Everyday Use

by: Alice Walker

Maggie

Nervous and maladjusted, Maggie is a figure of purity, uncorrupted by selfishness or complex emotional needs. Severely burned in a house fire when she was a child, her scarred, ugly appearance hides her sympathetic, generous nature. She lives at home and is protected by Mama, remaining virtually untouched by the outside world. As much as her homebound isolation protects her, she is also a victim of this seclusion: she suffers from a crippling shyness and lack of education. Maggie moves with a meek, shuffling gait and hovers awkwardly in doorways rather than getting involved in life around her. Although Mama mentions that Maggie is going to marry John Thomas, it is doubtful that even a marriage will help Maggie become a strong and clearly defined individual. Mama, protective as she is of Maggie, is frank about her shortcomings and problems.

Maggie’s relationship with Dee is rife with jealousy and awe. Mama recalls how Maggie had always thought Dee had been gifted with an easy life in which her hopes and desires were rarely, if ever, frustrated. Maggie seems to have taken both sisters’ difficulties onto her own shoulders, and although she never says explicitly that she finds it unfair, she clearly thinks so. The only time Maggie reveals the extent of her innermost desires is when Dee attempts to take the quilts that Mama had promised to Maggie. Maggie drops plates in the kitchen and then slams the door, outraged. Later, although she tries to win Dee’s favor by giving up the quilts, her reluctance to do so stirs pity and anger in Mama. Maggie does have a will, and although it is buried deep inside her, it comes through when what she desires most in the world is about to be taken away.