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Term Paper On Analysis Of "Everyday Use"

1287 words - 5 pages

The Story"Everyday Use" is narrated by a woman who describes herself as "a large,big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands." She has enjoyed a ruggedfarming life in the country and now lives in a small, tin-roofed housesurrounded by a clay yard in the middle of a cow pasture. She anticipatesthat soon her daughter Maggie will be married and she will be livingpeacefully alone.The story opens as the two women await a visit from the older daughter, Dee,and a man who may be her husband--her mother is not sure whether they areactually married. Dee, who was always scornful of her family's way of life,has gone to college and now seems almost as distant as a film star; hermother imagines being reunited with her on a television show such as "ThisIs Your Life," where the celebrity guest is confronted with her humbleorigins. Maggie, who is not bright and who bears severe burn scars from ahouse fire many years before, is even more intimidated by her glamoroussibling.To her mother's surprise, Dee arrives wearing an ankle-length, gold andorange dress, jangling golden earrings and bracelets, and hair that "standsstraight up like the wool on a sheep." She greets them with an Africansalutation, while her companion offers a Muslim greeting and tries to giveMaggie a ceremonial handshake that she does not understand. Moreover, Deesays that she has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, because "Icouldn't bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me."Dee's friend has an unpronounceable name, which the mother finally reducesto "Hakim-a-barber." As a Muslim, he will not eat the pork that she hasprepared for their meal.Whereas Dee had been scornful of her mother's house and possessions when shewas younger (even seeming happy when the old house burned down), now she isdelighted by the old way of life. She takes photographs of the house,including a cow that wanders by, and asks her mother if she may have the oldbutter churn whittled by her uncle; she plans to use it as a centerpiece forher table. Then her attention is captured by two old handmade quilts, piecedby Grandma Dee and quilted by the mother and her own sister, known as BigDee. These quilts have already been promised to Maggie, however, to takewith her into her new marriage. Dee is horrified: "Maggie can't appreciatethese quilts!" she says, "She'd probably be backward enough to put them toeveryday use."Although Maggie is intimidated enough to surrender the beloved quilts toDee, the mother feels a sudden surge of rebellion. Snatching the quilts fromDee, she offers her instead some of the machine-stitched ones, which Deedoes not want. Dee turns to leave and in parting tells Maggie, "It's reallya new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live you'd never knowit." Maggie and her mother spend the rest of the evening sitting in theyard, dipping snuff and "just enjoying."Themes and MeaningsThe central theme of the story concerns the way in which an individualunderstands his...

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