What effect do you think Mama wants the way she handles the quilt conflict to have on Maggie in "Everyday Use"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

By insisting that Maggie keep the hand-stitched quilts, Mrs. Johnson reassures her daughter that she recognizes and approves of Maggie's family values and her personal desires; moreover, through her actions, Mama affirms her strong love for Maggie before her other daughter, who always has had the advantages.

After the initial shock of seeing her daughter's strange hairdo, her gaudy dress, and her radical male companion, Mrs. Johnson is amazed at the change in Dee's attitude toward some of the things handed down through the generations such as the butter churn and the two quilts that were hand-stitched. Then, when she realizes that Dee/Wangero wishes to put these family items, especially the quilts, on display as curious items made by poor African-Americans, she reacts, especially after Maggie surrenders to her sister and says, "She can have them, Mama." Mama narrates,

When I looked at her like that something hit me in the top of my head and ran down to the soles of my feet....I did something I never had done before: hugged Maggie to me...snatched the quilts out of Miss Wangero's hands and dumped them into Maggie's lap.

Affronted by her daughter's disrespect for her family that these items handled with love for many hours by generations should be treated as mere exhibits in a house, Mrs. Johnson denies Dee the opportunity to insult the memory of family and, instead, hands them to Maggie, who respects her grandparents' memory.