In "Everyday Use," why does Dee want the quilts?

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Dee wants the old quilts for several reasons but mainly because she wants to display them as part of her "heritage" in her home in the city.  She does not believe that they are appreciated in the country with Maggie and Mama because they actually use the quilts. For the two older women, heritage means passing down skills and practical heirlooms to the next generation.  When Maggie thinks of the quilts, she remembers how she was taught to make them and uses them because she believes that that is what her grandma would want her to do.  In contrast, Dee believes that the quilts should be displayed rather than used so that they will last and be able to be passed on for many years. While her desire to have the quilts certainly comes across as selfish and condescending toward her sister, I think that Walker uses Dee to demonstrate that humans (even within the same family) have different definitions of heritage and what it means to honor one's ancestors and culture.

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Dee wants to hang the quilts in her home. According to her mother, Dee says this "as if that was the only thing you could do with quilts." Mrs. Johnson tells her that she's promised the quilts to Maggie. Dee condescendingly says that Maggie "can't appreciate" the quilts. Dee fears Maggie will use them every day. This is an absurd argument because the quilts were intended for "everyday use."

Dee puts value in the quilts themselves. She says they are "priceless." Given that she simply wants to hang them as priceless artifacts, she views the quilts as pieces of art, things to be shown in a fashionable way. Dee's new affinity for her African heritage is admirable but it is also motivated by her desire to be modern and fashionable. Dee does not recognize that the cultural meaning and spirit behind the quilts is that it connects the women of the family. The metaphor of the quilt is quite fitting because it is stitched together just as family is connected together. Dee would use the quilts superficially whereas Maggie would use them for their intended purpose. The warmth a quilt provides is indicative of the love put into the quilt by preceding generations. If Dee hangs the quilt on the wall, she is literally and symbolically distancing herself from this family heritage. 

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In "Everyday Use," Dee wants the quilts because she wants to preserve them as artifacts of her family's heritage.  The quilts were made by women in the family, and the cloth came from scraps of clothing that had been worn by past family members such as Great Grandpa Ezra's uniform from the Civil War.  Mama intends to give the quilts to Maggie, who will put them to use when she gets married and moves out of the house.  But Dee says that Maggie will use the quilts until they turn into rags, and she does not want the quilts to be destroyed.  Dee wants to put the quilts on the wall as artwork for her and others to admire.  Mama does say that when Dee went away to school that she offered her one of the quilts, which Dee turned down.  However, after Dee goes to school, she changes her perspective and now sees the quilts as cultural artifacts.

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