Everyday Use | Study Guide

Alice Walker

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Course Hero. "Everyday Use Study Guide." February 9, 2017. Accessed September 28, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Everyday-Use/.


Course Hero, "Everyday Use Study Guide," February 9, 2017, accessed September 28, 2023, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Everyday-Use/.

Everyday Use | Quotes


Maggie ... will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars.


Mama describes Maggie's attitude and how she came to be so shy. She is reluctant to be seen by or interact with others because of the disfiguring burns on her hands, arms, and legs.


No doubt when Dee sees it she will want to tear it down.


Dee hated their former house and watched with intensity as it burned down. Mama assumes Dee will hate their new house, too, which is equally poor and rundown. Dee wants a finer life for herself, and the houses represent the poverty she hated desperately and from which she has successfully escaped.


In real life I am a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands.


Mama's description of herself shows a strong, hard-working woman as capable as a man when it comes to heavy labor. She is proud of this strength and the things she can do. Her description is straightforward and without affectation.


I am the way my daughter would want me to be.


Mama describes a dream in which she appears on television with Dee. In her dream she is much thinner, with lighter skin and glistening hair. She believes this is how Dee would like her to look, more fashionable and more attractive than her own plain, plump appearance. Mama admires Dee and is aware that Dee, with her well-cultivated sense of fashion and style, would look down on Mama's unfashionable appearance in front of a television audience.


She knows she is not bright. Like good looks and money, quickness passed her by.


Mama candidly discusses Maggie's shortcomings, which contribute to her shyness and low self-esteem. In comparison to Dee's good looks, intelligence, and success, Maggie seems all the more pathetic. Mama is realistic about Maggie and doesn't have false hopes for her future.


She used to read to us without pity; forcing words, lies ... whole lives upon us two.


Mama tells of Dee's reading to her and Maggie what she learned in school. Dee may have been trying to educate them, or she may have been showing off her intelligence. Either way, the reading was too much and not welcomed by Mama and Maggie, content with their simple life and not interested in changing the way they live. Nor is either one interested in being more educated, even though Mama regrets having had to stop school in second grade.


Don't ask me why: in 1927 colored asked fewer questions than they do now.


Mama tells how her school closed down when she was in second grade, preventing her from furthering her education. Her statement shows how attitudes have changed since 1927; the term colored, for example, was commonly used then. The implication is African Americans living in the time the story takes place are less accepting and question the status quo, an allusion to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Dee and Hakim-a-barber show the influence of this movement in their actions and attitudes.


A dress down to the ground ... so loud it hurts my eyes.


Mama describes Dee's garb, a brightly colored African dress that is far too long for the hot weather. The dress is impractical, but it suits Dee's attitude. The dress is loud and bold, like Dee, and is her way of proudly proclaiming her African heritage. That the dress hurts Mama's eyes implies Dee's new identity (and her rejection of her family heritage) pains Mama.


I can use the churn top as a centerpiece for the alcove table.


Dee takes pieces from the butter churn, even though it is still in use, to decorate her house. These items currently see "everyday use," but for Dee they are merely pieces of art, or artifacts that prove her heritage.


Maggie can't appreciate these quilts! She'd probably ... put them to everyday use.


Dee criticizes her sister's intelligence, calling her "backward" and saying Maggie doesn't know any better than to use the "priceless" quilts. In Dee's opinion the quilts should be preserved instead of being used as they were meant to be. Maggie would not only use the quilts but would also appreciate them because she is able to make them herself.


You just will not understand. The point is these quilts, these quilts.


Dee is frustrated with her mother because Mama does not understand her point of view. Dee fails to see she herself is not understanding how Mama and Maggie feel about the quilts. They honor and remember family members by using the quilts in everyday life, whereas Dee simply wants to display them as artistic possessions.


She can have them, Mama.


Although Maggie has been promised the prized quilts, she realizes she does not need them to remember her grandmother. She generously offers to give the quilts to Dee, relinquishing something she wants in order to please her sister.

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