Quilts demonstrate the ingenuity, talent, and resourcefulness of African American women in "Everyday Use." Grandmas Dee and other women exploited and repurposed whatever materials they had on hand to create practical and beautiful products. Quilts, in particular, show the Johnson family's tradition. The first quilt made by Aunt Jemima was probably based on a pattern by her sister-in-law, Mary Johnston Jackson (1844-1933). They used scraps of cloth from their owner, Uncle Tom, to make him a dress. This is an example of black women using their skills and creativity to provide for themselves and their families during slavery times.
Today, quilts are used to express individuality and cultural pride. Some people even wear their favorite quilt blocks as clothing! There are holiday quilts that tell stories, such as Christmas quilts that reveal a secret message under the wrapping paper. Finally, quilts are used as a form of protest: some civil rights activists wore their favorite quilt blocks when they went to visit Congress to ask for equal treatment under the law.
In short, quilts are used in everyday life for entertainment, comfort, and communication.
As a result, the quilt, as a symbol in "Everyday Use," represents the history and culture of African Americans. Maggie and Dee both want the quilts since they are part of their family's past as well as the heritage of African-American people. However, not everyone respects or appreciates the work that goes into making these quilts so there often is conflict over who should have them.
In addition to this historical significance, the quilt also stands for friendship. Both Maggie and Dee make generous offers for the quilt but neither one accepts it. Instead, they give each other gifts that they can share together. This shows that even though they are separated by class, race, and gender, they still have love and respect for one another.
Finally, the quilt also means security. Since both women were once married with children of their own, they know what it's like to lose everything you hold dear. The quilt provides comfort by reminding them that they are not alone in this world. No matter how difficult life may get, at least they have each other.
In conclusion, the quilt in "Everyday Use" represents friendship, security, and history. It is an important element in the story about a single mother who must come to terms with her past before moving on with her life.
The patchwork in the novel serves to contrast the people and demonstrate their various characteristics. Throughout the novel, the quilts symbolize and demonstrate the worth of African American culture, as well as serve as a means of highlighting the distinctions amongst the key individuals in "Everyday Use." The reader is first introduced to the patchwork quilt in chapter one when Mary Ann Smith (Mama) makes one for her daughter Sarah. Sarah later uses this skill when she makes one for herself after Daddy dies. The narrative then flashes back to explain that both Mama and Daddy made quilts because they wanted their daughters to be able to make them once they were married. Thus, the quilt serves as a means by which both mothers and daughters can be equal despite being raised in different times and living in separate parts of the country.
In addition to demonstrating the characters' characteristics, the quilts also play an important role in the story. For example, when Sarah goes to stay with her husband's family in North Carolina, they are not happy to see her wearing her mother's clothes. They tell her that if she wants to dress like a man, she should wear a shirt. To prove that she is still her mother's daughter, Sarah takes off her clothes and runs into the woods naked. When she returns home two days later, she brings along some berries and weeds which she had picked up while in the forest. Using these items as sewing material, she makes her mother a new dress.