Alice Walker

Switching Roles

In the story “Everyday Use,” intimacy was created between Mama and Dee through what I believe is the simple fact Mama always let Dee have her way and she never brought Dee on the level of her and Maggie. In the past Dee was the one who use to read to both Mama and Maggie and tried to educate them. Although as a mother this may have been a sense of role switching she allowed Dee to do it. Dee is allowed to have her own style and able to go to school. Even when the story begins Mama begins letting Dee have her way. She is willing to call Dee by her new name Wangero even though she is not a big fan of it. This seems to always have been the root of the relationship the two have.

The tensions or a divisive force that try to pull Mama and Dee apart is Dee’s new identity. Looking back in the story one can see how Dee has always placed herself above the level of Mama and Maggie, but now that she is returning with this new identity it is truly a strain on their relationship. Beginning with Mama thinking Dee’s attire and the way she carried herself on this visit. One of the greatest forces that pull them apart is Dee’s name change from Dee to Wangero. This is a slap in Mama’s face because she explains to Dee how much thought she put in naming her and it was her grandmother’s name, then her aunts, not a name after people who oppressed her. Another thing that divides them is Dee’s education. Mama’s education stopped after the second grade and Dee surpassed her mother. This places Dee on a level above her mother because of higher education and the confidence she has to think and say whatever she would like.     

The power balance in the relationship of Mama and Dee is the fact that Mama has this dream or vision of being reunited with Dee on a television show and on the show Dee shows appreciation for all Mama has done. Mama wants a relationship with Dee and wants her to be grateful for her even at the level of education she has and the little she was able to give her. Her desire for this relationship and wanting the best for Dee is why Dee is the way she is today and why she has a sort of jealousy towards Dee. Mama wanting the best for Dee and not making her accountable for her attitude in the pass is the product of the relationship they have today. Dee is use to getting her way with Mama because Mama has had it this way for years. Although Mama may have thought she was right in the past giving Dee everything she wants will benefit her in the future and help their relationship, it has ultimately placed the control of the relationship in Dee’s hands. 

The triple pattern of conflict, disaster and liberation that I see happening in this mother daughter relationship is ultimately Dee wanting the quilts.  The epiphany that results from the crisis is when Mama has an epiphany; in the story Mama says she felt something hit her on top of her head and that the feeling felt like the holy spirit falling upon her in church. At this moment Mama finally stands up for Maggie and nurtures her in a way she never did before. Mama did this and had this epiphany from seeing Maggie defeated and seeing the fear she had towards Dee. In this moment it is as if her eyes were now opened for the first time.    

In conclusion, in Dee and Mama’ relationship I see the transformation within their relationship productive because for now on Mama will no longer let Dee be the dictator of their relationship or how she and Maggie feel about the way they are. Her finally standing up for Maggie and herself will help her relationship with Dee in the long run by forcing Dee to respect her as the mother no matter how low her education his compared to Dee’s.