why the character dee was chosen by the authpr

By the late 1900s, most African-Americans were reaping the benefits of civil rights campaigns, when many of them were offered chances to obtain an education. Many African Americans, especially the younger generation, started to transform the bigotry and shame associated with racism into something positive. As an example, consider Dee’s greeting, Asalamalakim. 81 (Kennedy and Gioia) Indeed, many African Americans started to incorporate African influences into diverse areas such as music and fashion. For example, Dee says, I can use the churn top as a centerpiece for the alcove table, (Kennedy and Gioia 82), demonstrating an obvious link between African fusion and modernism. Additionally, the new generation felt that having been educated the only way to take pride in their African nature was to acquire African names in place of their Westernized ones (Gale 10). So Dee refuses and says, “No, Mama, Not ‘Dee,’ Wangero Leewanika Kamanjo!” (Kennedy and Gioia 81) While to someone, especially the mature African Americans, who experienced racism, such behaviors held a lot of meaning, to the younger generation it was more of a show. This is the reason why Alice Walker developed the character Dee in the short story Everyday Use (Wangero 56). The character acts as a symbol of the significant difference between the uneducated old generation African Americans and the educated new one, just after the period of civil rights reforms in the United States. The second and equally important reason why the character Dee was created by the author, was because of the period had seen the growth of a movement called the Museum Studies movement which had most of the members going back to the achieves to collect precious traditional items preserved them which led to another conflict of perception between Dee and her mother, the narrator. This discourse reveals Dee as a character arousing and showing the conflict between new educated and the old illiterate African American generation.
The presence of Dee as a character who is playing almost a central role in the story since she is the one spoken of mainly, helps scholars understand the setting under which the story was written and perhaps the perception of the author of the society at the time. So that at a time when women are educated like Dee, the narrator is not educated because she says, “I have man-working hands. I can kill and clean the hog as a man,” (Kennedy and Gioia 78) which is an indication of a house wife. Consequently, Dee represents two fundamental conflicts in the story; the first is the generational conflict that further is reflected in illiteracy of the old generation versus the literacy of the new generation. The importance of this character and her role to the author is to satisfy for a bright illumination of the African American society towards the end of the 20th century after the periods ending discrimination (Gale 05). When the narrator states that, “I dream that Dee and I are brought in a TV program,” (Kennedy and Gioia 78) showing that Africans began having opportunities even to be featured on T.V. For authors like Walker, being a person from the minority background, appreciating the opportunity for education among the African Americans was significant and had to be expressed through their literature works (Gale 02). However, still, the impact that the education had on the new generation must have been something that Walker desired to reveal. That is why, in her story, the character; Dee is represented as a character that has had the privilege to be educated. She is educated because the mother asks her, “Ream it out again?” (Kennedy and Gioia 82) Showing she is not fluent in English like her daughter. Something that her sister nor her mother did not have, but the effects of education has not made her appreciate her roots, and hence she is arrogant to her mother and sister. Moreover, Dee is chosen by the author to show that education only gave the new generation a plastic feeling of patriotism to their cultures, but the real patriotism was left with those that were uneducated and chose to live a traditional African life. The narrator is presented as an African-American woman who wanted to live a regular life in the Deep South. Moreover, the generational conflict comes where Dee with her education does not appreciate cultural heritage such as respectful salutations and honor to parents which have been noted as common African cultural practices. To her, heritage is about changing her name and owning traditional artifacts. In contrast, her mother the narrator hold family ties as dear and respect and important behaviors that an African child must hang on to and pass to the next generation. That is why she says (the narrator), “ “[Her hair] stands straight up like the wool on a sheep, And let’s not forget how she eschews Hello for the African Wa-us-zo-Team-o when she greets her mother and sister” (Kennedy and Gioia 80). This is an indication that to the narrator, Dee is faking her African behavior.
The second conflict that the author intends to show is the ideological conflict as to how to perceive cultural artifacts and heritage. As aforementioned, the time frame when the author wrote the book was a period when there was a lot of appreciation of African culture. Most Africans took pride in their-their heritage, and the development of revolutions like the Museum Studies strengthened the love and appreciation for African artifacts (Gale 11). To confirm this, Dee’s love for African items can be seen when she says, “I never knew how lovely these benches are,” (Kennedy and Gioia 82) she refers to the home made benches at her mother’s place. People who were part of this movement collected the traditional African items and put them in the museum for people to see. The character Dee is, therefore, important because she brings in the contrast between appreciating culture by sightseeing and enjoying culture through having it as a part of one’s life, “for everyday use” (Kennedy and Gioia 83) The character Dee represents the African Americans who were the elites that appreciated African heritage just by sightseeing as she appreciates her grandmother’s work saying, “she did all this stitching (quilts) by hand, imagine!” (Kennedy and Gioia 83) but not by behavior as Mama, the narrator did.
Take for instance when Dee comes home, and requests for the African made quilts that she had earlier rejected. To her, she feels they will be good to see in her house just to emphasize her new found African nature which again is considered to be untrue, the narrator refuses. She instead claims that she has kept them for her sister, for everyday use (Kennedy and Gioia 83). Meaning, they are more useful to they that see their significance and usefulness as opposed to Dee who loves them on a surface because she says, “and I’ll think of something artistic to do with the dasher.” (82). Meaning that to her they are just decorations. In a nutshell, to an authentic African, admiring artifacts is not enough but having it for a day to day use, makes more sense.
