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The motif of quilting is one that carries much significance in "Everyday Use"; for, the piecing together of scraps of material that bear the history of family member's lives continues their memory. And, what one does with these quilts defines a family's true heritage. While Dee wishes to put thses quilts on display as an artifact of times past, Maggie desires to use them for what they are--simple blankets. She appreciates the time-taking efforts of her grandmother and others who have placed these pieces into the quilt as the formation of a quilt suggests the strength to be found in connecting with one's roots and one's past.
In both of them were scraps of dresses Grandma Dee had worn fifty and more years ago. Bits and pieces of Grandpa Jarrell's paisley shirts. And one teeny faded blue piece about the size of penny matchbox, that was from Great Grandpa Ezra's uniform that he wore in the Civil War.
The quilts that the mother takes from Dee's hands and returns to Maggie symbolize the conflict of tradition and progress. While Dee suggests that putting the quilts to "everyday use" is backward, the mother returns the quilts to Maggie because "Maggie knows how to quilt"; that is, Maggie knows how to appreciate the pieces of their lives and has not abandoned them for some faddish way of life as has Dee. Having been offered these quilts before when she went off to college, Dee rejected them; now, however, she wishes to have them as an artifact and place them in a frame. This type of frame is in sharp contrast to the frame in which the quilt was formed as the mother and grandmother and others pieced it together.
''quilts are designed for everyday use, pieced wholes defying symmetry and pattern,... signs of the sacred generations of women who have always been alien to a world of literate words and stylish fancy" (Baker and Pierce-Baker)
The two quilts that Dee wants are pieces of her ancestors lives, "the sacred generations of women" of whom, her mother realizes, Maggie is, indeed, a part.
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