In the story “Everyday Use,” by Alice Walker, the plot is greatly influenced by Maggie and Dee, the two daughters of the narrator. Although they are sisters and are raised in the same environment, Maggie and Dee are very different from each other; they think and act distinctly. Moreover, their conflicting characters serve as symbols to convey the overall theme of the story.
From the beginning, the narrator reveals the differences in the characters of Maggie and Dee. Therefore, it is very difficult to pinpoint similarities between the two. Notwithstanding, one similarity between the two daughters is that they both want to make their mother proud. Also, they both now appreciate their background and their roots and want to hold on to them. Apart from these similarities, it is hard to uncover any likeness between these two sisters. Clearly each sister is not representative of the other one.
As the story unfolds, the differences between Maggie and Dee mount up. Although they both want to make their mother proud and are now appreciative of their background, they both have a different approach to each. Maggie accepts her future; she knows she will marry John Thomas and live in a humble setting. On the contrary, Dee wants to get an education, to make a good living, and to rise to a position better than the one of her birth. Maggie submerges herself in her background; she lives with her mother and learns the traditions of her ancestors, such as quilting. Dee learns about her roots through roots and sees them with a detached form of admiration. In fact, she is so detached from her roots that she feels the need to change her name to “Wangero”, a name derived from a heritage other than her own. Perhaps Dee feels ashamed of her former name, feels she deserves a better name, or just wants to experience something else. She appreciates her roots, but she does not sense them within her. Such differences in thought and action can be accredited to the different personalities of the two girls. Maggie is shy and quiet. She will not fight or cause trouble; therefore, she can be labeled as a conformist. On the other hand, Dee is very extroverted and curious. She wants to excel in everything and experience different things; therefore, she can be labeled as a non-conformist. Indeed, Maggie and Dee have different characters and hold opposing views, mostly because of their different personalities.
Holding a clear distinction between Maggie and Dee, the narrator appreciates each girl’s strengths and weaknesses. The narrator feels very strongly about the two because each daughter represents a part of the narrator. Although the narrator can be more easily identified with Maggie, the character of Dee lives within the narrator. It lives in the form of the dreams and aspirations the narrator once has, which now belongs to Dee. The narrator is happy that her daughter has succeeded because it means the narrator has also succeeded. However, in the instance of the quilts, the narrator is forced to back Maggie. Dee’s attack upon Maggie is an attack upon the narrator, too. Dee’s questioning of Maggie’s use of the quilts goes back to the elemental difference between the two sisters. By Maggie’s putting the quilts to everyday use, she will be submerging herself in her roots. Dee will just hang the quilts somewhere to decorate a space. She will see them and share them with anyone else that sees them, but she will never experience them fully. Because the narrator feels attacked by Dee, a part of the narrator’s own self, the narrator defends her other self, or Maggie. It is a personal conflict that the narrator has probably experienced before internally, but now this conflict surfaces between her two daughters. Still, the narrator accepts the differences between Maggie and Dee because both girls are deviations of the same strong woman they can eventually become.
In conclusion, the characters of Maggie and Dee show more differences than they do similarities. Even the beliefs and the desires they hold in common are expressed and executed differently. Although such differences in character can serve to create conflict, they can also serve to demonstrate both Maggie and Dee’s drive to achieve their dreams.