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Everyday Use - Maggie and Wangero Essay

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Maggie and Wangero

Everyday Use is a short story told through the eyes of a mother of two radically contrasting daughters, Maggie and Dee. Her own mother describes Maggie as “a lame animal, perhaps [like] a dog run over by some careless person” (Walker 1). Throughout the entire story, Maggie barely manages to utter a full sentence; the majority of the time resorting to elongated grunts or simply silence. Dee, now going by Wangero, is a confident, fashionable woman who is seen as something of a movie star by their mother. While Maggie still lives with their mother, Dee has gone out into the world and completely left her past behind her. Both of these characters are subjected to a variety of external and internal pressures that shaped them into two entirely different people.

Family is one of the most significant pressures in someone’s life. From the start, the mother describes Maggie as a downtrodden animal. She goes on to mention that she was caught in a fire that scarred her for life – both physically and mentally. She expects Maggie to be weak and broken from this experience, while we can see that she views Dee as strong and resilient. However, Dee did not go through such a traumatic, shaping experience. Instead, Dee was pleased that the house had burned because “she hated the house” so much that the mother thought she would want to “dance around the ashes” (Walker 2). The event that played such a destructive role in Maggie’s life was a relief to Dee.

Education is another stark experiential difference between the two women. The mother remarks that Maggie "knows she is not bright" (Walker 2). Interestingly, the mother puts a concerted effort into making sure only one of her daughters gets to receive an education, despite seeming a bit resentful of it. Dee overcame tremendous odds and managed to gain higher education, which arguably was a result of her determination and her dislike of her family as a child. This has allowed Dee to function better as a part of society and make a life of her own, while Maggie has stayed stagnant in their family home.

The pressures that defined Maggie are mainly two things: her traumatic past and her mother, because these are the only things she has known. Dee, on the other hand, was shaped by many more various external pressures. We learn that Dee had many friends who "worshipped [her] well turned phrase, [her] cute shape, and [her] scalding humor" (Walker 2). Not only that, but she also seems to have courted many men and been married at least twice, as noted in the text. Maggie, on the other hand, does not appear to have any friends besides her mother, and is arranged to "marry John Thomas" (Walker 2), a man from the same neighborhood. Dee is currently married to Asalamalakim, a man who is a bit eccentric and has adopted only pieces of culture he finds fashionable.

Arguably the most important difference



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