Alice Walker characterizes the three main characters of‘Everyday Use’in developing the central theme of heritage. The characters are crafted in a powerful way to bring the underlying concepts of the short story. Notably, the thriller explores a wide spectrum of views concerning heritage rudimentary to a crisis in the family.The narrator of the story, Mama, depicts a sense of inner strength and love to propagate her African-American heritage in raising her two daughters, Maggie and Dee. Walker crafts a complex and powerful portrait of Dee as the story progresses. Although Dee is gifted with intelligence and physical beauty,she is struggling with her identity and heritage. As a result, she emerges as a flat character with an egoistic and narcissistic nature. Walker depicts Dee as a girl who believes that she is better than everyone because of her education, ambition, and good looks.As such, Walker develops Dee to be very vital in the story and uses her attitude, personality, actions, and behavior to express essential concepts of heritage. This essay will, therefore, discuss the characterization of Dee in ‘Everyday Use’by Alice Walker based on what she does, what she says, and what others say about her.
Dee is characterized by what she does. Dee’s voracious quest for education shows she is an ambitious girl. She badly wants to go to school and become enlightened. As a result, she leaves her home and pursues college education in order to stand out in her community (Walker 3). Education helps Dee in overcoming racial discrimination and poverty. Besides, Dees is depicted as a disregarding individual who does not care about the welfare of her mother and sister. This is revealed when she does not help her sister and mother in putting out the fire on their house. She watches their house burn to ashes at a distance (Walker 87).As such, it appears that she was happy the house burned down since she hated it because it was linked to family ancestry.Shealso does not show any concern for her sister who is severely injured by the fire. Furthermore, Dee’s actions show that she is self-centered. She uses her past life to build her reputation. For instance, she takes photos of their old house with a goal of using them to show people she came from a humble background(Walker 81). Dee is also unappreciative and unthankful of her history. Despite Mama struggling to educate her, Dee is unappreciative. She never visited her home when she was in college. She shows a feeling of embarrassment towards her sister, mother, and ancestry. She holds herself above her sister and mother because she is educated.She devalues her family’s lifestyle and desires her family be something they are not (Walker 126). Further, Dee changes her name in an attempt to disregard her family identity.
Dee is further characterized by what she says. Dee’s conversation with Maggie and Mama portray her as a selfish, egoistic and manipulative individual with superficial comprehension of her culture and heritage. She attempts to steal the quilts intended for Maggie. She claims that her sister cannot value the quilts since she is old fashioned (Walker 66). As such, using an exaggerated appreciation of their home, she attempts to manipulate mama in order to be given the family heirloom. Dee is unthankful and disregards her heritage based on what she says. She is ungrateful since after acquiring education she tells her mother that they are backward and do not comprehend civilization (Walker 91). This is despite the fact that her mother worked hard and sacrificed a lot to ensure she acquires a college education. The way Dee describes her sister shows she is spiteful and arrogant. She sarcastically says that her sister is educated in the ways of society and that she is beautiful. She calls Maggie ignorant and backward. Dee constantly intimidates Maggie, thus lowering her self-esteem and making her shy.
Dee is also characterized by what others say about her. Others view her as egotistical and narcissist person. This is founded on what her mother says about her. Mama expected education to enlighten and change Dee. Unfortunately, education did not transform her since she is still ashamed of her family. For instance, Dee excludes her family from her photos. Dee also goes against the heritage and traditions of her own family. Mama says that Dee used forcibly and inconsiderately read tothem against their wishes (Walker 73). This implies that Dee’s education alienated her from her family and heritage. Maggie portrays Dee as authoritative by claiming that Dee has held her life in the palm of one hand and that the world has never learned to say no to her (Walker 78). Moreover, Dee’s good looksare depicted as one of her indispensable assets. Her favorable appearance makes Maggie see her with awe and envy (Walker 409). Walker describes Dee beauty asa fuller image. (Walker 410).Dee’s beauty is above average. As a result, her beauty has made her acceptable in society.
In summary,the selfish, manipulative, authoritative disregarding, materialistic, arrogant, and self-centered traits of Dee are portrayed through what she says, shat she does, and what other people say about her. This implies that Dee’s attitude, personality, actions, and behavior create the underlying concepts of the story. She began as a shallow character and gradually acquired complex traits to become visible and powerful character. As such, she plays an integral role in developing the central idea of the story. Dee traits are very vital since they convey the theme of heritage in ‘Everyday Use’.
Walker, Alice. ’Everyday Use’. Rutgers University Press, 1994.
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