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The Character of Dee in Alice Walker’s “everyday Use”

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Essay title: The Character of Dee in Alice Walker’s “everyday Use”

The Character of Dee in Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”

“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker is about a mother who has two daughters with very different values and concepts about family heritage. The mother and Maggie view the concept of heritage in the same manner. They believe it should be put to everyday use. The other daughter, Dee, has went away to college only to return to embrace her heritage but for all the wrong reasons. She wants to preserve it as a remembrance of her past. The most prominent character in Walker’s short story is Dee. Dee is portrayed as a flat character in the narrative because she remains the same throughout the entire story. We mainly learn about her through the observations and words spoken to us from her mother, but we also learn a great deal about her through her own actions and words. In the beginning of the story the narrator informs readers of when the house burned down and of how she had watched Dee stand under the gum tree. She states that she wanted to ask her, “Why don’t you do a dance around the ashes? Claiming that Dee had hated the house that much” (104). The narrator of the story then informs the reader of an incident in which Dee had wrote saying that no matter “where we choose to live, she will manage to come see us. But she will never bring her friends” (104). Dee’s mother often daydreams that Dee and her would be brought together on a TV program and Dee would tell her how much she loves her and appreciates her for everything she has done. For example, the narrator states, “then we are on the stage and Dee is embracing me with tears in her eyes. She pins on my dress a large orchid, even though she has told me once that she thinks orchids are tacky flowers” (103). Based on this information we get a first insight on the character of Dee as one who is very selfish and unappreciative. Dee’s motivations of self-centeredness is indicated by her return home after twelve years to reveal her name change, criticize her family, and claim several items from the family heritage.

One portrayal that Walker uses to show Dee’s selfishness is her name change. When Dee returns home to visit her family she informs her family that she has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. Her mother asked her why she changed her name and she states “She’s dead. I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me” (106). Dee failed to realize the actual significance of her name. Her name had been passed down to her from her great grandmother. Although Dee’s mother decided to accept her name change it is clear that she does not appreciate it. For example, after she has traced the name for Dee, Asalamalakim states “there you are” and Dee’s mother states, in an unappreciative voice, “There I was not, before ‘Dicie’ cropped up in our family, so why should I try to trace it that far back?” (106). Dee finally tells her mother that she doesn’t have to call her by that name if she doesn’t want to, but her mother tells her that she will call her by Wangero. After all, if she truly wanted to be called by the name Dee she would never have changed her name in the first place.

The second factor that contributes to her motivations of selfishness is her ability to criticize her family. Upon arriving to visit her mother, Dee immediately brings out a camera to take pictures of everything, as if she had to take some type of proof of her past life and experiences. The narrator informs the reader that Dee took picture after picture of her mother sitting in front of the house with Maggie behind her. She then comments that “She never takes a shot without making sure the house is included. When a cow comes nibbling around the

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