Everyday Use, a celebrated short story by Alice Walker, features a character named Dee who symbolizes cultural identity and heritage. Through her actions and beliefs, Dee is a reflection of the tension between modernity and tradition. Her interest in her family’s history is driven by an urge to fit in with the African-American community and connect with her ancestors. In many ways, Dee is a representation of the struggle to reconcile the past with the present.
Dee’s character is complex and multifaceted, and she serves as a symbol of the changing values and priorities of modern society. Her name is significant, as it marks a departure from the traditional African-American naming system. Dee sees herself as a progressive, modern woman, but her desire for her family’s heritage reflects a yearning for something more profound than the superficial trappings of modern life. Her obsession with quilts, in particular, is a representation of the intersection of culture, identity, and history. Through Dee’s character, Walker highlights the importance of cultural heritage and the need to bridge the gap between the past and present.
Walker’s portrayal of Dee and her significance in Everyday Use reflects the author’s own beliefs and experiences. As an activist and feminist, Walker is known for her work in celebrating African-American culture and heritage. Her writing reflects her passion for social justice and the need to preserve African-American traditions and values. By creating a character like Dee, Walker challenges readers to think deeply about their cultural identity and history, and to embrace their heritage with pride and dignity.
Dee’s Clothing Choices
In Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use,” Dee is described as someone who always wanted nice things. She would often ask for money to buy clothes, even though her family couldn’t afford it. Her clothing choices reflect her desire to distance herself from the poverty and lack of opportunity she experienced growing up.
When Dee returns home to visit her family, she is wearing a brightly colored, flowing dress made of African fabric. This is a stark contrast to the practical, everyday clothing her family wears. Her choice of clothing symbolizes her newfound appreciation for her African heritage and desire to connect with it.
However, it is important to note that Dee’s clothing choices also represent a form of cultural appropriation. She is not an active participant in her African culture and is only using it as a way to make herself appear more worldly and cultured.
Dee’s Clothing Choices – Examples
- Dee’s brightly colored, flowing dress made of African fabric
- Dee’s African headdress
- Dee’s high-waisted pants and tunic made of brightly colored, African fabric
Dee’s Clothing Choices – Table
|Brightly colored, flowing dress made of African fabric||Connection to African heritage and desire to appear cultured|
|African headdress||Attempt to distance herself from poverty and embrace African culture|
|High-waisted pants and tunic made of brightly colored, African fabric||Symbolic rejection of her family’s more practical, everyday clothing|
Overall, Dee’s clothing choices in “Everyday Use” represent her desire to distance herself from her poverty-stricken past and embrace her African heritage. However, they also reveal her tendency to appropriate other cultures without fully understanding or participating in them.
Dee’s Attitude Towards Her Family’s Heritage
A major theme in Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” centers around the tension and conflict between traditional African American culture and the modern world. Dee’s attitude towards her family heritage displays this conflict. Dee feels disconnected from her African American roots and desires to embrace the modern world and become someone who is not associated with her family’s history.
- Disdain for the Past
- Misunderstanding the Value of Heritage
- Superficial Appreciation of Her Heritage
Dee represents the modern world through her education and disdain for her family’s way of life. Dee sees her family’s old ways as being primitive and below her. She has changed her name from “Dee” to “Wangero” as a way to distance herself from her family’s past. She also adopts African dress and hairstyles implying that she has embraced her African heritage, but rather, she has abandoned her family’s roots and culture.
Dee does not understand the value of her family’s heritage which includes quilts and other artifacts that her grandmother made. When Dee sees the quilts, she wants to take them and hang them on the wall as if they were merely decorative pieces and not meant to be used. This angers her mother and sister because to them, the quilts represent continuity and connection to the past.
Dee’s appreciation for her heritage appears to be superficial. When Dee shows up to her mother’s house with Hakim-a-barber who is not African American, but hails from East Africa, she is flaunting her newfound knowledge about Africa and her African heritage. She is, in essence, presenting herself as an authority on African culture while misunderstanding and disrespecting her African American heritage.
Dee’s attitude towards her family heritage symbolizes the conflict that occurs between traditional African American culture and the modern world. Her desire for a new identity is at the expense of her family’s heritage. Dee does not value her family’s past, and as a result, she misses out on the vital connection to her roots. Ultimately, her superficial appreciation for her heritage is her failure to understand where she comes from and what makes her who she is.
