Exploring the Symbolism of Quilts in Everyday Use: What Do the Quilts Symbolize?

When we think of quilts, we often picture cozy blankets used to snuggle up in on cold winter nights. However, these versatile pieces of fabric carry far more meaning than just their warmth. In Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use,” quilts are used as a symbol to represent heritage, identity, and family tradition. The quilt in this story, passed down from generation to generation, carries with it a rich history that binds the characters together and reflects their cultural values.

In “Everyday Use,” the quilt becomes a battle over tradition. On one hand, Mama believes that the quilt should be passed down to her daughter Maggie, who will continue the family legacy. On the other hand, Mama’s other daughter Dee sees the quilt as an artifact of an oppressed culture and wants to display it as a decorative piece. The quilt, in this sense, represents the division between cultural preservation and cultural appropriation. It also symbolizes the struggles of African-American families in holding onto their traditions in the face of an ever-changing society.

Ultimately, the power of the quilt lies in its ability to connect past and present. It represents the bonds of family, memory, and history that persist despite the challenges of modern society. By understanding the symbolic significance of the quilt, we can appreciate the importance of cultural heritage and the deep emotional attachments that people have to their histories. Quilts may just be pieces of fabric, but they carry within them the stories and experiences of generations of families, and can serve as a source of pride and identity for those who honor them.

History of quilt-making in African American culture

Quilt-making has a rich history in African American culture. The practice has been passed down from generation to generation and is a tradition that has endured for centuries. During the era of slavery, quilts were used as a means of communication, often used to pass secret messages between slaves. Quilts were hung on clothing lines to send signals, and certain patterns would signify specific messages.

  • Quilting as a form of storytelling: Quilts were not only used for functional purposes but also as a way of storytelling. Quilters would often use the practice to recount important events, such as births, weddings, and deaths. They would also use the designs and patterns to express their cultural identity and heritage.
  • The rise of the quilt-making industry: After the abolition of slavery, quilting evolved as an art form and began to be used as a source of income. African American women started to sell their quilts at local markets and fairs. This helped to establish the foundation for the quilt-making industry that we know today.
  • The legacy of African American quilters: The contributions of African American quilters have been essential in the development of quilting as an art form in America. African American quilters have been at the forefront of innovation, creating new patterns and designs that have changed the face of quilting forever.

Quilting has become a significant part of African American culture, and the tradition continues to thrive today. Many African American quilters still pass down their techniques and knowledge to the younger generations as a way of preserving their cultural heritage.

Overall, the history of quilt-making in African American culture is a testament to the resilience and creativity of a people who have faced enormous challenges throughout their history. The legacy of African American quilters is one that should be celebrated and honored as an essential aspect of American history and culture.

Symbolism of Quilts in African American Literature

Quilts have been an integral part of African American culture since the time of slavery. In African American literature, quilts have taken on many symbolic meanings, often representing the rich history and cultural heritage of African Americans.

  • Symbolism of Family and Community: In African American literature, quilts are often symbolic of family and community. Quilts are usually passed down from one generation to another and are made with fabrics that have been collected from different family members. The various fabrics used in quilts represent the diversity within a family or community, and the quilt itself symbolizes the connections that exist between family members or community.
  • Symbolism of Resistance: Quilts have also been used as symbols of resistance in African American literature. During slavery, quilts were used to communicate important messages and signals to slaves who were planning to escape or communicate with other slaves. The quilt’s unique patterns and designs would be used to convey secret messages that only other slaves understood.
  • Symbolism of Heritage and Legacy: Quilts are also symbolic of the rich heritage and legacy of African Americans. Many quilts have traditional African designs and are made using techniques that have been passed down through generations. Quilts therefore serve as a reminder of the rich cultural heritage of African Americans and the legacy that has been left to them by their ancestors.

Overall, quilts hold a deep symbolic meaning in African American literature. They represent the connections between family members and community, the resistance of African Americans, and the rich heritage and legacy passed down through generations.

Quilts as a form of storytelling and preserving family history

Quilts have been used for generations as a means of preserving family history. Each quilt tells a unique story that is passed down from generation to generation, much like a family heirloom. A single quilt can hold centuries of family history and can provide a window into the past, giving us a glimpse into the lives of those that came before us.

