CharacterAnalysis on Dee in "Every Day Use"
Thestory of Everyday Use by Alice Walker is set against the backgroundof rural poverty in Georgia. Dee is the main character who laterchanges to Wangero. She emerges as a protagonist who fights againstracial discrimination of poverty in her society and her home inparticular. Although Dee is described as educated, ambitious and goodlooking, she is artificial, arrogant, selfish, and un-appreciative.Though her family is poor, her mama struggles to educate her up tocollege level with the help of church funds. However, Dee isunappreciative because she reads to them without explanations despitetheir low literate level. Also, she changes her personality withregards to her viewpoint of things contrary to her family andtraditions. Changing her name has two implications. The first oneshows that she does not want to be identified after the whiteoppressors back to the slavery period. And the second one impliesthat she does not appreciate her tradition way of naming after theirfamily members.
Whenshe overlooks the daily use of quilts and suggests that they aresupposed to be hung up on a wall to display their heritage, this iscontrary to her tradition. Even if, Dee is portrayed as good lookingwith nice hair, light skin and well-shaped body with a small waist inaddition to her education, she is arrogant. We expect that somebodywith such good looks to be humbled and respectful, but Dee is quitethe opposite. She feels that she is better and superior to anyoneelse especially with regards to her family. Dee does not want to beassociated with her home, family or even her name because Dee seesthem as an embarrassment. Dee is depicted as an ambitious person inwhatever she does either in positive or negative things. However,this character brings contradiction of whether Dee is real orartificial in her search of African Heritage. Although Dee claimsthat she wants to preserve the African heritage, she does notappreciate it.
Thestory of Everyday Use by Alice Walker is set against the backgroundof rural poverty in Georgia. It is set “between the 1960’s and70’s where African-Americans struggle” to describe their personalvalues and identities using terms of their cultures (Gale, 6}.Several Blacks people longed to study Africa ancestors whileoverlooking the American heritage associated with injustices andpain. There were concepts such as black pride, nationalism, and powerthat were significant and were supported by black people. The maincharacter of this story is Dee who later changes to Wangero (Gale,11}. She emerges as a protagonist who fights against racialdiscrimination of poverty in her society and her home in particular.She has her way of preserving African heritage which is not known toher family or her customs. Heritage in this context refers to theirpast cultural traditions. Although Dee is described as educated,ambitious and good looking, she is artificial, arrogant, selfish, andun-appreciative.
Deeis the only lucky person from her family to get the education despiteher family being in an object of poverty. She desires to obtain aformal education to overcome “the problems of racial discriminationas well as poverty” (Zhang and Liu, 78). Through the help of thechurch funds that her mother receives to educate her, Dee manages toproceed up to college level. Dee always wants nice things forinstance at the age of sixteen, she had her clothing style, and thisis demonstrated by what she wore on her high school graduation. Thus,being determined to have more good things, she put more effort on hereducation, and as a result, it empowers her both materially andfinancially. By the time she finishes the college, she can obtainmore nice things such as sunglasses, a camera, and gold earringsamong others (Mullins, 39). Additionally, her educative character notonly frees her from poverty but also enhances her spiritual andsocial matters. For instance, she can acknowledge her sister Maggie,whom she had disregarded in their childhood. In addition toresolving her past relationship with her sister, the educated Dee canchallenge racism. For instance, when she changes her name to Wangero,her new identity acts as a method of undermining the history ofracism.
However,despite being educated by a poor mom with the help of the church, Deeis unappreciative. For instance, during her high school time, shecould return home and “read to them without mercy forcing foreignfolk’s habits, lies and confusing words” (Walker,22). Additionally, after obtaining her education up to the college level,she revisits home with a new personality. These identities includechanging her name from Dee (her tradition and a family name) toWangero (the African name) as well as her characters and view ofthings. The new personality makes her disregard her mother and sisterby trying to tell them that they were doing their things on the wrongway and more to that she spoke down to them. For instance, her aim ofchanging her name was based on the fact that she did not want to be“named after those white oppressors” (Gale, 15). However, shedoes not take into account that she was named after her aunties andgrandmother in that lineage until the first slave who was given nameafter her mistress or master. Thus, though that name belongs to thewhite oppressor, it is also significant for the family lineage whichshe is not supposed to take it for granted. By doing that, it showssome disrespect to her parent who gave that name as well as theirfull customs and traditions. And it is hard to convince them thatwhat she was doing was right. On the other hand, when she changes herviewpoint of things, she does not consider whether it is acceptableto her family or rather her tradition. For example, when she“overlooks the daily use of quilts and suggests that they aresupposed to be hung up on a wall to display their heritage,” thisis contrary to her tradition (Zhang and Liu, 79). In the first place,her mother does not understand the meaning of heritage as wellquilts are not supposed to be hanged on the wall but rather to be putinto everyday use. Her mama cannot even comprehend why Dee has allover sudden depicted the interest of those old quilts of which whenshe was offered “to use them in the college she refused by sayingthat they were old fashioned” Walker,28.Thus, her mother becomes confused and decides that those quiltsshould be better be given to Maggie who will use them in the rightway and appreciate them. In this case, Dee is not straight forwardbecause for one, she does not like the quilts, but since it isfashionable to display the quilts as a part of heritage’s show. Shedisregards the general use of the quilts that her sister and motherknows and insists that her new way of using is more important thantheirs.