Understanding our heritage is essential because it connects us to our identity. It enables us to trace our roots and honor those who came before us. By understanding our past, we can chart a course for the future that recognizes and dedicates ourselves to that which is essential and unique to us.
|Dee’s attitude provides an opportunity to examine the differences between traditional and modern African American culture.||Dee’s lack of understanding of her family’s heritage isolates her from her roots and family.|
|Dee’s story warns against the dissolution of cultural identity.||Dee’s superficial appreciation for her heritage suggests that modern-day youth can be separated from their roots through education and the pursuit of new identities.|
Overall, Dee’s attitude towards her family’s heritage forces readers to examine the tension that occurs between traditional African American culture and the modern world. It reminds us why it is essential to recognize the value of our heritage to remain connected to our roots and preserve our cultural identity.
In Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use,” the character of Dee holds a significant amount of importance as she represents not only herself but also the African-American culture that struggles to navigate their identity in a predominantly white society. As one of the primary characters, Dee’s education plays a crucial role in the story’s narrative.
- Symbolizing African-American Supremacy
- The Cultural Divide
- Dee’s Interpretation of Heritage
Dee’s education symbolizes African-American supremacy, something the characters of the story question. Dee’s education is seen as the ticket to their escape from the turmoil of being black in a white society, a liberation of sorts. Her mother Mama says, “Education was all we had to get us out of here,” emphasizing the importance of education as a means of upward mobility. Dee, with her education and newfound African identity, shows a sense of superiority over her family. This superiority complex represents the divide within the black community.
Dee’s education allows her to appreciate the African-American heritage that her ancestors lived, but at the same time, she tries to separate herself from her family’s cultural traditions. Dee’s new identity emphasizes a difference from her past, leading to a cultural divide. This divide exasperates the idea of African-American solidarity among the characters.
Dee’s education also allows her to interpret heritage differently than her mother and sister. Dee sees heritage as something material, something that can be displayed, and with this interpretation, she wants to acquire the handmade quilts that her grandmother and great-grandmother made. Dee shows little to no regard for the emotional significance of the quilts, which signify the family’s heritage and struggle to overcome oppression.
Dee’s education represents both a symbol of African-American supremacy and a divide within the culture, leading to a reinterpretation of heritage that questions the core values of the African-American community. Through her character, Walker emphasizes the importance of education as a tool for uplifting oneself, but also warns of its potentials to cause a dissonance within one’s culture.
Thus, Dee’s education is not only a tool to escape oppression, but it also represents a challenge to the African-American community’s struggle to find solidarity and a true sense of who they are and their heritage.
|Symbolism||Cultural Divide||Interpretation of Heritage|
|Represents African-American Supremacy||Dee’s new identity emphasizes a difference from her past||Shows little to no regard for the emotional significance of the quilts, which signify the family’s heritage and struggle to overcome oppression|
|Is a source of divide within the African-American community|
Dee’s Relationship with Her Mother and Sister
The dynamic between Dee and her family is a central theme in Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use.” Dee’s relationship with her mother and sister is characterized by a sense of distance and estrangement, rooted in their differing attitudes towards heritage and cultural identity.
- Dee’s desire to distance herself from her rural upbringing and embrace a more cosmopolitan lifestyle is at odds with her mother and sister’s attachment to their cultural roots.
- Dee’s criticism of her family’s way of life, such as their use of shabby old items, also contributes to the tension between them.
- Dee’s name change to “Wangero” is another example of her rejection of her family’s heritage, as she seeks to embrace a more “authentic” African identity.
Despite the tension, Dee’s mother and sister still care for her deeply, as evidenced by their willingness to prepare a special meal for her visit and their desire to share their family history with her. The story ultimately suggests that there is value in both embracing one’s cultural roots and assimilating into broader society, but that this balance is difficult to achieve.
The complicated relationship between Dee and her family is further illustrated through their physical interactions. Dee’s mother and sister often defer to her but maintain their own autonomy through quiet resistance. Dee’s relationship with her mother and sister illustrates the larger theme of tradition versus modernization.
|Mother||Dee’s mother is a simple woman who takes pride in her modest home and traditional way of life. She is often conflicted by Dee’s rejection of her heritage but ultimately comes to a place of acceptance and understanding.|
|Maggie||Maggie is Dee’s younger sister and is portrayed as shy and insecure, contrasting sharply with Dee’s bold and confident personality. Despite her insecurities, Maggie has a deep connection to her family’s history and heritage.|
Overall, Dee’s relationship with her mother and sister highlights the complex interplay between individual identity, cultural heritage, and familial relationships.
