In what ways do the quilts hold different meanings for Dee and for Maggie in "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The quilts hold different meanings for Maggie and Dee because heritage means different things to Maggie and Dee.  For Maggie, heritage is something living, something that exists in the present: Maggie and Mama routinely use various items that were handmade by family members living or dead.  Heritage is about remembering the grandparents and aunts and uncles that have passed on, who have stories to keep passing down.  It isn't tied up in keeping things nice, or putting them on a shelf; it's about using the benches and the dasher and the quilts, even if that means they wear out and fall apart (because those people made those things to be used).

For Dee, heritage is about preserving things, not using them.  Heritage is something past for her, and she wants to acquire the quilts so that she can hang them on the wall.  She isn't connected to her heritage at all; she doesn't know the stories, and she doesn't care to.  The quilts seem to be something to show off, to hang up, not to enjoy or to use.  They represent Maggie's connection to her heritage and her family, and they represent Dee's alienation from them.