Mam is a”large, big boned woman wit rough, man working hands”, “who cankill and clean a hog as mersilessly as a man”(1). Mama, a round cahracter,lives a life that contradicts Dee’s ideas. Mama contributes it mostly to her andMaggie’s lack of academis intelligence. She usually allows Dee to receive whatshe wants because of this difference.
By the end of this short story, Mama putsher foot down. Mama describes Maggied, a dynamic character, with a tone of pity. “She knows she is not bright. Like good looks and money, quickness passedher buy”(3).
Maaggies is accustomed to being pushed aside. Maggie ischaracterized in this story by her actions rather than her words. Her sullenattitude is seen in her mother’s descripion of her simply walking. “Haveyou ever seen a lame animal, perhaps a dog, run over soem careless person, sidleup to someone who is ingorant enough to be kind to them?”(2).
Dee seems tobe the cause of her angst. Near the conclusion, Maggie’s sullen attitude isahnged when her mother refuses to allow her to be pushed aside by Dee. “Maggie smiled. .
. But a real smile not scared”(7). Dee felt she wasdifferent from the rest of her family. She was the olly one to attend college. She favors what was popularized by the world outside of her home.
“Deewanted nice things. . . at sixteen she had a style of her own”(2).
Hermother “offered her a qulit when she went away for college. She told methey were old fashioned, out of style”(6). She is a static character. Shereturns home unahnged, not willing to understand another point of view, butwanting her family to change and bend to her ideas even after the short storyconcludes.
Symbolism, the association of a meaning or theme to an item, is usedin this novel to give ther reader a greater understanding of each charactersinner thoughts. Walker linked these characters with tow main contextual symbols:the house and the two quilts. As the house burns, each character’s positionaround the house directly related to how they feel about their familybackground. Maggie felt that the house was a part of her For Maggie, the househeld memories of her and her family. As her dress fell off “her in littleblack papery flakes” in the fire, parts of her were lost with the house(2).
Dee, on the other hand, was far from the ho;use, steadily concentrating on theburning house until it was completely destroyed. Dee did not desire to beassociated with her family, like she did not want to be associated with thehouse. Both were slow to change and confirm to the actions of the world outsideof her family’s own tight circle. The quilts had a similar meaning but meantsomething different for Maggie and Dee.
For Maggie, the quilt was a link to hergrandmother and her family’s past. Dee saw the quilt only as art that wastemporily valuable. Like the house, the quilt represented a family’s heritage. Dee’s visit set the stage for many ironic statements. Irony or contradictionsbetween ideas and reality, can be seen in what Dee would like her family to beand what really is.
Waiting for Dee’s arrival, her mother co;ntemplates thatdifference: “In real life,I am a large, big boned woman, with man workinghands. . . But of course all this does not show on television. I am the way mydaughter wants me to be, a hundred pounds lighter, my skin like and uncookedbarely pancake. My hair glistens in the hot, bright lights”(2).
Iron isalso seen when Dee announces her death and new lifestyle, but still atechitterlings an other foods her mother cooked. In her new life these foods areforbidden to eat, which Dee does not seem to acknowledge. Walker uses this ironyto show how artificial and temporary Dee’s interest in her heritage is. Dee’slsat statements demostrated Walker’s use of verbal irony: “You just don’tunderstand.
. . Your heritage”(7). In actualitiy, she was the one who knewnothing about her heritage. Home holds one’s history and heritage. Like a tree,stronger are one’s roots that run deep or know where one comes from.
As Walkerdisplays in this short story, you can be lost if home is just put behind you. Itis an important part of one’s life.