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The Character Of Dee In Alice Walker's Everyday Use

935 words - 4 pages

The Character of Dee in Alice Walker's Everyday Use

Alice Walker skillfully crafts the character of Dee Johnson in the short story "Everyday Use." From the first paragraph, Walker begins to weave the portrait of Dee, who at first seems shallow in many aspects. Dee becomes a more complex character, however, as the story unfolds. Blessed with both brains and good looks, Dee emerges as someone who is still struggling with her identity and heritage.

Dee's physical beauty can be defined as one of her biggest assets. The fact that Maggie sees Dee "with a mixture of envy and awe" (409) cues the reader to Dee's favorable appearance. The simplistic way in which Walker states that "Dee ...view middle of the document...

Walker conveys Dee's strong need to have roots, even if those roots seemed beneath her newfound status. Her mother is surprised because she remembers that Dee hated the old house and was glad when it burned. The reader is left with the impression that Dee is struggling with who she is and where she came from. It is as though she has broken free from the shackles of her poor past and needs the pictures as proof of her freedom. Dee's main goal  is to show how far she has come from her roots.

Dee's inability to accept who she is can be seen as a weakness. Dee has turned her back on a part of her past by taking the Muslim name of "Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo" (412). Her reason for changing her name was because she "couldn't bear it any longer being named after the people who oppress me" (412). Her mother sees the action of the name change as Dee turning her back on her immediate blood relatives. Dee's insecurity concerning her past becomes evident, and her mother sees it as a denial of where she came from. It is as though she would rather claim the name of an unknown slave to that of her aunt and grandmother. Her biggest fear seems to be that by not declaring her heritage, she might someday have to return to the simple life of her mother and sister. Dee uses the "heritage" issue to try to resolve her feelings of inadequacies concerning her race in general. Walker implies that Dee wants to "hang" (415) her heritage and display it as a banner of courage for all to see. Yet, this outward display...

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