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The title of this story, "Everday Use", by Alice Walker, like most other titles, is significant, though the significance appears only gradually. Its importance, of course, is not limited to the fact that Dee believes that Maggie will use the quilts for “everyday use”; on reflection we see the love, in daily use, between the narrator and Maggie, and we contrast it with Dee’s visit—a special occurrence—as well as with Dee’s idea that the quilts should not be put to everyday use. The real black achievement, then, is not the creation of works of art that are kept apart from daily life; rather, it is the everyday craftsmanship and the everyday love shared by people who cherish and sustain each other.
That Dee stands apart from this achievement is clear (at least on rereading) from the first paragraph, and her pretensions are suggested as early as the fourth paragraph, where we are told that she thinks “orchids are tacky flowers.” (Notice that in the fifth paragraph, when the narrator is imagining herself as Dee would like her to be on a television show, she has glistening hair—presumably because the hair has been straightened—and she appears thinner and lighter-skinned than in fact she is.) Her lack of any real connection with her heritage is made explicit (even before the nonsense about using the churn top as a centerpiece) as early as the paragraph in which she asks if Uncle Buddy whittled the dasher, and Maggie quietly says that Henry whittled it. Still,
Dee is confident that she can “think of something artistic to do with the dasher.” Soon we learn that she sees the quilts not as useful objects but only as decorative works; Maggie, on the other hand, will use the quilts, and she even knows how to make them. Dee talks about black “heritage,” but Maggie and the narrator embody this heritage and experience a degree of contentment that eludes Dee.
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