Why does Dee say the quilts are priceless in "Everyday Use?"

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dee (Wangero) has returned from college and has changed her name to reflect her new interest in her African heritage. This can be an admirable thing to do but Dee loses touch with her more immediate heritage with her more immediate family and ancestors. In addition, Dee is more interested in displaying her cultural heritage than she is in living it; that is to say she's more interested in looking like she's in touch with her African heritage than she is in actually using that heritage/cultural experience in "everyday" practical ways. Mrs. Johnson and Maggie appreciate the quilts for the practical use (and because they were made from dresses which Grandma had stitched herself). However, Dee thinks the quilts are priceless because of what they symbolize rather than what they were made for. Dee doesn't intend to use the quilts (Maggie would use them "every day"); she (Dee) intends to hang them up. 

"But they're priceless!" she was saying now, furiously; for she has a temper. "Maggie would put them on the bed and in five years they'd be in rags. Less than that!" 

Dee just wants to use them to display her culture and this makes her cultural expressions seem superficial and empty. Although Dee places emphasis on the quilts' symbolic value as cultural art, she places more emphasis on the word "priceless" and she even says that if they are used (by Maggie) every day, they will lose some value. So there is definitely the idea of materialism and monetary value implicit in Dee's symbolic interest in the quilts.