“Everyday Use” and “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been”
“Everyday Use” and “Where are you going, Where have you been” are two excellent short stories. These two short stories are about two different families who have a few similarities and differences. After all, people are only human, with feelings and emotions. Sometimes; however, we could only wonder why people act the way they do, or treat their family members in particular ways.
The mother in “Everyday Use” is a nice loving mom who is very pleasant, thoughtful, and caring. The mother in this story went by the name of Mama. Mama cares and loves her two daughters whose names were Dee a Maggie. Mama made sure that neither one of her daughters feelings would get hurt and that both of her girls would be treated equally and fair. Mama is very old fashioned and plain. She wears flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls during the day. Mama is a big-boned lady with rough, man-working hands. Mama works just as hard as a man, if not harder. She is so strong. This lady kills animals for food with her bare hands. I can kill a hog as mercilessly as a man. (Walker-107)
Dee seems to be selfish and materialistic at times. This girl only cares about her own feelings. When Dee was growing up, she never brought friends over the house because she was embarrassed and ashamed of her sister Maggie who had many scares all over her face and body from a house fire. She wrote me once that no matter where we “choose” to live, she will manage to come see us. But she will never bring her friends. Maggie and I thought about this and Maggie asked me, “Mama, when did Dee ever have any friends?” (Walker-109) One day, when Dee came over to visit Mama and Maggie, she walked around her mother’s house to see what she could take home with her. Dee asked for several items, but when she asked for some quilts that Mama had already promised Maggie, Maggie became very upset. “Can I have these old quilts?” I heard something fall in the kitchen, and a minute later the kitchen door slammed. (Walker-111) Poor little Maggie feels like her sister is better than she is because she is prettier and always wins everything.
Connie’s sister June is a twenty four year old lady who still lives at home with her parents. June does not care about the way she looks, and she never worries about material things. June is just a straight up plain Jane. June never worries about brushing her hair or spraying her hair with hairspray. June just doesn’t care about her appearance at all. She dresses old fashioned like her mother and does not even worry about boys or having a boyfriend
Connie has a nervous problem and complex about her appearance. This insecure fifteen year old girl has a very bad habit of craning her neck back and looking into mirrors and checking people’s faces to make sure hers is okay. Connie is also constantly combing her hair looking into mirrors making sure she looks perfect.
In contrast with “Everyday Use,” “Where are you going, Where have you been” has a very different kind of mother. This mother had two daughters whose names were Connie and June but she does not treat her daughter’s fairy. This mother is not nice and pleasant all the time. She would say rotten things to Connie that really hurt her feelings. The mother would tell Connie why can’t she be more like her sister June. “Why don’t you keep your room clean like your sister? How’ve you got your hair fixed-what the hell stinks? Hair spray? You don’t see your sister using that junk.” (Oates-153) This jealous mother would always yell at Connie for looking in the mirror or fixing her hair because she was once beautiful too and now her looks were gone, so she had no reason to look into mirrors any longer. This is one of the reasons why she would get on her daughters case about being more like her sister. The same as Mama, this mother is very plain. She does not worry about her looks anymore because she lost her looks. This mother is just a hypocrite because when she was younger she was just like her daughter Connie. Now that her looks are gone she turned into a jealous mother. Connie’s mom never let her go out anywhere alone. If Connie wanted to go out she would have to lie to her mother at times. However, Connie would feel bad at times for lying. The only time Connie’s mom would let her go out is if Connie said she was going out with her sister June or with one of her good friends that was just as plain as her sister.
Like Dee, Connie also seems to be selfish and materialistic at times too. This young lady wears her clothes one way at home and as soon as she leaves wears her clothes another way trying to act older and she tries to get boys attention. She wore a pull-over jersey blouse that looked one way when she was at home and another way when she was away from home. Everything about her had two sides to it, one way for home and one for anywhere that was not home: her walk, which could be childlike and bobbing, or languid enough to make anyone think she was hearing music in her head. (Oates-153) Connie is looking for attention from boys. Connie is curious about her sexuality because of the way she tries to hang around with the older kids and the way she changes her style of clothing, her walk, and she puts on bright pink lip stick every time she leaves the house.
Connie’s sister June may live at home, but Maggie’s sister Dee lives by herself. Mama sent Dee off to school far away to the city to get educated. This could be one of the reasons why now, Dee is very materialistic and likes everything new, modern, and up to date. Dee loves dressing her best and looking fancy. Dee wants the best clothes and the finest things in life. Dee tries to be prim and proper. Sometimes Dee thinks she is so perfect that she thinks she is better than everyone else and knows more than everyone.
Maggie in contrast with Connie also has a nervous problem. The reason why Maggie has a nervous problem is because when she was a little girl she was burned in a house fire. Because this poor little innocent soul was burned in a house fire as a child, she now has an awful complex about her appearance. Maggie has burn marks all over her entire face and body that makes her feel ugly and ashamed. Maggie does not feel pretty at all compared to her beautifully educated sister Dee. Every time Maggie’s sister Dee comes over to visit, Maggie stands in corners hopelessly homely and ashamed of the burn scars all over her face and body.
As we read over these two short stories about two different families, we would like to think that they are polar opposites, yet they are two very similar families. After all, all families are a mixture of different types of Homo sapiens, and these types of human beings are not perfect. After all, people are just people, and no one has ever been perfect.