Alice Walker “Everyday Use” Summary

Describe the character traits of Maggie and Dee/Wangero. How do you respond to them? Do you admire them or you feel sorry?

Maggie is the shy and conscious little girl who lives with Mama. She hesitates to come in front of people because she thinks people will mock at her damaged looks. Still, no matter how nervous her personality is, yet she is kind at heart and is dutiful. We know this by the incident in which she hands over the quilts to her elder sister even when her mother snatches them from the latter and hands them over to her as she had already promised. Hence, Maggie is pure at heart and does not know about selfishness. Although the quilt incident makes her angry at first, as she throws something in the kitchen and slams the door, yet she tries to win her sister’s heart by offering her the quilts. She has always remained inside the house under her Mama’s supervision and has limited knowledge about the world. However, her lack of education has made her shy and less confident. Her lack of confidence shows in her timid, shuffling gait. We also see that Maggie’s relationship with her sister is based on jealousy and rift which buries deep down in Maggie’s heart but she seldom shows it.

Dee is Maggie’s elder sister. She has changed her name from Dee to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo and has changed her lifestyle. She is shown wearing a bright yellow and orange dress which is not suitable for warm weather. Her hair is also looking awkward when she visits Mama with her boyfriend. Mama has managed to give Dee proper education which has made the latter proud and materialistic. She does not like her wishes to go unfulfilled. We see this through the quilt incident in which she ignores the fact that Mama has already promised the quilts to Maggie, and insists upon having them. She becomes angry and taunts at Mama about ignoring their family heritage. She is the victim of jealousy and awe. She is educated and confident, yet insensitive and arrogant.
As for Maggie, I feel sorry for her because I understand the fact that she lacks self-confidence because her parents have ignored her requirement of proper education. Burning in the house fire added to the shyness. It is good to see that she has a will of her own and knows how to express her frustration, like when she slams the kitchen door with anger. Yet, I like her sacrificing nature. In contrast, I feel agitated with Dee’s character as she is an object of jealousy and pride. Walker has tried to convey the message through her character that we are forgetting our own heritage and are blaming it on others. People like Dee reject their heritage and try to associate with an idealized Africa forgetting the harsh realities that featured the black experience in America. Dee cuts herself from her family heritage and thinks of Mama and Maggie as subjects of a documentary when she takes pictures of them through her camera. I do not like her looking down upon her family as if they were some aliens. In short, I feel sorry for Maggie and appreciate her sacrificing nature; and, I feel irritated with Dee’s character because I do not like how she rejects her own family roots herself and tells Mama that she and Maggie have been rejecting the heritage.

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