How are the two themes [family heritage and materalism] presented in the story Everyday Use?

Expert Answers
amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Family heritage is defined by Mama and Maggie in the learning how to do the quilting, churn the butter, and other everyday practices.  For Dee, it's hanging these items which represent the actions on a wall for all to look at.  Dee does not have the first clue how to sew, quilt, or make butter. 

Materialism is misunderstood in the same way.  Dee says the family quilts and butter churn are priceless and that they are being ruined because Maggie continues to use them...history in the making, not in the preserving.  Maggie, who has what she needs, sees Dee as materialistice dressed in her fancy clothes and talking her fancy talk with her fancy boyfriend.  Dee wants everything, has everything--but she does not have their heritage--either by possessing the items or the knowledge to produce her own.  Maggie has nothing BUT the heritage.  Even if Dee took the family quilts, Maggie alone could reproduce them.  She is the only one aside from Mama who is in touch with her heritage.


missjudithann | Student

The two themes interplay among one another. Dee (Wangero) returns to her defunct home in search of materialistic goods that will (in her eyes) preserve her family's heritage. She is under the impression that by having only these items (the quilt, the benches, the butter churn) will she be able to fully understand her cultural heritage.

However, it is evident to the reader that the other characters, Maggie and Mama, are truly aligned with their family and cultural heritage. Based on their frugal and traditional ways of life, these materialistic pieces which Dee seeks are actually only viewed as verifiably culturally apropos if they are used everyday (hence the title of the short story).