Dee’s Interest in African Culture
In Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use,” Dee’s interest in African culture is a prominent theme that highlights the divide between her and her family’s understanding of their heritage.
Dee’s fascination with African heritage is reflected in her decision to change her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, which she claims better represents her “true” African identity. She also dons an African print dress and extravagant head wrap upon her arrival, signalling her desire to adopt African culture as her own.
However, Dee’s interest in African culture is superficial as she fails to comprehend the true essence and significance of her family’s heritage. She sees her culture as a commodity to be displayed and celebrated, rather than a way of life that holds significance and meaning.
Dee’s Misunderstanding of African Culture
- Dee’s superficial interest in African culture
- Her lack of understanding of the significance of her family’s heritage
- Her appropriation of African culture to serve her personal interests
Contrasting Views of Heritage
Dee’s interest in African culture contrasts with her mother and sister’s understanding of their heritage, which is rooted in family and community traditions. For them, their culture is not a commodity to be showcased, but a way of life that holds significance and meaning.
Mama and Maggie’s view of heritage contrasts with Dee’s superficial interest in the African culture she seeks to adopt, as they understand their heritage to be a part of their daily lives and identity. For example, Mama still uses handmade quilts passed down from her grandparents and appreciates the meaning they hold, while Dee sees them as trendy artifacts to display in her home.
Dee’s Relationship with Materialism
The contrast between Dee’s understanding of heritage and her family’s deeper connection to their culture highlights her relationship with materialism. Dee sees her culture as a commodity to be displayed and celebrated, reflecting her desire to accumulate material possessions.
|Examples of Dee’s Materialism||Examples of Mama and Maggie’s Connection to Heritage|
|Wants to take home handmade quilts as “priceless” artifacts||Mama still uses handmade quilts in her everyday life, appreciating their value and meaning|
|Takes Polaroid pictures of her family and home for display||Has family photos and heirlooms on display in the home, but as a connection to her heritage rather than for show|
|Wants an antique butter churn as a decoration||Mama and Maggie use a modern, electric churn for practical use when making butter|
Overall, Dee’s interest in African culture serves as a symbol of her disconnection from her family’s heritage, as she fails to understand the true essence and significance of her culture and instead focuses on material possessions and surface-level understanding.
Dee’s rejection of her given name
In Alice Walker’s short story, “Everyday Use,” Dee is the eldest daughter of Mama and the sister of Maggie. Dee is known for her intelligence and her desire to embrace her African heritage. She is a modern woman who changes her name from Dee to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, which symbolizes her rebellion against her family’s traditions. Here, we will discuss the reasons behind Dee’s rejection of her given name.
- The name Dee has no African origin. Dee’s given name is associated with American culture and has nothing to do with her African heritage. For Dee, the name Dee is a symbol of oppression, and she believes that it does not represent her true identity.
- Dee wants to embrace her African identity. In rejecting her given name, Dee wants to adopt a name that reflects her African identity. She wants to shed her American identity and fully embrace her African heritage. Changing her name is a way for her to distance herself from her family’s past and embrace her own unique identity.
- Dee wants to assert her independence. By changing her name, Dee is asserting her independence and rejecting her family’s traditions. She no longer wants to be defined by her family’s history and beliefs. For Dee, renaming herself is a way to break free from the past and assert her own identity.
It is important to note that Dee’s rejection of her given name is not just about a name. It is about her desire to take control of her own identity and to assert her independence. Changing her name is a way for her to embrace her African heritage and distance herself from her family’s past. It is a symbol of Dee’s rebellion and her desire to embrace her own unique identity.
|Dee’s name change||Dee’s desire to embrace her African heritage and assert her independence|
|Dee’s rejection of her given name||Dee’s rebellion against her family’s traditions and her desire to distance herself from her family’s past|
Overall, Dee’s rejection of her given name is a significant symbol in “Everyday Use.” It represents her desire to break free from her family’s past and embrace her own unique identity. Dee’s decision to change her name is a symbol of rebellion and independence, and it underscores the deeper themes of the story, including the importance of embracing one’s heritage and the tension between tradition and change.
One of the key themes in Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use” is the damaging effects of materialism, as demonstrated by Dee’s character.
Dee’s obsession with acquiring material possessions serves as a symbol of her detachment from her family and her heritage. She sees her family’s quilts and other handmade objects as valuable artifacts to be collected and displayed in a museum rather than cherished family heirlooms. Her desire to acquire them in order to showcase them serves as an example of her materialistic mindset.
- Dee’s materialism causes her to prioritize objects over people. She’s more concerned with the aesthetic value of the quilts she desires than their sentimental significance to her family.