The patterns and designs used in traditional quilts often have cultural and historical significance. These patterns were often passed down through generations, with each new quilt being a unique representation of the family’s history and traditions.

  • Many quilters today continue this tradition of storytelling through their quilts. They use the art of quilting to express their creativity and tell their own stories or document their family’s history.
  • Quilts can be made to commemorate special occasions such as weddings, births, or anniversaries, telling the story of these significant life events through the fabrics, patterns, and designs used in the quilt.
  • Quilts can also be made to honor the memory of loved ones who have passed away. These quilts can provide comfort in times of grief and serve as a reminder of the impact that loved ones had on our lives.

While quilting is often seen as a craft or hobby, it is also an art form that allows individuals to pass on their heritage and family traditions. Quilts are treasured by families and are often displayed and cherished for generations. They serve as a testament to the creativity and skill of the quilter and the stories of the family and culture to which they belong.

BasketA symbol of rural life, used to carry food and goods and represents prosperity and abundance.
Log CabinA symbol of home, with the central square representing the hearth and the logs representing the walls of the cabin.
StarA symbol of hope and guidance, representing the North Star used by slaves to navigate the Underground Railroad.

The meanings behind the design of a quilt can be just as meaningful as the story it tells. Quilting is truly a timeless art form that provides a glimpse into the lives of those that have come before us and serves as a reminder of the importance of family history and tradition.

Comparing the perspectives of Maggie and Dee towards the quilts

One of the most significant symbols in Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” is the quilts. While Maggie and Dee, the two sisters in the story, both understand the importance of the quilts, they view them in vastly different ways.

  • Maggie’s perspective: Maggie sees the quilts as a connection to her family’s past and an important piece of their heritage. To her, the quilts represent the memories and traditions of her ancestors. She understands the hard work and dedication it took to create these quilts and values them for their sentimental and historical significance. When Dee wants to take the quilts to display them as art pieces, Maggie’s initial response is to become defensive because she understands their true value.
  • Dee’s perspective: On the other hand, Dee sees the quilts as an artistic expression of her family’s cultural heritage. She views them as valuable artifacts that represent an entire race and culture. To Dee, the quilts are pieces of art that belong in a museum, and she wants to display them as such. Dee does not understand the true importance and meaning of the quilts, and her view of them comes off to many readers as shallow and self-serving.

It is important to note that the perspectives of Maggie and Dee towards the quilts represent two different ways of honoring one’s heritage. While Maggie chooses to continue the traditions of her ancestors by using the quilts for their original purpose, Dee wishes to honor her heritage through the promotion of her family’s culture as a whole. These differing perspectives on the quilts reflect the larger issue of how one should honor and respect their cultural heritage.

The quilts in “Everyday Use” represent an important cultural artifact that symbolizes the struggle and perseverance of African Americans in the past. Maggie and Dee’s differing perspectives towards the quilts highlight the complexity of cultural heritage and how it can be interpreted in multiple ways.

 Maggie’s perspectiveDee’s perspective
View of the quiltsConnection to family’s past and heritageArtistic expression of family’s cultural heritage
Value of the quiltsSentimental and historical significanceArtistic and cultural significance
Usage of the quiltsFor their original purposeAs art pieces for display

The comparison of Maggie and Dee’s unique perspectives towards the quilts in “Everyday Use” sheds light on the importance of cultural heritage in the modern world. It is essential to respect and honor our cultural traditions in a way that is true to their original purpose, while also understanding how they can be interpreted and represented in different ways.

Alice Walker’s depiction of the significance of quilts in “Everyday Use”

In Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use,” quilts symbolize the legacy of the African-American culture and its traditions. The quilts are not just blankets, but they represent the stories of the family and the history of their ancestors. The author uses the quilts to contrast two different perspectives on heritage.

  • The first perspective is represented by Dee, also known as Wangero, who sees the quilts as artifacts and wants to preserve them as part of her heritage. She thinks that the quilts are valuable because they are handmade and have been passed down from generation to generation.
  • The second perspective is represented by Mama, who sees the quilts as a way of life and wants to use them as they were intended. For Mama, quilting is a way for the family to connect with each other and their past. The quilts are meant to be used and enjoyed rather than being locked away in a museum.
  • The conflict between Dee and Mama reflects the tension between cultural preservation and accessibility. Dee values the quilts as objects to be appreciated, while Mama sees them as a means to keep the family’s cultural traditions alive. The quilts symbolize the struggle to define and preserve cultural identity in the face of modernization and assimilation.

