What is the main conflict in "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker?

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The main conflict in Alice Walker's short story "Everyday Use" might be seen as the choice that the mother needs to make in how she treats her two very different daughters. To me, the mother-as-narrator calls attention to her central role in the main conflict, and the use of the phrase "everyday use" calls attention to the two daughters' different views of the quilts and other family heirlooms.

As might be expected in this conflict, the reader is prompted to take sides, too. I have the strong impression that most readers side with Maggie and believe that she, not Dee, truly knows how to value the family heirlooms and the heritage that they represent. All it takes are a few questions, though -- such as "Is it always wrong to protect unique and irreplaceable quilts from the wear and tear of 'everyday use'?" or "Is it always wrong to leave home when you grow up and to make deliberate, conscious changes in how you live your life?" -- to challenge the oversimplified view that one daughter is correct and the other is wrong in all things.

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Another way of phrasing that main conflict is to consider it in terms of identity, the ways in which our culture constructs it and we search for it.  In this way, the dominant internal conflict is the individual asking herself "who am I?" Within each of us different ideas of who we are compete with each other, and Walker would argue this is particularly true for black women. In an interview Walker says that she thinks Dee (a photographer and collector of art and even creates herself as a work of art), Maggie (the quilt maker, symbolic of traditional women's art), and mama, who narrates the story are all artists, and all represent herself split into 3 parts conflicting with each other.  For Walker as a writer, "Everyday Use" is the story of the conflicts within her to develop her own identity and become the writer that she is.

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The basic conflict in this story is Maggie's knowledge of every day things and her intention to use them for their purposes, and her sister (Dee), who considers herself more worldly and educated and who thinks these every day things should be hung up and admired as antiques.

Maggie is not stupid, but she is scarred from a housefire, and her confidence is lacking.  She is a humble, loving, and simple person who adores her mother and just wants to live.  She knows how to sew, quilt, and make butter like her mother and grandmother.

Her sister is lovely, has gone off to school, treats both Maggie and her mother as beneath her...almost embarrassing because of their simple and backward ways.  She is arrogant, not used to being told "no," and suddenly aware of her African roots as she indicates in her dress and her boyfriend who has adopted an African name than no one can pronounce.

Maggie is quiet and is used to giving in to her sister.  When her sister insists on the quilts that her mother has already promised to give Maggie as a wedding gift, Maggie slams the kitchen door to show her anger.  She does finally come back into the house resigned to give her sister her wedding quilts.  However, Mother finally stands up to Dee and tells her she can not take Maggie's quilts.

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