Everyday Use

1546 Words7 Pages
Everyday Use, a short story about the trials and tribulations of a small African American family located in the South, is an examination of black women’s need to keep their powerful heritage. It speaks on multiple levels, voicing the necessity and strength of being true to one’s roots and past; that heritage is not just something to talk about but to live and enjoy in order for someone to fully understand themselves. A sociological landmine, it was written to awaken the concepts of feminism as well as the civil rights movement, while being able to focus on just three women and their relationship to one another. Everyday Use give its black female characters an identity of their own, each in their own right, and observes the internal conflicts of two sisters who have made two very different life choices, all the while scrutinizing the underlying sibling rivalry between them. Dee is the prodigal daughter; she left home to taste the world only to be given a new appreciation of her backwoods home. She is the favored daughter, possibly because her mother was always trying to get into her favor. And she is the daughter who received all the genetic blessings: fair skin, soft hair, and a full body which gives her confidence and dominance over others, particularly her family. Her confidence radiates in the fact that she can look anyone in the eye, including “strange white men” who terrify both her mother and her sister Maggie. That same stare was the only form of emotion given when their house burned down, a tragedy that may have been perpetrated by Dee in the first place. Her hatred for that house and their lifestyle was what gave Dee a film over her eyelids, a picture of grey and filth, and eventually sent her away. She desperately wanted a life more suitable for a woman of her class, a class that she felt was better than even her own family. And as time goes by, she returns to the house that she criticized for years, never completely running her back on her family, but only for a visit and never with company, for fear of the tint it would bring to her name. Her last visit however finds her as a completely different person, with a man and a mission. Before even truly greeting her mother and sister, Dee takes photo after photo, artfully framing every shot with both her mother and the house that she loathes, but never allowing herself to be in the picture. This was D... ... middle of paper ... ...nderstand each other’s view or just each other. Dee especially believes that these quilts are a representation of what has been discarded as trash just as her culture has, however what she doesn’t see is she was the first to disregard them just as she did her family. Everyday Use ends with Dee leaving, not with the quilts, thus making room for the new bond between Mama and Maggie. Dee may believe that she has won in some way because she is the educated sister who appreciates her heritage, but the reader sees it is in fact Maggie who has become victorious by having her way of life validated by Mama’s support and Dee’s envy. Maggie’s system of values is redeemed by creating a new relationship, with herself, in which she is no longer silenced and can truly appreciate the beauty of her home even in its everyday use. While there is little growth seen from the experience on Dee’s side, we know that Maggie is forever changed, giving her more power than she ever had. There is still and will always be a struggle between her and her sister, but Maggie now knows she does not need redemption from Dee, nor anyone else, because it is she who carries the importance of the past into the future.
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