Dee: Character Analysis
From Dee to Wangero: A Character Analysis of Faux Heritage
Alice Walker’s short story, “Everyday Use” presents an African American mother waiting on her front yard for the return of a daughter that the reader is left to understand has bettered herself a great deal compared with the rest of the family. It is with this backdrop of suspense and foreboding that the reader is greeted with a creature that does not live up to the expectations of what the mother’s thoughts have led one to believe.
When Dee arrives at the scene, she quickly dispels any myths the reader might have held regarding that she had bettered herself in any way as the mother’s thoughts had led one to believe. Upon entering the scene, Dee, together with her boyfriend Hakim-a-barber, quickly behaves like a couple of bad tourists would towards a group of indigenous locals (Walker 1). Dee and Hakim take pictures of the exterior of the house as well as of Mama and Maggie. Shortly thereafter, the author notes the flamboyant and incongruous clothing and hairstyle that Dee exhibits.
Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo
The next point of character analysis comes with the most symbolic fact that Dee has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo. This revelation alone is symbolic as it shows the reader that Dee has chosen to make a clear break from the heritage which she has grown up in. Although the other instances have helped to make this point clear, the issue of the name change clearly alerts the reader that the efforts that Dee is making in order to re-acquaint herself with her culture are vapid and worthless.
Furthermore, the character of Dee presents the reader with a dilemma of understanding. While at the same time she has distanced herself from her mother and sister, actively worked to introduce herself to a new culture, likely closely aligned with the concepts of the Nation of Islam, and flatly rejects her own heritage for that of one she has constructed all her own. The true breakdown in logic comes as Dee begins to try to acquire many of the handiworks and quilts that Mama has exhibited throughout her house. Dee looks down on her family with such distaste, disaffection, and an air of superiority that it is surprising to the reader that she would attempt or desire in any way to obtain these things. Her greed as she parades through the house gathering that which she wants serves to teach a higher truth regarding the fact that we oftentimes want to pick and chose what aspects of our culture we can keep.
Although Dee has had the benefit of the more beautiful complexion, the better or easier life, the better and higher education as compared with those family members in the story, none of these factors help in truly understanding and gaining an appreciation for her culture. In fact, Dee understands her culture far less than does Mama or Maggie.
The fact of the matter is that our culture is our own. However, there are positive and negative aspects of it. One cannot merely attempt to coop ways of living and seek to pick aspects of culture to venerate and aspects of it to disregard, it is not possible to call that a culture as it is just a collection of “things” just like what Dee gathered when she was at Mama’s house. These things do not help Dee to identify with her heritage any more than wearing odd clothing and changing her name to something that has no intelligible meaning in any culture would her to connect with her past.
Walker, Alice. “Alice Walker.” Alice Walker. N.p., 05 Jan. 2011. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. <http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ug97/quilt/walker.html>.