Why is Dee angry at the end of the story "Everyday Use"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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At the end of the story, Dee, who was always brighter, better-looking, and favored, is angry because her mother refuses to give the quilts which she, Grandma Dee, and Big Dee made over the years. 

After the visit from her daughter who has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo because she no longer wants to be named after people who "oppressed" her, Mrs. Johnson, Dee and Maggie's mother, gives the hand-made quilts, desired by Dee simply as items of folk art to be displayed, to her daughter Maggie. Maggie who was burned as a child and has never left home, will continue to live there and actually use the quilts every day.

In Alice Walker's story "Everyday Use," quilts made from the scraps of ancestors' clothing, such as the blue piece from Granpa Ezra's Civil War uniform and Granpa Jarrell's Paisley shirts, symbolize tradition. Further, the motif of quilting is central to the message of Walker's story as it conveys the strength and importance of forging together the family's past and roots. This is why the quilts should belong to Maggie, who will stay at the family home and who loves her relatives and is comfortable with her own identity. Mrs. Johnson gives Dee this reason when she refuses,

"The truth is...I promised to give them quilts to Maggie, for when she married John Thomas."

Ironically, when Dee kisses her mother and tells her to try to understand her "heritage," it is Mrs. Johnson and Maggie who truly do understand and Dee who does not.

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