In "Everyday Use," what things did the characters find important or worthwhile? Why were those items important to them?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the story, both Maggie and Dee desired two family heirloom quilts for themselves, but they have very different reasons for wanting them.

The quilts contained pieces of clothing worn by relatives all the way back to the Civil War. To Dee, these hand-stitched quilts represent a priceless artistry that is worthy of preservation, and she feels she is the best person to showcase the quilts to their glory.

Maggie was promised the quilts by Mama as a wedding gift. To Maggie, the quilts represent her mother's love and her memories of her grandmother. Unlike Dee, Maggie appreciates the quilts for their sentimental value. Dee finds the quilts worthwhile for a different reason. To Dee, the history of her family's struggles for equality and autonomy (as evidenced by the small piece of Great-Grandpa Ezra's Civil War uniform on the quilt) was secondary to her need to highlight her sophisticated tastes.

Similarly, Dee's fascination with the churn top and the dasher demonstrates her self-absorption. She viewed these two items as valuable from an artistic perspective, not a sentimental or historic one. On the other hand, both Maggie and Mama hold the same views in regard to the items, particularly the quilts.

While Dee imagines Maggie is "backward enough to put them to everyday use," Maggie knows the quilts are more than just artistic showpieces. Because of her own physical suffering, Maggie can appreciate the historical sacrifices and trials African-Americans have had to endure on the road to freedom. This is why she initially consented for Dee to take the quilts. Her words "I can 'member Grandma Dee without the quilts" demonstrate her introspective nature, one which places more emphasis on authenticity than superficiality.