The Characterization of Dee in Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”
The choice of characters in a short story is essential as the characters help in bringing out the main thoughts of the author. The characters also play a role in the building of the story, and thus it is important for the author to select his or her fictional characters well so that they can serve the purpose they have been created for. The characters are usually characterized into minor and major depending on the role they have to play in the story. This is the case for the short story Everyday use where Alice has made use of several characters. Despite the fact that the story is being told from a third person point of view it is evident that Dee is the main character in this short story. It is important to note that an individual in a story is characterized by what he does, what other people say about him and finally what he says about himself. In the short story, everyday use by Alice walker Dee is characterized by what she does, what she says and what other people in the story say about her.
Dee is characterized by what she does. It is important in any story to pay close attention to the things done by a character as this will help us gain a better understanding of the character. Actions speak louder than words and thus the things that a certain individual does goes a long way in helping us determine the traits of that particular individual. Dee in the story is seen as a disregarding individual as she does not care about the welfare of the people around her. This is seen in the instance where their house catches fire, and Dee sees that her mother and her sister need help in putting out the fire but she does not take part in giving them a helping hand. In fact, Dee stands at a distance under the sweet gum tree (Walker, 87) and watches as the house burns down to ashes. Dee is an ambitious lady, and this is seen in her quest for education. Dee leaves her home and her heritage and goes to college to acquire education so that she could stand out from the rest of the people in the community who were uneducated including her sister Maggie. The education that Dee acquires makes her be in a position to overcome poverty and racial discrimination. Dee is also self-centered as she makes use of the life her and Maggie lived in to build her reputation. Dee comes home and takes photos at the old house and this he intends to use to show people how she came from a humble background, but she still managed to go to college and became successful.
Dee is further characterized by what she says. One trait that is seen from what Dee says is that she is ungrateful and disregarding of her heritage. Dee is ungrateful as she goes to college and pursues education and later comes back and start telling her mother how backward they are and how they don’t understand civilization. Dee has forgotten that her mother sacrificed a lot so that she could afford to acquire the college education. Her mother worked daily so as to be able to give Dee the education she wanted and yet she comes back and start claiming that her mother is backward and uncivilized (Walker, 91). Dee is also arrogant and spiteful, and this is seen in how she describes her sister Maggie. She is even sarcastic when she says that Maggie is beautiful and educated in the ways of the community unlike her. The words that she utters both to her mother and her sister portray how insensitive she is about the feelings of other people, and this ends up affecting the self-esteem of her sister Maggie. Due to the intimidation that Maggie received from Dee she is grows to be shy, and this makes her unable to find a suitor. The manner in which Dee addresses her mother shows that she is disrespectful. She does not hold her in high regard despite the fact that her mother sacrificed a lot to give her the chance to be educated. She should have accorded her mother some respect despite her feeling that she was uncivilized and backward.
Dee is also characterized by what other people say about her. Dee is seen as a narcissist and an egotistical individual. This is seen from what her mother ponders on when Dee comes backs home. Her mother expects Dee to have changed after receiving an education that was meant to enlighten her and make her appreciate the important things in life, but this is not the case. Dee is still the same old girl who still loves, and her mother explains how she used to exclude herself from the family photos. The photos that are also taken by Dee when she comes back home excludes the family members including her own mother, and this shows how much she loved herself that she did not want others to be included in her photos. Dee’s mother describes how Dee was dressed when she came back from college, and unlike her expectation, she still cherished her roots (Walker, 91). The fact that Dee came dressed in an ankle length dress and left her hair kinky gives her mother the impression that she still regards the ways of the community and has not conformed to the ways of the whites.
In conclusion, the egotistical, arrogant, disregarding, selfish among other traits of Dee have been exemplified through what other people said about her, what she did and finally what she said in the short story. Dee through these traits has played a very important in putting emphasis on the main ideas of the author. Dee who therefore began as a shallow character in the story, grew through the traits the acquired to become a strong and visible character.
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 8th Ed. New York: Longman, 2002. 88-95.