Alice Walker’s short story, “Everyday Use,” reflects the intimate struggle within a poor African American family as they run up against monumental issues of history, heritage, and family values.
Dee in Alice Walker’s story, “Everyday Use,” is struggling to find her place in the world and who she is. This story reflects a transitional period in her life where tradition and heritage meet a new contemporary reality. Dee was raised among the poor and ignorant, and resented it. She believed that she was cut from a different cloth, and thus her environment wouldn’t dictate her place in life. And so seemingly out of a profound embarrassment Dee was driven to break the mold of history by tirelessly differentiating herself wherever she could. She shifted her behavior, her speech, her dress, and eventually even her name. Dee hated the house she grew up in, evident in her eyes as she watched her old house burn down, as if she alone willed it to be so. She also read to Maggie and her mother condescendingly, almost to reassure them of their ignorance, and validate her own superiority. Dee had a desire for the materialistic, such as dresses for school- demands her mother wasn’t accustomed to and money wasn’t available to support. Dee’s personality and standpoint just didn’t jive with her lowly position. But she was resolute and willful in her defiance to be different, propelled by the stark contrasts of her mother and younger sister. “At sixteen she had a style of her own: and knew what style was”(600).
Dee eventually left the home when her mother saved enough for her to go off to school, a rare, if not unheard of, opportunity in that family There she was unbound by, what she perceived to be, an ignorant and small existence coupled with a similar social standing. Dee explored who she was and became self-actualized; the new Dee that came home contrasted even more sharply within the environment in which she was raised- something that was not lost on her...
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