The title of Alice Walker's short story, "Everyday Use," suggests the tension that develops over quilts that have been in the family of Maggie, Dee, and her mother. For, in the narrative there is a family reunion that produces a conflict between two definitions of family heirlooms, quilts made of patches that contain their heritage going back to the Civil War. While Dee, who has changed her name to ''Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo," desires to take the quilts sewn by her great-grandmother and grandmother in order to display them, the mother has promised them to Maggie as a wedding present. Dee argues with "Mama" that she should have them rather than Maggie:
"Maggie can't appreciate these quilts!....She'd probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use."
The mother tells Dee that she hopes Maggie will, indeed, use them, omitting that she had offered these quilts to Dee while she was at college, but Dee refused, calling them old-fashioned. Clearly, the mother questions the honesty of the new Black Nationalistic posture of Wangero; she would rather have the quilts used in the traditional manner by Maggie rather than being put on display.
Relvoing around a family conflict triggered by a proud, confident character Dee's desire to obtain her personal and cultural heritage but inability to appreciate genuine identity of other characters, her mother and very disparate sister, Maggie, "Everyday Use" underscores a generation gap and a contrast between two distinctively different attitudes toward heritage. Although Maggie and their mother do not attempt to understand their cultural heritiage intellectually, they know and can feel it everyday by simply living their cultural heritage, maintained int he form of family relics: the quilt.