Dee feels entitled to them, but the speaker chooses to give them to Maggie—not to show but, as Dee says scornfully, “for everyday use.” Dee sweeps off with her other trophies, and the mother and Maggie remain together, enjoying a heritage that is experience and memory, not things to put on display.
“Everyday Use” is narrated by a woman who describes herself as “a large, big-boned woman with rough, man-working hands.” She has enjoyed a rugged farming life in the country and now lives in a small, tin-roofed house surrounded by a clay yard in the middle of a cow pasture.
Maggie has stayed home with her mother and lived an old-fashioned, traditional life, while Dee has gone off to school and become sophisticated.
Dee comes home with a new name, Wangero, and a new boyfriend; she claims that she wants to take the family heirlooms along as a part of claiming her true identity as an African American.
She anticipates that soon her daughter Maggie will be married and she will be living peacefully alone.
The story opens as the two women await a visit from the older daughter, Dee, and a man who may be her husband—her mother is not sure whether they are actually married.She especially wants the quilts, which she plans to display on the wall as artworks because of their fine handiwork.Maggie, on the other hand, had been promised the quilts for her marriage; she loved them because they reminded her of the grandmother who made them.Snatching the quilts from Dee, she offers her instead some of the machine-stitched ones, which Dee does not want.Dee turns to leave and in parting tells Maggie, “It’s really a new day for us.Dee’s acceptance or rejection of her native culture has been highlighted using numerous objects such as quilts and butter churn.At some points she seems to understand the value of her culture but at other points, she completely rejects her identity.The short story is a first person narrative and the person telling the story is called “Mama” who has two daughters and is living in the Deep South.Mama lives with one of her daughters called Maggie who is the younger one.Whereas Dee had been scornful of her mother’s house and possessions when she was younger (even seeming happy when the old house burned down), now she is delighted by the old way of life.She takes photographs of the house, including a cow that wanders by, and asks her mother if she may have the old butter churn whittled by her uncle; she plans to use it as a centerpiece for her table.