What are the main social conflicts in "Everyday Use"?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Three of the main social conflicts in "Everyday Use" are illustrated in the relationships between Dee and her sister Maggie. One of these is the social conflict about the need for social connectedness to one's past roots. On one hand, Maggie values her recent roots and what she sees as her individualism stemming from her immediate family line. On the other hand, Dee values her ancient roots and the Africanism behind her Americanism.

A related social conflict is whether ancestors are best remembered for their personal individuality or for their ethnic individuality. Maggie remembers her ancestors for their personal individuality, valuing their old belongings as mementos of love and devotedness. Dee prefers to remember ancestors and their past possessions for the link they give her to a deeper past identity grounded in her ethnic roots. Therefore their old possessions aren't objects of everyday use but objects of priceless value as representing an historical rootedness.

The same holds true for a third social conflict, that of the menaing of the community. Dee doesn't feel a need to be connected to the present community whereas Maggie does. Dee feels that her real connectedness is with her historic past while Maggie feels her connectedness is with her immediate community. In reality, these conflicts are resolved when past rootedness and present connectedness can exist side-by-side in an individual, as both are needed.

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skwon1022 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 2) eNoter

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Relvoing around a family conflict triggered by a proud, confident character Dee's desire to obtain her personal and cultural heritage but inability to appreciate genuine identity of other characters, her mother and very disparate sister, Maggie, "Everyday Use" underscores a generation gap and a contrast between two distinctively different attitudes toward heritage. Although Maggie and their mother do not attempt to understand their cultural heritiage intellectually, they know and can feel it everyday by simply living their cultural heritage, maintained int he form of family relics: the quilt.

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