Do you think dee is being true to her heritage

14.05.2021

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How Are Dee and Maggie the Same and Different in "Everyday Use?"

For the best experience on our site, be sure to turn on Javascript in your browser. Talking in African dialect, changing her name, freaking out over a few quilts—what is going on with this character?

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Dee's behavior when she first shows up at her mom's house might seem a little puzzling to us, but as lots of other literary critics have noted, it actually makes a lot of sense in the context of the Black Power and Black Pride movements of the s and s.

As epitomized in that popular slogan of the time— Black is Beautiful —being black was seen as a positive aspect of one's identity rather than a source of shame. Embracing her African heritage is exactly what Dee seems to be doing, doesn't it? When she first gets out of the car, for instance, the narrator notices that she's all decked out in a long, flowy dress with "yellows and oranges enough to throw back the light of the sun," that looks a lot like traditional African garb.

According to the narrator's description, Dee also seems to be proudly sporting an Afro rather than straightening her hair to conform to white notions of beauty: "[Her hair] stands straight up like the wool on a sheep" And let's not forget how she eschews Hello for the African Wa-su-zo-Tean-o when she greets her mother and sister.

As Dee herself explains, "I couldn't bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me" When the narrator promptly reminds Dee that she was named after her aunt Dicie, Dee insists on getting all genealogical and tracing the source of the name further back.

And we all know where she's going with this one: Somewhere in the family tree, she's probably thinking, there was an enslaved person named Dee who was named after a white slave owner.

Or, at the very least, that enslaved person was denied her African name and given a white person's name. And no way, no how is Dee going to let her new identity get all tainted with that legacy. It's worth mentioning here that some readers have found Dee's obsession with Africa a bit sketchy.

David Cowart and David White suggest, for instance, that Dee seems to participate in a cultural trend of the s in which some black Americans reached to Africa for some "pure" source of identity rather than claiming an African American identity which carries all the bad baggage of slavery and Jim Crow.

The criticism of this tendency is that it seems to be something of a rejection of African American culture.

do you think dee is being true to her heritage

Yes, slavery and segregation under Jim Crow were unquestionably horrible—but many African Americans showed bravery, character, creativity, and resourcefulness under those circumstances. So by identifying herself primarily with Africa, rather than, say, her crafty quilt-making aunt Dicie, Dee could be seriously dissing her African American roots. On the other hand, Dee does seem to express an appreciation for the butter churn and the quilts, things that have been made and used by her African American relatives.

So maybe she's just confused. And if "Everyday Use" is a story about the role that race plays in shaping identity hint, hintDee's character gives us a good indication of just how complicated figuring out racial identity can be. In any case, Dee is a character who is trying to affirm her blackness as a valuable part of who she is.

And if we see Dee as a participant in the larger Black Pride movement that helped bring about an important shift in the way that black Americans were seen and treated, this could make her a pretty admirable character kind of like Stokely Carmichael in a dress.

First of all, we can't help but question Dee's sincerity about her sudden appreciation for her old homestead and everything in it.

do you think dee is being true to her heritage

Or, rather, the narrator repeatedly pushes us to question whether Dee truly respects these things she now claims to care so deeply about. Take the quilts, for example. The narrator recalls that she offered Dee the very same quilts when she left for college and she turned her nose up at them, calling them "old-fashioned, out of style.

Is Dee just putting on some show because she went off to college, took an African Studies class, and learned that it was cool to like these things? Along this line, we're also told that Dee is quite the fashionista, someone who keeps up with the latest styles. As critics like Donna Haisty Winchell have suggested, Dee could just be celebrating her heritage because it's fashionable to do so.

Dee a.k.a Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo in Everyday Use

The problem with that, of course, is that we all know how quickly stuff goes out of style we're looking at you, shoulder pads….

