Everyday Use

The House Symbol Analysis

The House Symbol Icon

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

The Everyday Use quotes below all refer to the symbol of The House. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Heritage and the Everyday Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harcourt edition of Everyday Use published in 2001.
Everyday Use Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Mama (speaker), Dee, Maggie
Related Symbols: The House, Eye contact / Vision / Gaze
Page Number: 49-50
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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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.

Related Characters: Mama (speaker), Dee, Maggie
Related Symbols: The House
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proide

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The House Symbol Timeline in Everyday Use

The timeline below shows where the symbol The House appears in Everyday Use. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Everyday Use
Heritage and the Everyday Theme Icon
Objects, Symbolism, and Writing Theme Icon
...by saying that she is waiting for her daughter Dee in the yard of her house, which she cleaned the day before in preparation for her visit. Mama goes on to... (full context)
Heritage and the Everyday Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Objects, Symbolism, and Writing Theme Icon
Mama notes that Maggie’s submissiveness first became a problem after their old house burned down. She wonders how long it has been since that traumatic event. Mama then... (full context)
Education Theme Icon
But it wasn’t only the house Dee hated. Mama remembers how, as a child, Dee also hated Maggie. Once Mama and... (full context)
Heritage and the Everyday Theme Icon
Objects, Symbolism, and Writing Theme Icon
Mama turns her back on the house, remarking on its similarity to the house that came before it— the house that burned... (full context)
Objects, Symbolism, and Writing Theme Icon
...her partner (Mama is unsure if they are married or not), Hakim-a-Barber, arrive at the house. As they pull up in their car, Maggie tries to retreat into the house, but... (full context)
Heritage and the Everyday Theme Icon
Objects, Symbolism, and Writing Theme Icon
...retrieves a camera from her car and takes pictures of Maggie and Mama with their house. She makes sure to photograph Mama and Maggie together with the house, not just the... (full context)
Heritage and the Everyday Theme Icon
Objects, Symbolism, and Writing Theme Icon
...Dee’s car pull away. Then the two of them sit in the front of the house and take snuff and until it’s time to go back into the house and go... (full context)