Evenif, Dee is portrayed as good looking with “lovely hair, light skinand well-shaped body with a small waist in addition to hereducation,” she is arrogant (Walker,25).We expect that somebody with such good looks to be humbled andrespectful, but Dee is quite the opposite. She feels that she isbetter and superior to anyone else especially with regards to herfamily. Despite being an intelligent and cute member of Johnson’sfamily, she has a negative attitude toward her mother and sister.According to Dee, her family and home are discomfitures to her (Gale,17). This is portrayed when their childhood house was burning.Instead of showing concern for her sister who was being burnedrigorously, she just watched the burning house which she hated itvery much. This shows that Dee was happy when the house burned out aswell as Maggie burning because the embarrassing house was gone andalso in the case of Maggie she could not give her competition withbeauty or education. Moreover, when Dee proceeds to college, shenever visits although she had promised that “she could visit butnever bring friends to her home” (Walker,30).The reason behind all this is because she has never accepted norvalued her home or her family.
Whenshe finally revisits them, after an extended period, she does notcome back because she misses them but rather she wants something fromthem. Though Mama and Maggie prepare and wait for her to arrive, hervisit is nothing but what her mother had dreamed (Mullins, 42).Everything with her is shiny but illusory. She seems to have changedher motive of disliking her homestead and the family, but this isjust but her new artificial interest. For instance, Dee is interestedin taking the photos of her family including everything in thehomestead and the liking of all the tradition foods (prepared by hermom and sister). As well, Dee comments positively on the benches(made by her father) the need to take dashers (made by aunt Dees’husband) and two old quilts (made by her mom and untie using grandmadress pieces) with her (Gale, 20). All these motives are not verysincere because previously she did not want to be associated withthem at all. Why then could she want to take things to people thatshe did not want to be named after are related? The fact that shechanged her name from Dee to Wangero means that she wanted to breakthe tradition of naming after her auntie and grandma because theirnames traced back to the white name of the oppressor. However, whenher mother refuses to give the old quilts, we get to know that shewanted all “those items of black heritage to garnish her housebecause it was stylish” (Mullins, 48). She neither respect norunderstanding the significance of things saved by her mother up tothe point of placing no value to the family legacy of them. Thus, allthese instances depict her character of selfishness.
Deeis portrayed as the ambitious person in whatever she does either inpositive or negative things. However, this style brings contradictionof whether Dee is real or artificial in her search of AfricanHeritage? Dee tries to be a new person through things that are notacceptable to both her family and traditions. For instance, when sheenjoys seeing her home burning down this is not real for a genuineperson who cares for the family (Zhang and Liu, 80). However, we aretold that Dee hated her home. Additionally, when she reads for themwithout pity, and yet she knows that her mother and sister areilliterate and semi-illiterate respectively, to show her superiority,this is the lack of concern for her family. Her desire to leavemiserable and unworthy home leads her to college life which limitsher to visits her family. This is contrary to her family expectationsbecause they would believe that she was supposed to help them tobecome better financially. Instead, when she come back home, shetakes away their well-preserved items and way of life. For instance,she tells Maggie that she needs to “do something better with herlife” than just staying at home (Mullins, 50). But she does notsuggest what Maggie ought to do. Although Dee claims that she wantsto preserve the African heritage, she does not appreciate it. Thetypical home that she hated very much is the same place that shecomes to collects pictures and items to use them as a symbol oftraditions. Thus, we can say that Dee’s search or of Africanheritage is artificial.
Despitethe fact that Dee is educated, ambitious and lovely, she overlooksher family as well as her tradition and therefore appears to bearrogant, selfish, artificial and unappreciative. She is the onlylucky person to get the education despite her family being in anobject of poverty. However, despite being educated by a poor mom withthe help of the church, Dee is unappreciative with regards to how shereads for them, changes her personality and look down upon how hermother and sister do their things. Even if, Dee is portrayed as goodlooking with nice hair, light skin and well-shaped body with a smallwaist in addition to her education, she is arrogant. Dee does notwant to be associated with her home, family or even her name becauseshe sees them as an embarrassment. Dee is depicted as the ambitiousperson in whatever she does either in positive or negative things.However, this character brings contradiction of whether Dee is realor artificial in her search of African Heritage? Although Dee claimsthat she wants to preserve the African heritage, she does notappreciate it. The typical home that she hated very much is the sameplace that she comes to collects pictures and items to use them asthe symbol of traditions. Thus, we can say that Dee’s search or ofAfrican heritage is artificial.
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Mullins,M. (2013). Antagonized by the Text, Or, It Takes Two to Read AliceWalker`s "Everyday Use".TheComparatist,37(1),37-53. doi:10.1353/com.2013.0001.
Walker,Alice, and Barbara Christian. EverydayUse.New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 1994. Print
Zhang,Qian, and Haimei Liu. "An Analysis of Dee’s IdentityConstruction from the Perspective of Consumer Culture." Advancesin Literary Study02.03 (2014): 75-82. Web.