What do the quilts symbolize in “Everyday Use”?

Updated 21 March, 2023
In "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker, the quilts symbolize heritage and the connection to family roots. The story follows two sisters, Maggie and Dee, who have different perspectives on the quilts. Maggie sees the quilts as a connection to her family's past and tradition, while Dee views them as a form of art to be displayed. Through the quilts, Walker explores the importance of embracing and preserving one's cultural heritage.
Detailed answer:

In "Everyday Use," the quilts are an important symbol of heritage and tradition. They represent the family's past and the hard work of their ancestors. In the story, Mama recalls how the quilts were made from scraps of old clothes, including uniforms worn by her great-grandfather during the Civil War. These quilts were not only a practical necessity for warmth but also an artistic expression of the family's creativity and resourcefulness.

When Dee, Mama's educated daughter, visits, she wants to take the quilts and display them as art. However, Mama decides to give the quilts to Maggie, her younger and less educated daughter, who will continue to use them for their intended purpose. This decision shows Mama's appreciation for her family's history and the importance of preserving their heritage.

The quilts also symbolize the conflict between Dee and Mama's ideas about heritage. Dee wants to embrace her African roots but is dismissive of her family's rural, Southern heritage. Mama, on the other hand, values both her African and Southern heritage equally and wants to pass it on to future generations. The quilts thus represent the tension between modernity and tradition, and the importance of preserving one's cultural identity.

Alice Walker uses the quilts as a metaphor for the struggles of African Americans to maintain their cultural identity in the face of oppression and discrimination. The quilts represent the creativity, resourcefulness, and resilience of black women in the face of adversity. They are not just blankets but also historical artifacts that tell the story of the family's past.

Overall, the quilts in "Everyday Use" are a powerful symbol of heritage and identity, representing the hard work and creativity of past generations, as well as the struggle to preserve cultural traditions in the face of modernity.

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