The family’s quilts, sewn by Maggie and Dee’s grandmother, become the site of the family’s struggle over its heritage and the question of how best to engage with that heritage. Dee wants to take the quilts away with her, insisting that they should be hung on the wall and preserved rather than being used. Mama, on the other hand, wants to give them to Maggie, who actually learned to sew from her grandmother, and who will use the quilts daily. By demanding that the quilts be memorialized and used as decoration, Dee is attempting to place the family history firmly in an aestheticized, and thus deadened, past. Mama and Maggie, on the other hand, wish to continue using the quilts, and so continually engage with and build upon the family’s history. When Mama gives the quilts the Maggie, she ensures that the family heritage will stay alive in the manner she prefers. By using the quilts and making her own when they wear out, Maggie will add to the family’s legacy, rather than distancing herself from it.
The Everyday Use quotes below all refer to the symbol of Quilts. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harcourt edition of Everyday Use published in 2001.).
The timeline below shows where the symbol Quilts appears in Everyday Use. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.