A strong case can be made that the mother in Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use” makes the right decision when she chooses, at the end of the story, to give the quilts to Maggie rather than to Dee. Here are some possible arguments in support of the mother’s decision:
- The quilts have already been explicitly promised to Maggie; Maggie therefore has some legitimate right to them.
- The quilts have been promised to Maggie as a wedding present; they therefore are not a minor gift but a gift of major symbolic significance.
- The mother is a religious woman whose conscience would be troubled if she broke a promise to her needy daughter.
- Maggie is the daughter who seems closest to her mother and who therefore deserves the quilts as a kind of recompense for her loyalty.
- The fact that Maggie is willing to give the quilts to Dee shows Maggie’s generosity – a quality Dee lacks and a quality in Dee that deserves to be respected and rewarded.
- The fact that Maggie is willing to give the quilts to Dee shows that Maggie is used to losing in life; the gift of the quilts to Maggie is therefore a kind of symbolic form of justice, a righting of a balance that has, for too long, been tipped in one direction.
- The mother has an inner conviction (almost a religious intuition) that she is doing the right thing by giving the quilts to Maggie:
. . . something hit me in the top of my head and ran down to the soles of my feet. Just like when I’m in church and the spirit of God touches me and I get happy and shout.
- The mother’s decision to give the quilts to Maggie helps strengthen her relationship with this daughter: “I did something I never had done before: hugged Maggie to me . . . .”
- Maggie seems pleased to have been given the quilts; Dee, on the other hand, does not seem especially bothered to have lost them.