Which character gains the most in the story "Everyday Use"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Everyday Use," from one perspective, Mrs. Johnson gains the most from the experience of Dee's visit. For in the end, Mrs. Johnson wins the gratitude of her daughter Maggie and her devotion to her mother who has shown her that she is, indeed, of value to her. She is also richer for her act of giving the quilts to Maggie in a display of her love as she and Maggie become closer.

At first, the mother has certain expectations before her college-educated daughter arrives, hoping their meeting might be like one of those television programs in which a mother is reunited with a daughter who embraces her with loving tears. But, when Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo arrives, Mrs. Johnson is greatly disappointed in her daughter's refusal to use her given name, her appearance and attitude about her race, as well as her rejection of the family traditions.

Clearly, Wangero's perspective and that of her mother and Maggie is at odds. When Wangero asks for certain family "heirlooms" to put upon display, Mrs. Johnson tries to persuade her daughter into taking others that were sewn by family members, Wangero insists upon the ones sewn by hand by Grandma. Mrs. Johnson tells her daughter,

"The truth is,...I promised to give them quilts to Maggie, for when she marries John Thomas.

"Maggie can appreciate these quilts!" she said. "She'd probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use."

Mrs. Johnson refrains from telling Wangero how she had offered her daughter a quilt when the girl was in college, but it was refused because it was "old-fashioned, out of style." Then, when she hears her daughter say that she would hang the quilts on display as though this were the only thing to do with them, and her humble daughter Maggie says that her sister can have them. "I can remember Grandma Dee without them," Mrs. Johnson is struck to the heart: "...something hit me in the top of my head and ran down to the bottom of my feet." 

This sudden realization of the soul and heart that Maggie possesses causes Mrs. Johnson to quickly hug Maggie to her, pull her into the other room, and deposit the quilts in her arms as the young woman stands amazed at this recognition of her value. This action causes Wangero to depart in anger. 

After we watched the car dust settle I asked Maggie to bring me a dip of snuff. And then the two of us sat there just enjoying, until it was time to go in the house and go to bed.

Indeed, Mrs. Johnson is richer for having arrived at a deeper devotion for her daughter, with whom she shares the same values of family and tradition.