An Analysis of Traits and Aspirations in Everyday Use by Alice Walker

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In Alice Walker’s short story, “Everyday Use”, the character Dee was portrayed as quick- witted and determined. The story began with two daughters who were raised alike, yet lived extremely different. There is a fine line of distinction between the traits and aspirations of the two. Alice Walker drew portraits through her words of three women in a family in the short story. Maggie was the youngest daughter who had lived in the shadows and had been somewhat ashamed most of her life. She was portrayed as the insecure little sister of Dee. Dee was the eldest of the two children and was known for not backing down to people when faced by them. Dee was shown as an independent person who was not proud of her heritage growing up.

When the story commences the speaker, who is also Maggie and Dee’s mother, tells the story of their old house burning down. She recounts that event and tells, “sometimes I can still hear flames and feel Maggie’s arms sticking to me…and Dee. I see her standing off under the sweet gum tree she used to dig gum out of; a look of concentration on her face….” As the speaker tells this account the reader conveys the idea that Dee set the house on fire herself. After anaylzing the passage the reader can conclude that Dee burned the house as a symbol of doing away with a part of herself that she did not like. The mother speaks of how she believed Dee also used to hate Maggie too.

When the mother and the church raised enough money to send Dee to school in Augusta, Dee was ecstatic. She couldn’t wait to get away from her family and her new house that she was so ashamed of. Dee left for school and returned with a complete different outlook on her heritage. At the time Dee was in college, the African Americain movement was beginning to pick up. Being proud of your heritage was the right and “in thing” to do. When Dee returned home she had changed her name to, Wangeri Leewanika Kemanjo. She claimed that the Dee she used to be was dead. In the story you can see the author foreshadowing what was to come. The mother displays her patience throughout the whole short story until the very end.

During the last few paragraphs of the story while Dee is home, it depicts her as being blunt and demanding of her mother and sister. She acts as though she is better than her mother and Maggie and on a different level. When her mother finally stands up to her, the reader becomes aware of all the tension between them. It seems as though Dee sees her mother and sister an ignominy to her family and to their culture. According to Dee they need to make something of themselves and that it is a new day for “them.” She is extremely out of touch with her family and does not agree with their lifestyle. For the most part they have grown apart and reached a point to where it is most likely permanent.

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An Analysis of Traits and Aspirations in Everyday Use by Alice Walker. (2023, May 21). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/an-analysis-of-traits-and-aspirations-in-everyday-use-by-alice-walker/

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