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What is the meaning of the title "Everyday Use"?

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markwel | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 18, 2010 at 1:13 PM via web

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What is the meaning of the title "Everyday Use"?

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epollock | Valedictorian

Posted April 18, 2010 at 1:15 PM (Answer #1)

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The phrase "everyday use" crystallizes the conflict in the story and governs the structure. As the action develops we see the contrasting values of the two sisters. Dee rejects the past and is creating a new identity for herself. Maggie simply takes the past for granted and also accepts her role in the movement from past to present to future. These two movements of values intersect at the quilt and what is to be done with it. Should it be hung on a wall for display, or should it be put to "everyday use"? Though the story exposes Dee’s pretentiousness, it would seem to be suggesting a compromise. The African-American heritage is alive and present; creative people cannot build the future if they reject the past, for they can develop only if they accept it first and recognize their part in it. In short, people like Dee should put the past to work as a part of their continuing, living consciousness.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 18, 2010 at 1:19 PM (Answer #2)

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The title refers to the quilts but more metaphorically, to the basic conflict in the story.

Literally, the phrase "everyday use" refers to the way in which the mother wants the quilts to be used.  She sees the quilts as useful objects, rather than as heirlooms to be hung up and looked at.

The title also refers to the general conflict that is going on in the story.  It refers to the conflict between the old-fashioned "everyday" type of people like the mother and people like Wangero who has all these new ideas.  The everyday people are down to earth and practical, the others are more interested in ideas and philosophical statements.

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