recompose: to restore to calm; to settle again
doctrine: a set of rules, beliefs, or values held by a
heritage: something passed down through
generations, such as tradition, values, and property
furtive: sneaky, secretive
The character telling
the story speaks as
though it had
happened to him or
her personally. The
narrator uses personal
pronouns such as “I,”
“me, “my, etc.
Look at Quote and assert what this quote means
about her character.
“Why don’t you take one or two of the others?” I
asked. “ These old things was just done by me
and Big Dee from some tops your grandma
pieced before she died.”(pg. 57)
“I did something I never had done before:
hugged Maggie to me, then dragger her on into
the room, snatched the quilts out of Miss
Wanger’s hands and dumped them in Maggie’s
lap.” (pg.59).
List positive and negative character traits.
Look at Quote and assert what this quote means
about her character.
“Out she peeks next with a Polaroid. She stoops
down quickly and lines up picture after picture of me
sitting there in front of the house with Maggie
cowering behind me.”(54)
“Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts!”she said.”
“She’d probably be backward enough to put them to
everyday use.” (pg.58)
“You just don’t understand,…your heritage.””It’s
really a new day for us. But from the way you and
Mama still live you’d never know it.” (pg.59)
List positive and negative character traits.
Look at Quote and assert what this quote means
about her character.
“She can have them, Mama,” she said, like
somebody used to never winning anything, or
having anything reserved for her. “pg. 59
She looked at her sister with something like fear
but she wasn’t mad at her. This was Maggie’s
portion. This was the way she knew God to
work.” pg. 59
List positive and negative character traits.
Verbal Irony: The result of a statement saying
one thing while meaning the opposite.
Look at Quote and assert what this quote means
about his character.
“He just stood there grinning, looking down on
me like somebody inspecting a Model A car.
Every once and a while he and Wangero sent eye
signals over my head.”
“I accept some of their doctrines, but farming and
raising cattle is not my style.”
List positive and negative character traits.
Push for African Americans to
get back to African roots
The Civil Rights Era: “A New
Day for Us” This story is set in
the 60’s- a time when two of the
most significant pieces of Civil
Rights regulation were passed.
The Civil Rights Act of ‘64 made
segregation in public places
illegal. The Voting Rights Act of
‘65 made certain requirements for
voting in the South, such as poll
taxes and literacy tests illegal.
During this time, many blacks
sought to establish
themselves as a visible and
unified group and take
control of how their group
was named. Black (and later
Afro-American) replaced the
term Negro, which took on
offensive associations. Many
black Americans, uninspired
by a bleak history of slavery
in North America, looked to
their African roots in an
effort to reconnect with their
Dee was fortunate that Mama gave her the opportunity
for advantages and refinements, but they have served
only to create a wedge between Dee and the rest of the
Dee uses her intellect to intimidate others, greeting her
mother with “Wa-su-zo Tean-o,” a greeting in an obscure
African language Mama most likely doesn’t speak. Dee,
with her knowledge and worldliness, is a threat to the
simple world Mama and Maggie inhabit, and Dee seems
determined to lord her knowledge over them. Even as a
child, Dee read to her mother and sister “without pity,”
“forcing” strange ideas on them and unsettling their
simple domestic contentment.
Angered by what she views as a history of
oppression in her family, Dee has
constructed a new heritage for herself
and rejected her real heritage. She fails
to see the family legacy of her given
name and takes on a new name,
Wangero, which she believes more
accurately represents her African
heritage. However, the new name, like
the “African” clothes and jewelry she
wears to make a statement, is
meaningless. She has little true
understanding of Africa, so what she
considers her true heritage is actually
empty and false. Furthermore, Dee
views her real heritage as dead,
something of the past, rather than as a
living, ongoing creation. She desires
the carved dasher and family quilts,
but she sees them as artifacts of a lost
time, suitable for display but not for
actual, practical use. She has set
herself outside her own history,
rejecting her real heritage in favor of a
constructed one.
“Everyday Use” focuses on the bonds between women of
different generations and their enduring legacy, as symbolized in
the quilts they fashion together. This connection between
generations is strong, yet Dee’s arrival and lack of understanding
of her history shows that those bonds are vulnerable as well. The
relationship between Aunt Dicie and Mama, the experienced
seamstresses who made the quilts, is very different from the
relationship between Maggie and Dee, sisters who share barely a
word and have almost nothing in common
The quilts are pieces of living history, documents in fabric that
chronicle the lives of the various generations and the trials, such
as war and poverty, that they faced. The quilts serve as a
testament to a family’s history of pride and struggle. With the
limitations that poverty and lack of education placed on her life,
Mama considers her personal history one of her few treasures.
Her house contains the handicrafts of her extended family.
Instead of receiving a financial inheritance from her ancestors,
Mama has been given the quilts.
Mama’s yard represents a private space
free of the regrets and shortcomings that
have infiltrated Mama’s life. The yard
appears in the first and last sentences of
the story, connecting the events and
bookending the action. The yard has
been meticulously prepared for Dee’s
arrival. Mama is sensitive to every detail
of the yard’s appearance, referring to the
wavy designs she and Maggie have made
in the dirt as they tidied it.
The yard is a blissful escape, a place
where Mama’s regrets can be
sidestepped. For her and Maggie, the
yard evokes safety, a place where they
can exert what little control they have
over their environment.

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