- Her focus on the physical appearance of the objects she collects is similar to her obsession with her own physical appearance, highlighting the self-centered nature of her character.
- Furthermore, Dee’s obsession with materialism demonstrates the divide between her own values and those of her family, as well as her disconnect from her cultural roots.
This theme also highlights the conflict between the younger generation, represented by Dee, and the older generation, represented by Mama and Maggie.
Overall, Dee’s materialism serves as a symbol for the fragmentation caused by placing too much value on material possessions rather than on heritage, family, and culture.
|Effects of Dee’s Materialism||Quotes from the Text|
|Divides her from her family||“Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes: she will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eying her sister with a mixture of envy and awe.”|
|Highlights the conflict between the younger and older generations||“She pinched it at the waist between her forefinger and thumb to show how thin it was. . . .”I can remember Grandma Dee without the quilts, too. Dee. . . .” she said like something unpleasant in her mouth.”|
|Represents the fragmentation caused by materialism||“She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use.”|
The damaging effects of materialism are evident in Dee’s character, as seen through her prioritization of objects over people, her obsession with physical appearance, and her disconnect from her family and cultural heritage. Her character serves as a warning against the dangers of placing too much value on material possessions and highlights the importance of valuing one’s cultural roots and family connections.
Dee’s Representation of the “New Negro”
Dee, also known as Wangero, symbolizes the “New Negro” movement in Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”. The “New Negro” was a term used during the Harlem Renaissance to describe African Americans who challenged racial norms and expressed their cultural identity through literature, art, and music. Dee’s character embodies this movement through her rejection of her Southern roots and adoption of African clothing and names.
- Dee’s rejection of her Southern roots showcases her desire to distance herself from the oppression and discrimination faced by her ancestors. This rejection reflects the “New Negro” idea of challenging traditional racial norms and embracing a new identity.
- Her adoption of African clothing and names represents a reconnection with her cultural heritage. This reflects the “New Negro” idea of expressing one’s cultural identity through art, literature, and music.
- Dee’s education and exposure to the world outside of her small Southern town also reflect the “New Negro” movement’s focus on education and intellectualism as a means to achieve equality and challenge racial discrimination.
Overall, Dee’s character represents the cultural and social changes that were occurring during the 1960s when “Everyday Use” was written. Through her rejection of traditional Southern culture and adoption of African clothing and names, Dee embodies the “New Negro” movement’s focus on challenging racial norms and expressing cultural identity.
In conclusion, Dee’s representation of the “New Negro” movement highlights the importance of embracing cultural identity and challenging traditional racial norms. Through her rejection of her Southern roots and adoption of African clothing and names, Dee challenges the norm and provides an example of how the “New Negro” movement influenced African American culture during the Harlem Renaissance era.
|Dee’s Characteristics as a “New Negro”||Explanation|
|Rejection of Traditional Southern Culture||Dee distances herself from the oppression and discrimination faced by her ancestors.|
|Adoption of African Clothing and Names||Dee embraces her cultural heritage and expresses her cultural identity through art and fashion.|
|Education and Intellectualism||Dee’s education and exposure to the world outside of her Southern town reflects the “New Negro” focus on education and intellectualism as a means to achieve equality.|
The “New Negro” movement represented a significant shift in African American culture during the 20th century. Dee’s character in “Everyday Use” provides readers with a glimpse into this cultural and social movement through her rejection of traditional Southern culture and embrace of African clothing and names. Her character symbolizes the importance of challenging racial norms and expressing cultural identity through art and fashion.
Dee’s Appropriation of Her Family’s Artifacts
Throughout Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use,” Dee’s appropriation of her family’s artifacts serves as a symbol of her desire to distance herself from her African American heritage while simultaneously trying to claim it as her own. This is demonstrated through various artifacts in the story, each one representing an aspect of Dee’s relationship with her family and heritage.
Number 9: The Quilts
Perhaps the most significant example of Dee’s appropriation is her desire for the handmade quilts made by her grandmother and great-grandmother. Dee sees the quilts as valuable artifacts that should be appreciated for their artistic and historical value. However, Mama and Maggie view them as practical items to be used and cherished in everyday life.
- Dee’s desire for the quilts is symbolic of her desire to claim her family’s heritage as her own.
- By wanting to display them as artwork instead of using them for their intended purpose, Dee is showing her disconnect from her African American roots.
- She is also perpetuating the myth that African American culture is only valuable when it’s been commodified and turned into a marketable product.