The characters of Dee
While Dee plays a very significant role in the development of the history, context, and setting of the story, her character can be perceived from two contrasting perspectives. It is possible to interpret Dee’s character as strong willed and unwavering, even the narrator says,“ at sixteen she had a style of her own: and knew what style was.” (Kennedy and Gioia 78). Also looking at the way she rejects her name, “I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after people who oppressed me.” (Kennedy and Gioia 81) However, Dee can also be considered to be arrogant and without respect for her next of keen who as seen must have sacrificed a lot to let her study. The reason why Dee’s character is considered as strong is that she had always shown the would have the power to go for what she wants, right from her childhood. Then narrator in her memories recalls that Dee disliked her background and never wanted to identify with herself or her family. While this may have been a negative way to react like a child, but as an adult, it is evident that she has changed her perspective and she is determined to be who she is (Kennedy and Gioia 79). She defends her position so strongly that even when convinced by her mother that her name Dee is from her aunt’s name Dici, she is not easily convinced and Dee intends even to go through her history to find the truth behind the name. Hence she asks, “Who was she named after?”( Kennedy and Gioia 81)
She is also strong enough to accept and change her name. While many young people would not have wanted to make a radical move such as that which she made, Dee is seen to be ready to change her name as the conversation with the narrator goes, “What happened to Dee?” narrator asks, “She is dead, I could not bear it any longer being named after people that oppressed me” (Kennedy and Gioia 81). It must be noted that the period within the setting of the story is still a time when the African Americans were enjoying a lot of freedoms that had been brought by civil rights movements, but by and large, they were still facing discrimination in some ways. Therefore she is strong because as mentioned by Gale that, to be an African-American woman taking studies at her period and time, it must have been challenging (08). The narrator herself was not educated, and she says, “I never had an education myself.” (Kennedy and Gioia 79) Additionally, standing and claiming her identity could have made it even harder. However, it is seen as the story portrays, that she is studying and she seems to be doing well in school because there is nowhere mentioned that she is a failure. Moreover, she reflects an intelligent young woman.
Again her strength is not just seen in her interest in her tradition roots or her change of name, but also in her ability to stands for what she believes in, even when her mother and sister seem not to understand her. For instance, they do not know why she has changed her name to Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo (Walker 27). Her reply to them is that “I couldn’t bear it named after my oppressors” (Kennedy and Gioia 81). Even though this explanation is very clear and makes sense even to her mother, but the narrator refuses to understand or even to listen. The way she has her hair made may be criticized by the narrator, but it is a means of communicating her African beauty. It is even ironical that the narrator considers that, Dee should have straightened her hair like the whites do, to blend with her beauty.
The negative perspective of Dee comes in her character that is seen to be negative towards her mother and sister Maggie. Right from the start of her life, Dee has been rejecting her family. This can be interpreted as arrogant. What makes Dee’s character to be considered very grievous at this point is because, at this age and historical moment, such kind of disrespect and misbehavior was not expected of children. From the story this is how Dee behaves, as her mother says, ““Take one or two of the other,” But she turned without a word” (Kennedy and Gioia 84). In the 21st century where there is a lot of freedom, rights, and liberalism, children can choose to live their lives as they want and it is not strange. However, at the time of the story, which is late 20th century, such attitude as portrayed by Dee was not familiar and hence unwelcomes (Kennedy and Gioia 82 – 84). It is, therefore, clear that Dee revealed arrogance as her evil character as an actor.
Again Dee’s pride is seen in her character when she gets home. She does not spend a time to greet her parents and even know about their conditions. She seems to be in a hurry because all that she does is shout some salutations and walk away. This is a show of arrogance (Kennedy and Gioia 84). It even becomes pronounced because from the narrator’s story, they have been apart for too long and she is even wondering what kind of reunion she expected to have with her daughter. Hence from her expectation, even though she does not say it, but it is felt from her thoughts that she expected a better reunion. Then finally, her arrogance is also seen when she has been denied the quilts, and she is departing, the story reveals that she makes some patronizing comments to her mother, she says, “You ought to try and make something of yourself” (Kennedy and Gioia 84)and her sister then drives away with her boyfriend. That departure shows that she is arrogant.
Dee as a character, therefore, has been selected specially by the author to make the story’s message within the time frame understood. This is because she causes conflict between the young, educated generations after the changes emerging from the civil rights movement in the U.S. (Kennedy and Gioia 77) and the old illiterate generation that faced racial discrimination. Again, she is important because she reveals the different ideologies on cultural heritage at the time. The cultural heritage she represents if for the elites who just admire and praise African artifacts but beyond that has no meaning in their lives while the narrator her mother represents the cultural heritage of a real African American who appreciates African artifact and put them to everyday use
Works Cited
Gale, Cengage L. Study Guide to Alice Walker’s Everyday Use. Gale: Cengage Learning, 2015.Print.
Kennedy X. J and Gioia. Dana Backpack Literature 5th edition An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. London: Pearson. ISBN-13:9780134582498. 2016, Print
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” The Story and Its Writer. Ed. Anna Charters. Compact 8th ed. Boston: Bedfor/St. Martin’s, 2011. 852-858. Print. 77- 84

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