In her short story entitled “Everyday Use,” Alice Walker has created a powerful character named Dee, who is at the center of the plot. When reading the story, I was interested in analyzing behavior and the way of self-expression of Dee. Being a so-called preferred daughter in the family, she is perceived as smarter, more talented, and more sophisticated than her sister Maggie. This characteristic made me think that Dee’s ideas and way of thinking cannot be wrong since her mother likes her so much. However, Alice Walker used this element in character development to emphasize the complexity of Dee’s personality and its implications on the overall understanding of one’s ancestral heritage.
The personality traits characteristic of Dee unfold during the short story and become more evident in the background of other characters with whom she interacts and the actions she makes. When Dee changes her name to a more authentically African American, in her opinion, she demonstrates an incomplete understanding of her family and ethnic heritage. She intentionally wants to emphasize her ethnicity by rejecting the name associated with whites to differentiate herself from them, ignoring the fact that other women in her family had the same name. However, in doing so, she unintentionally rejects her family heritage and her true identity as a member of a non-artificial African-American community. Moreover, she wants to use the artifacts of her family heritage, such as the quilt, not as a memory of her ancestors and family members but only as display elements to brag about her unique identity.
Therefore, the analysis of Dee as a character in “Everyday Use” helped me better understand the short story and the writer’s message to her readers. Using Dee’s character, Alice Walker shows the difference between a genuine identity informed by heritage and an artificial one that rejects anything characteristic of everyday use. Instead, she puts her generalized identity on display, further complicating her self-perception as an African American woman.