The quilts represent a tangible link to the past, and their value lies in their everyday use and the memories they hold. By trying to possess them solely for their aesthetic appeal, Dee is ignoring the emotional connection they represent.
|Dee’s View of the Quilts||Mama and Maggie’s View of the Quilts|
|Artistic and historical value||Practical and emotional value|
|Shouldn’t be used for their intended purpose||Meant to be used and cherished in everyday life|
|Symbolic of Dee’s desire to claim her heritage||Symbolic of the emotional connection to the past|
In conclusion, Dee’s appropriation of her family’s artifacts in “Everyday Use” symbolizes her desire to claim her African American heritage as her own while also distancing herself from it. Her desire for the handmade quilts made by her grandmother and great-grandmother represents the dichotomy between the practical and emotional value of the artifacts and their aesthetic and historical value.
Dee’s Role as a Literary Foil to Maggie
In “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker, the characters of Dee and Maggie are siblings, but they present opposite sides of the same coin. Dee is the embodiment of urbanization and education, while Maggie is the embodiment of poverty and humility. Dee’s role as a literary foil to Maggie is central to the author’s purpose in the story.
- Dee is worldly, while Maggie is sheltered. Dee has gone to college, changed her name, and adopted a new cultural identity. She wants to take the family’s quilts, which have practical value, but also hold a deep significance for the family’s heritage. Maggie is less ambitious, but she understands the history and emotions behind the quilts.
- Dee is arrogant, while Maggie is humble. Dee regards herself as an expert in African culture, but she ignores her immediate family’s roots. She sees Maggie as inferior, and is dismissive of her scars and burn marks. Maggie, on the other hand, is accommodating, and her loyalty to her family is unwavering.
- Dee is selfish, while Maggie is selfless. Dee is more concerned about claiming her unique heritage and making a name for herself, rather than preserving and respecting her family members’ legacy. Maggie, despite her physical and emotional trauma, doesn’t complain or express envy towards her sister. She demonstrates a love for her family, and she is content with her modest life.
The author uses Dee’s character to demonstrate the negative effects of extreme urbanization and assimilation. Dee is so disconnected from her roots that she is unable to appreciate true family values, and her education and sophistication have become a burden. The author uses Maggie to emphasize the importance of family unity and cultural grounding. Maggie represents resilience and virtue, and she remains closely tied to her family identity, despite her challenges. Dee’s role as a literary foil to Maggie serves to highlight the differences in their characters, and to suggest the author’s viewpoint on the subject of cultural heritage.
In conclusion, Dee’s role as a literary foil to Maggie is significant in highlighting the differences between urbanization and rural life, assimilation and cultural heritage, and selfishness and selflessness. The author intends to show that too much emphasis on education and modernity, at the expense of our roots and true values, can bring harm to our relationships with our loved ones and our own sense of identity.
What Does Dee Symbolize in Everyday Use FAQs
1. Who is Dee and why is she important in Everyday Use?
Dee is a character in Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use,” and is important because she represents conflicting ideas of heritage and culture.
2. What does Dee symbolize in the story?
Dee symbolizes a modern interpretation of African American culture that values material objects and individualism over a connection to the community and tradition.
3. How does Dee’s name relate to her symbolism?
Dee’s name is a shortened version of her given name, which was “Deborah.” This name change represents her rejection of her family’s heritage and desire to be seen as an individual.
4. Why does Dee reject her family’s quilt and other items?
Dee rejects her family’s quilt and other items because she sees them as old-fashioned and outdated. She values their material worth over their sentimental value and cultural significance.
5. What does Dee’s education and newfound identity have to do with her symbolism?
Dee’s education and newfound identity are part of what makes her symbolic in the story. She sees herself as separate from her family and community, and values her individualism over a connection to her heritage.
6. Why is Dee’s sister Maggie important in understanding Dee’s symbolism?
Maggie is important in understanding Dee’s symbolism because she represents the other side of the conflict between individualism and tradition. Maggie values her family’s heritage and culture, and has a closer connection to the community.
7. What is the message that Alice Walker is trying to convey through Dee’s symbolism?
Through Dee’s symbolism, Alice Walker is trying to convey the importance of staying connected to one’s heritage and culture. She suggests that individualism and materialism are not as meaningful as a connection to community and tradition.
Thanks for taking the time to read about what Dee symbolizes in “Everyday Use.” We hope this article has provided you with a deeper understanding of this complex character and what she represents in the story. Be sure to come back for more insightful discussions on literature and culture.