker 383) Hardly a woman one would expect to have much patience with hanging historical quilts on a wall. Daughter Maggie is very much the opposite of her older sister, Dee. Maggie is portrayed as knowing "she is not bright." (Walker 384)

The daughter Dee, who is coming to visit, has left this rural landscape through her education. Dee has even taken on an African name for herself: Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. Dee "couldn't bear it any longer being named after the people who oppress me." (Walker 386)

Dee appears to have as her main objective in visiting the old homestead, the collecting of some old household items made for everyday use. She asks for an old butter dish, a butter churn top and two old quilts.

It is over the quilts that she comes into conflict with her mother since the two quilts were already promised to the other daughter, Maggie.

Dee tries to convince her mother that Maggie should not be given the quilts because Maggie would "probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use" ( Walker 388) and wear them out. Momma comes back with a hope that Maggie does use them since the quilts have been stored in t...

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...y're just collecting dust in the bottom of this old trunk." Momma had other quilts to use. She would not begrudge Dee. However, Momma did promise them to Maggie and so Momma had to keep that promise because Momma knew that regardless of how much more "successful and smart" one daughter was could not be allowed to diminish the love she had for Maggie. For Momma, a promise was a promise and barring her own death, it would be kept.

This story in the end is not about butter dishes or old quilts. It is about a woman who has two daughters and is wise enough to know that there is no place for favoritism in her little family. No matter how far one of her daughters has traveled from where she started and no matter how little the other has, her love for both of them will not be weakened by the desire of one of her daughters for something that was promised to the other.

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