Why is the story titled “Everyday Use”?
The title of the story can be found in a comment Dee makes about Maggie's having the two heirloom quilts that their mother has kept in a trunk for many years. When Dee returns home for a visit from college, her primary purpose seems to be taking from her mother's home possessions which Dee deems to be valuable antiques. She wants these objects not because they remind her of her family, but because they are now quite fashionable and will look lovely in her home. When she finds the two quilts, she takes possession of them, until her mother says that the quilts have been promised to Maggie who will be married soon. Dee is appalled at the idea of her uneducated, unsophisticated sister having such treasures:
Maggie can't appreciate these quilts! . . . She'd probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use.
Dee explains that she would not use the quilts at all, but would hang them, like valuable pieces of art.
This conflict over the quilts represents the basic conflict between Dee and her family. In her new, sophisticated college life, Dee embraces her African heritage, even giving up her name for a new African one, but she rejects her birth family and cares nothing for her own family's American ancestors. Maggie certainly will use the quilts every day in her own home, which pleases her mother. Dee is correct. Maggie and her mother are not educated and sophisticated; they have no understanding or appreciation of folk art. They do, however, have a far greater understanding than does Dee of what makes a home truly beautiful. Maggie says that she can remember her grandma even without the quilts. This being true, she will certainly think of her grandma every day while using them.