Term paper on Analysis of "Everyday Use"

Essay by Bubbles3kHigh School, 12th gradeA+, May 2002

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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 rugged

farming life in the country and now lives in a small, tin-roofed house

surrounded by a clay yard in the middle of a cow pasture. She anticipates

that soon her daughter Maggie will be married and she will be living

peacefully 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 are

actually 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; her

mother imagines being reunited with her on a television show such as "This

Is Your Life," where the celebrity guest is confronted with her humble

origins. Maggie, who is not bright and who bears severe burn scars from a

house fire many years before, is even more intimidated by her glamorous


To her mother's surprise, Dee arrives wearing an ankle-length, gold and

orange dress, jangling golden earrings and bracelets, and hair that "stands

straight up like the wool on a sheep." She greets them with an African

salutation, while her companion offers a Muslim greeting and tries to give

Maggie a ceremonial handshake that she does not understand. Moreover, Dee

says that she has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, because "I

couldn't bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me."

Dee's friend has an unpronounceable name, which the mother finally reduces

to "Hakim-a-barber." As a Muslim, he will not eat the pork that she has

prepared for their meal.

Whereas Dee had been scornful...