Alice Walker also portrays the quilts as a bridge between generations. In the story, Grandma Dee and Aunt Dicie made the quilts from pieces of clothing worn by family members who have passed away. The quilts are a way to keep the memories and stories of family members alive. Mama intends to pass down the quilts to Maggie, her younger daughter, because she believes that Maggie understands the quilts’ significance and will appreciate them as much as previous generations have.

Symbolism of Quilts in “Everyday Use”Representation
HeritageThe quilts represent the history and traditions of the African-American culture.
Cultural Preservation vs. AccessibilityThe conflict between Mama and Dee reflects the struggle between preserving cultural heritage and making it accessible to future generations.
Bridge Between GenerationsThe quilts are made from pieces of clothing worn by family members who have passed away, serving as a reminder of their stories and memories.

Overall, Alice Walker uses quilts as a symbol to represent the importance of cultural heritage and traditions. Through quilting, the family is able to pass down their history and preserve their identity from generation to generation.

The Importance of Handmade Quilts in Contrast to Machine-Made Quilts

Quilts have always been considered as more than just a warm covering for a bed. They are objects of art and heirlooms that tell stories. They symbolize the legacy and culture of a family and community. When it comes to quilts, there are two types – handmade and machine-made. Both are beautiful in their way, but there is something special about a handmade quilt.

Handmade quilts are not just made with fabric and thread; they also contain the love, care, and effort of the maker. Quilting has been passed down from generation to generation and has become a treasured tradition among many families. A handmade quilt is unique as no two quilts are the same. Each stitch and design is different from the other, making it a valuable piece of art.

On the other hand, the production of machine-made quilts has grown rapidly in recent years. Machine-made quilts are faster and easier to produce, and they come in a variety of designs and colors. They are cheaper than handmade quilts and can be bought easily in stores or online. However, they lack the personal touch and emotion that goes into making a handmade quilt.

  • Handmade quilts have a unique story to tell.
  • They are made with love, care, and effort.
  • Each stitch and design is different.

A handmade quilt is made by hand with a needle and thread, while a machine-made quilt is produced with a sewing machine. A handmade quilt takes a lot of time and patience to make, while a machine-made quilt can be produced in a matter of hours. The table below highlights the differences between the two.

Handmade QuiltsMachine-made Quilts
Made by hand with a needle and threadProduced with a sewing machine
Each stitch and design is uniqueDesigns and patterns are repeatable
Made with love, care, and patienceProduced faster and cheaper

Although machine-made quilts are widespread, the importance of handmade quilts should not be overlooked. Handmade quilts are not only beautiful pieces of art, but they also have emotional value. They reflect the hard work and love put into making them, and they provide a sense of comfort to those who use them. They are a symbol of how things were in the past and an opportunity to connect with one’s family history.

Quilts as a Representation of the African American Struggle for Civil Rights

The history of the African American struggle for civil rights is a long and arduous one, punctuated by moments of triumph and setbacks, courage and sacrifice. Quilting has been a tradition in African American culture for centuries, and it has become a symbol of the resilience and perseverance of this marginalized community. Here are seven ways in which quilts represent the African American struggle for civil rights:

  • Survival: Quilts were originally made out of necessity, as African American slaves often had to use whatever materials they could find to stay warm during the harsh winters. The fact that these quilts have survived to this day is a testament to the resourcefulness and resilience of the women who made them.
  • Community: Quilting bees were a way for African American women to come together and support each other, both creatively and emotionally. These gatherings provided a safe space for women to share their stories and struggles, and to find strength in their shared experiences.
  • Creativity: Quilts are works of art, and they offer a way for African American women to express their creativity and individuality in a society that often denied them the opportunity to do so.
  • Identity: Many African American quilts incorporate symbols and motifs that reflect the cultural heritage and history of the community. By preserving and celebrating these traditions, quilts have become an important part of African American identity.
  • Resistance: During the Civil Rights Movement, African American quilts were often used as a form of protest. Quilts with messages of freedom and equality were displayed at rallies and marches, and were even used as camouflage for activists on the move.
  • Mirror: Quilts have also served as a mirror for African American society, reflecting the struggles and triumphs of the community throughout history. They offer a way to remember and honor the struggles of the past, and to celebrate the progress that has been made.
  • Legacy: Finally, quilts represent a legacy of strength, ingenuity, and perseverance that has been passed down through generations of African American families. By continuing to make and celebrate quilts, this legacy can be preserved for future generations.

