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Child Roles in Everyday Use: For Your Grandma

Essay by review  •  December 10, 2010  •  Essay  •  462 Words (2 Pages)  •  892 Views

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The differences in the role of child are expressed in the short story, "Everyday Use: For Your Grandma" by Alice Walker. Dee, the older daughter, represents a materialistic and modern way of life where culture and heritage are valued only for their trendiness. Raised by her mother in a traditional and simple manner, Maggie is a docile and weak girl. Her character serves the purpose of presenting the distinct standpoints towards culture between her and her sister.

The role distinctions are found in the physical descriptions of the characters. Maggie is shy and scared and remains by her mother's side as an obedient shadow. She is not physically attractive or stylish. Her body is covered with scars and her walking is described as that of "...a lame animal, perhaps a dog..." (72). However, by helping her mother in their daily life, she becomes accustomed to using old hand-made tools from her ancestors and therefore learns their history and is more appreciative. Whether in beauty, life, or education, Maggie has always come second to her flamboyant and excessive sister, Dee. Dee, on the other hand, is described as light skinned, with nice hair, and a full figure. Being the only person in the family who attended college she is still narrow minded and materialistic. She gives the impression that she always had to have nice things. "A yellow organdy dress to wear to her pumps to match a green suit..." (72)

The variations and distinctions between the roles that Maggie and Dee play are centered on their understandings of culture and heritage. When Dee returns home to visit her family, she shows that her conception of culture lies in tangible things that show her heritage. An example of this conflict deals with the quilts made by Grandma Dee. Maggie plays the role of a more mature individual at this point even though she is much younger than Dee. When Mrs. Johnson, referred to as "mama", moves to get the quilts back from Dee, she moves back just far enough where mama couldn't touch them. Maggie does not become angry, as they were promised to her, instead she tells mama to give them to Dee. She realizes that she doesn't need the quilts to affirm her heritage. These differing ideas that exist regarding the quilts represent the separation of Dee from her roots. She has a new-found identity that debates how the quilts should be used. Maggie, at this point,



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