In "Everyday Use," how much truth is there in Dee's accusation that her mother and sister don't understand their heritage?
None at all! This is a highly ironic comment coming from Dee, because she shows in her demanding of the quilts that she has no idea whatsoever of her heritage and the true meaning of the quilts, as Mama and Maggie understand them. Note how Mama describes how the quilts had been lovingly sewn together using bits of old clothes from her descendants. They represent far more than just a lovely beautiful quilt to hang up - they are a piece of living history of Mama's family. Dee clearly shows a complete lack of understanding of the heritage of her family - she has turned her back on her heritage by her name change and her embracing of her African roots.
I think Maggie and Mama understand their heritage far better than Dee could ever imagine. When Dee talks about "heritage," she means the pop culture trend of "shabby chic" or "primitive art." She wears her long dress and beads and changes her name in an attempt to get back to her African roots. But all she knows about Africa is what she has read in magazines or seen on TV or heard from other people. Her real heritage is the people who used the churn and who wore the clothes that have been made into quilts. To Mama and Maggie, each scrap of fabric in each quilt holds a memory of the person who once wore it. To Dee, they only represent status and artistic flair.
Great discussion board question!
Personally, I don't think that there is any truth in Dee's accusation that Maggie and Mama do not understand their heritage. The both of them use their heritage everyday, including the quilts, the bench they sit on, the butter churn they use, etc. Mama and Maggie also know their genealogy much better than Dee does, apparently. Maggie and Mama's sense of heritage is rooted much more in reality and not in trend or fad, which is what Dee's heritage is rooted in:
...the story suggests that Maggie's elephant-like memory for her loved ones and her appreciation for their handiwork is a more genuine way to celebrate their heritage than Dee's "artistic" interests in removing these ordinary objects and exalting them as examples of their African roots.