"When I looked at her like that something hit me in the top of my head and ran down to the soles of my feet." What hit mama? What did she understand that she had not understood a moment before? Does anyone else in "Everyday Use" have an epiphany?

Mama was hit by the realization that it was Maggie, and not her pretentious sister Dee, who deserved the quilts. In that moment, she understood the nature of her two children in a way that she had not a moment before. Maggie also has an epiphany, in which she realizes that her opinions matter and that she cannot allow herself to be bullied by her sister.

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At this moment in “Everyday Use,” Mama had been “hit” with a deep understanding of the nature of her two daughters, and with the knowledge of who the rightful owner of the quilts was. Hearing Maggie say that her sister can have the quilts makes her mother realize that Maggie, who expects nothing and stays by her mother’s side as a dutiful daughter, is the one who deserves everything. She is struck, on the other hand, by Dee’s selfishness and lack of understanding of why the quilts have such significance.

She realizes that Dee, who has moved away and pursued a life of greatness, even changing her name without realizing that this was a rejection of her family, does not understand the value of the quilts or what they should be used for. This epiphany causes Mama to speak up for her younger daughter and to tell Dee in no uncertain terms that the quilts, which Dee wants to use to provide a decorative showpiece in her home, will be staying with Maggie.

It seems that this epiphany leads Maggie to a realization of her own: a realization that she matters, that her opinions count, and that she should not allow herself to be bullied by her overbearing, seemingly sophisticated sister.

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Mama herself doesn't seem to know quite what this "something" is, but we can guess from her response to it. Upon hearing Maggie say that her sister can have the quilts, because she can remember her grandmother without them, Mama is overwhelmed with the desire to hug her younger daughter. It is as if she has suddenly realized, in this moment, that fearful Maggie is actually the much worthier daughter, and yet she expects nothing—she believes her "portion" in life is to be second place to her sister, and yet it is Maggie who knows how to quilt the way her foremothers did, and therefore it is Maggie who will be the true preserver of the family's heritage, not Dee, who does not understand what heritage really is, or what the quilts should be used for. Overwhelmed by compassion for Maggie, Mama decides to reward her for her selfless, uncomplaining nature, and punish Dee for her selfish one, by gifting the quilts to Maggie.

In response to Mama's epiphany, we can certainly see a change in Maggie, too. Perhaps it is not an epiphany of the same kind, but now she smiles "a real smile, not scared." Her mother having taken her side against her sister, Maggie is filled with a new courage, and perhaps a new understanding of what she is worth.

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Dee's terrible selfishness and the ownership that she has asserted over the quilts that she once rejected, over the heritage represented by those quilts (that she's also never cared about before and doesn't really care about now), "hits" mama and she will not allow Dee to make off with the things that are of far more importance to Maggie.  Maggie knows how to quilt, and this is one way she keeps their family heritage alive. 

Maggie knows all the stories behind the items that Dee wants to take so that she can "do something artistic" with them.  Dee doesn't know the stories.  In fact, she's rejected her own name -- a family name -- insisting that it must be tied to white slave owners somewhere back, failing to recognize that she was named after the strong women in her family who all share that name.  Dee doesn't care for or value her heritage like Maggie does, shy Maggie who keeps to corners and doesn't say much.  It seems as though Mama recognizes which daughter is the one worth valuing, something she doesn't seem to have noticed before because she spent so much time trying to get Dee all the things that she wanted. 

Dee certainly doesn't seem to come to an awareness of the shortcomings in the way she views her family heritage, though Maggie is so shocked when Mama ranks her promises to Maggie over her desire to please Dee that it seems possible she has an epiphany in this moment as well.  Perhaps she realizes her own value for the first time, as she ends the story far more content than she's ever seemed to be before.

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