What is the plot complication of "Everyday Use"?

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lorrainecaplan's profile pic

Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The conflict in "Everyday Use" arises out of the different attitudes and values of the two sisters in the story, Maggie and Dee.  This conflict is borne out in a dispute over household objects, for example, a butter churn and a quilt.  Dee, having left home, has returned to take such objects for display at her home, while Maggie (and the mother) find value in the "everyday use" of such objects.  The importance of these objects for Dee is in their symbolic and decorative evidence of her African-American heritage, but she has no interest in them as useful objects.  For Maggie and the mother, a butter churn is meant to churn butter, not to be on display, and the quilt is meant to provide warmth as a bed cover.

These different attitudes and values represent differing views on one's culture.  This is an important theme for African-Americans, whose culture was largely ripped from them because of slavery.  But it is also an important theme in general in the United States because we are a nation of immigrants.  To what degree is a "mother" culture something that is part of our everyday lives and to what degree is that culture used only as display?

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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The plot complication of "Everyday Use" is 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 given to her so she could display them as prized possessions and not put them 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.