Everyday Use

Everyday Use Summary and Analysis Part 2

They sit down to eat, and Hakim-a-Barber announces right away that he does not eat collards and that pork is unclean. Wangero, however, eats everything while talking animatedly about the items in the house. She sees Grandma Dee’s butter dish, the top to the butter churn, and the dasher, and insists on taking them to display in her house. It is of utmost important to her that they were made and whittled by people in her family. Dee wraps them up, and Mama thinks momentarily about how the worn handle of the dasher is grooved from the hands pressing into the wood while churning butter. The wood itself is from a tree in the yard of Big Dee (Dee’s namesake) and her husband.

After dinner, Maggie cleans up in the kitchen while Dee (now Wangero) goes through a trunk in Mama’s bedroom. She emerges with two quilts made from scraps of clothing dating back several generations, and demands to have them. Maggie slams the kitchen door. Wangero refuses to take a different quilt that is machine-stitched. The quilts are promised to Maggie on her wedding, but her sister is not dissuaded. Mama recalls how Dee refused a quilt Mama had offered her before she left for college, saying that they were old-fashioned. But Mama does not say this aloud. Wangero is horrified to learn that Maggie will be putting them on beds to be used every day. Mama is confused—how else would they be used? But Wangero says angrily that Mama is missing the point of the quilts, and that they must be hung up. At the commotion, Maggie appears in the doorway and says Wangero can keep them, as she “can ‘member Grandma Dee without the quilts.” At this moment, Mama is filled with a great force through her body, as when the spirit of God touches her in church. She hugs Maggie to her, and bringing her to the bed, snatches the quilts from Wangero’s hands and gives them to a dumbfounded Maggie. She tells Dee to take one or two of the other quilts.

Dee turns and silently leaves with Hakim-a-Barber. In the yard, when Mama and Maggie come out to the yard to see them off, Dee tells Mama that she does not understand her heritage, and berates Maggie for not changing to meet the new times. Dee/Wangero puts on her huge sunglasses as the car leaves. Maggie smiles a real smile. After the dust settles, Mama asks her to bring out some snuff, and the two sit out in the yard enjoying the evening until it is time for bed.