The Importance of Quilts in the African American Struggle for Civil Rights

Quilting has always been a way for African American women to connect with their past, their community, and each other. But it has also become an important symbol of resistance and resilience in the face of oppression and marginalization. Through their creativity and resourcefulness, African American women have been able to carve out a space for themselves, both within their own community and in society at large. Quilts offer a way to celebrate this legacy, and to honor the struggles and sacrifices that have been made along the way.

The Symbolism of African American Quilts

African American quilts are often characterized by their bold colors, intricate patterns, and symbolic imagery. Some of the most common symbols used in these quilts include:

Log CabinSafe haven
RailroadFleeing to freedom

These symbols offer a way for African American quilters to tell their stories and express their emotions in a way that transcends language or culture. Each quilt is a unique representation of the quilter’s own journey, as well as a testament to the collective struggle for civil rights that has shaped the African American experience.

The Role of Quilting Bees in African American Communities

Quilting bees have been a significant tradition in African American communities for generations. These gatherings brought together women of all ages to work on quilts, socialize, and share knowledge and traditions. Quilting bees served as a way to bond as a community and preserve cultural heritage through the art of quilting.

  • Quilting bees were not just about making quilts, but also about passing down cultural knowledge. Women would share stories, songs, and recipes while quilting.
  • Black slaves used quilting as a practical way to keep warm during cold nights. Quilting bees served as a way to produce enough quilts to go around the community.
  • Quilting bees were also a space for women to discuss important issues and organize politically. African American women used quilting bees as a way to plan the Underground Railroad, for example.

Quilting bees served as a way for African American women to support each other through difficult times. During times of struggle and oppression, these gatherings provided a sense of community and purpose.

1865Emancipation Proclamation is signed
1920sGreat Migration to northern cities
1960sCivil Rights Movement

In conclusion, quilting bees played a significant role in African American communities. They served as spaces for women to bond, share knowledge and traditions, and organize politically. Quilting bees were a way for African American women to support each other during difficult times, and the tradition continues to be passed down through generations.

Quilt-making as a form of resistance and empowerment for African American women

Quilts have a rich history of being used as a form of resistance and empowerment for African American women. As early as the 18th century, African American women were making quilts as a means of survival and resistance. While they were forced into slavery, quilts were a way for them to preserve their culture and traditions. Quilts became a symbol of freedom, a way for women to express themselves without fear of punishment.

  • The quilts also served as a way for women to carry secret messages. During the Civil War, quilts were used as part of the Underground Railroad. African American women would stitch specific patterns into the quilts, which would act as a map and guide slaves to freedom.
  • Quilt-making was also a form of empowerment for African American women. They could create something beautiful and meaningful out of scraps of fabric, and in doing so, they were able to take control of their lives and their identity. The act of quilt-making was a way for these women to reclaim their voice and their power.
  • Quilts were often passed down from generation to generation, becoming family heirlooms. This tradition of passing down quilts not only provides a sense of family history and tradition but also serves as a reminder of the strength and resilience of African American women.

The significance of the quilts in Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use” is a testament to the powerful role that quilt-making played in African American culture. The quilt represents the family’s history, and Dee’s desire to take it as a decoration shows her lack of understanding and respect for her family’s heritage. In contrast, Mama and Maggie’s appreciation for the quilt shows their deep connection to their roots and their understanding of the importance of preserving their family’s traditions.

Scraps of fabricRepresents the resourcefulness and resilience of African American women.
Patchwork designSymbolizes the fragmented history of African Americans and the need to piece together their heritage.
StitchingRepresents the strength and unity of the African American community.

