These mothers are somehow estranged with their daughters and disappointed by how they have grown up. Secondly, unbeknown to these mothers, they play a significant role in their children’s becoming. It shows clearly in the manner they care for and love their daughters, which, though done in good faith, have caused them to behave differently instead. Dee, Emily and the girl in the poem may have just been products of the way their mothers have treated them.
Mama, the narrator in “Everyday Use,” is particularly troubled over her eldest daughter’s behavior. Comparing her two daughters, she finds her traditional ways and principles as part of the rift between her and Dee, who is more flashy, modern, materialistic and confident. Mama “often … fought off the temptation to shake her” (Walker, 1973, p. 745). Her other daughter Maggie is homely, biddable, compassionate and “used to never winning anything, or having anything reserved for her” (Walker, 1973, p. 745). Yet as a woman making ends meet for both daughters, even so far as doing strenuous manly activities, Maggie’s everyday presence matters more to her than Dee’s capable but absent self. In fact, between the two, only Dee has gone to college while Maggie stays home. Indeed, there is a measure of estrangement between Mama and Dee. This particular passage speaks of how much Mama is estranged from her eldest daughter:
Sometimes I dream a dream in which Dee and I are suddenly brought together on a TV program of this sort … Then we are on the stage and Dee is embracing me with tears in her eyes. She pins on my dress a large orchid, even though she has told me once that she thinks orchids are tacky flowers. (Walker, 1973, pp. 743-744)
Certain passages in the short story also prove how although she has an affection for the elder Dee, she is disappointed in her ways and her views in life. When Mama refuses to give Dee the quilts, she looks at her “with hatred,” saying, "You just