Mama and Maggie’s house works in “Everyday Use” to represent both the comfort of their family heritage and the trauma built into that history. The house is beloved by Mama and Maggie, who treasure its resemblance to the house that came before it, a family dwelling passed down through generations. Dee, on the other hand, loathed the old house as a child. But while the house represents a family’s history that Mama and Maggie cherish and Dee wants to forget, it also contains a history of trauma. Aside from the family’s own history of slavery and oppression, their house’s predecessor burned down and scarred Maggie’s face, leaving Mama and Maggie to relive this experience whenever they note the house’s similarity to the one that came before it. The house, therefore, shows the complexity of navigating a family history that is both full of love and full of pain.
The House Quotes in Everyday Use
How long ago was it the house burned? Ten, twelve years? Sometimes I can still hear the flames and feel Maggie’s arms sticking to me, her hair smoking and her dress falling off her in little black papery flakes. Her eyes seemed stretched open, blazed open by the flames reflected in them. And Dee…Why don’t you dance around the ashes? I’d wanted to ask her. She had hated that house so much.
She stoops down quickly and lines up picture after picture of me sitting there in front of the house with Maggie cowering behind me. She never takes a shot without making sure the house is included. When a cow comes nibbling around the edge of the yard she snaps it and me and Maggie and the house.