In conclusion, the quilt serves as a powerful symbol of resistance, empowerment, and connection for African American women. Through the art of quilt-making, they were able to preserve their culture, pass down their traditions, and express themselves in a world that sought to silence them. The significance of the quilts in “Everyday Use” is a testament to the profound impact that this tradition has had on African American culture and history.

The Evolution of Quilts and Quilt-Making Techniques in African American Culture

Quilts have a deep rooted history in African American culture, and have been used as a form of expression and storytelling for generations. As African Americans were brought to America through the slave trade, they brought with them their quilting traditions and techniques from West Africa. Over the years, the style and purpose of quilts has evolved, but the essence of what they symbolize remains the same. Here we explore the evolution of quilts and quilt-making techniques in African American culture.

  • Traditional African Quilting Techniques: The art of quilting has been practiced in West Africa for centuries. The quilts were traditionally made from bright and bold colored fabrics and were used as both utilitarian objects, such as blankets and clothing, and as decorative pieces. The piecing together of scraps of fabric was a regular practice for the women of the villages and towns, and many of the techniques still used today are derived from these traditional African quilting techniques.
  • Slave Quilts: During slavery in America, quilts took on a new meaning. African American slaves would secretly create quilts that contained hidden messages or images that served as a guide for escape on the Underground Railroad. These quilts would often feature specific colors and designs, which held specific meanings and indicated the safest routes for escape.
  • The Rise of Bold Colors and Patterns: By the turn of the 20th century, the style of quilting had expanded and grown in popularity. Quilts were now being made with evermore intricate and colorful designs. It was common for African American women to incorporate their own unique style and flair into their quilting, using bold patterns and bright colors that had specific cultural significance.

By the mid-20th century, quilting began to fall out of favor as a tradition of the past. However, interest in quilting was revived in the 1970s, thanks in part to the Civil Rights Movement and feminist movements. Quilting once again became a way for African Americans to celebrate and express their culture and history.

Quilt StyleDescription
Gee’s Bend QuiltsA style of quilt that originated in rural Alabama and was made famous by the work of several African American female artists. These quilts were known for their bold, improvisational style with geometric shapes and asymmetrical designs.
Afrocentric QuiltsQuilts that feature African inspired designs, traditional patterns and symbols that celebrate African culture and heritage. These quilts often use bright, vibrant colors and circular shapes to convey a sense of community and unity.
Spiritual QuiltsQuilts that incorporate religious and spiritual themes, often depicting biblical stories or significant figures. These quilts often use darker colors and muted tones to convey a sense of reverence and contemplation.

Today, quilts continue to hold a special place in African American culture as a way to celebrate and pass on traditions and messages to future generations. They serve as a testament to the rich and diverse history of African Americans and the artistry and craftsmanship that continues to thrive.

What Does the Quilts Symbolize in Everyday Use FAQs

1. What do the quilts represent in “Everyday Use”?
In “Everyday Use,” the quilts are symbolic of family heritage and the connection to one’s ancestors.

2. Who is most interested in the quilts in “Everyday Use”?
Maggie is shown to be most interested in the quilts in “Everyday Use.”

3. What is the significance of the different patches in the quilts in “Everyday Use”?
The different patches in the quilts represent the different generations of the family and their unique contributions to the family history.

4. Why does Dee want the quilts in “Everyday Use”?
Dee wants the quilts as a symbol of her connection to her African heritage and as a way to display her connection to her past.

5. What do the quilts symbolize in terms of culture and heritage?
The quilts represent cultural and heritage traditions, as well as the impact these traditions have had on the family’s narrative.

6. How do the quilts in “Everyday Use” reflect the themes of the story?
The quilts reflect themes of tradition, heritage, and family through their visual representation of the family’s history.

7. Why is the conflict over the quilts relevant to the story’s message?
The conflict over the quilts is relevant to the story’s message because it highlights the differences between those who value tradition and heritage and those who seek to appropriate these traditions as a statement of their individuality.

Thank You for Exploring What the Quilts Symbolize in “Everyday Use”

We hope you have a deeper understanding of the significance of the quilts in Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use.” Whether displayed as a symbol of one’s cultural heritage or passed down as a family heirloom, the quilts symbolize the traditions and history that shape our lives. Please visit us again soon to discover more literary themes and symbolism.