If Dee ends up ditching her African style when it's no longer in vogue, that would be a diss with some pretty serious implications. But let's give Dee a break for a second. Let's, in fact, give her the benefit of the doubt and suppose that she really has come to genuinely appreciate these artifacts.On a deeper level, Alice Walker is exploring the concept of heritage as it applies to African-Americans.

This was a time when African-Americans were struggling to define their personal identities in cultural terms. She uses the principal characters of Mama, Dee Wangeroand Maggie to clarify this theme. Mama narrates the story. In the winter I wear flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls during the day. This description, along with her reference to a 2nd grade educationleads the reader to conclude that this woman takes pride in the practical aspects of her nature and that she has not spent a great deal of time contemplating abstract concepts such as heritage.

However, her lack of education and refinement does not prevent her from having an inherent understanding of heritage based on her love and respect for those who came before her.

When she moves up to touch the quilts, she is reaching out to touch the people whom the quilts represent. In The Color Purpleshe uses a quilt to help a dying woman remember the mother of her adopted daughter Walker uses quilts to symbolize a bond between women.

Her appreciation for the dasher and the quilts is based on love for the people who made and used them. She is portrayed as bright, beautiful, and self-centered. Walker uses Dee to symbolize the Black Power movement, which was characterized by bright and beautiful blacks who were vocal and aggressive in their demands.

She would always look anyone in the eye. Hesitation was no part of her nature,…She was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts. These personality traits, along with her style of dress and speech, establish her identity as a symbol of the Black Power movement. It is important to recognize that Walker is not condemning the Black Power movement as a whole.

Rather, she is challenging that part of the movement that does not acknowledge and properly respect the many African-Americans who endured incredible hardships in their efforts to survive in a hostile environment.

She uses the character of Dee to demonstrate this misguided black pride. Mama tells how Dee In these two examples Mama is pointing out that Dee sees herself as belonging to a higher intellectual and social class than Mama and Maggie, and they should feel honored by and humiliated in her presence.

When she first arrives she takes pictures. Later, she eats the food Mama prepared. Although she has renounced her American name, she still holds tight to American consumer culture.Everyday Use by Alice Walker What does Dee say or do that reflects a growing interest in preserving her heritage? Dee walks into her mother's house like it's a museum ready to give up its artifacts to a new curator.

From the moment she sits down, it's all about what she wants Then turned to Hakim. You can feel the rump prints," she said, running her hands underneath her and along the bench. Then she gave a sigh and her hand closed over Grandma Dee's butter dish.

She looked at the churn and looked at it. From the above interaction, we can see that Dee wants the items, but Maggie understands the whys and hows.

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Maggie talks about the people Dee talks about the things. Irony can be found in Dee's desire to obtain the things that mark her family's past, but distances herself from that same past by changing her name and distanicing herself from the reality.

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What does Dee say or do that reflects growing interest in preserving her heritage? How is the butter churn used to contrast Dee's relationship with her heritage with Maggie's? Is there anything ironic about Dee's connection to her heritage? Remember me. Forgot your password?

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do you think dee is being true to her heritage

Opt-in to important GradeSaver updates! Have an Account?Dee and Maggie in "Everyday Use" are similar in that they both love their mother and strongly desire the quilts that their mother, aunt and grandmother have made. The characters have few other similarities, as Dee is confident, attractive, arrogant and intelligent, while her younger sister Maggie is shy, unattractive, humble and unintelligent.

Dee and Maggie are foils of each other, so their personalities contrast heavily. The narrator points out Dee's confidence, specifically how she has always been able to look people in the eyes. Maggie, on the other hand, is reserved and nervous around people, including her sister. While Dee has always been attractive and stylish, Maggie has not. Part of the reason for Maggie's unattractiveness and shyness stems from a fire that burned her as a child and left her with scars.

However, the narrator mentions that good looks and intelligence passed Maggie by, indicating that she never had either of those qualities. Their actions and words demonstrate that both characters love their mother, although Dee is also judgmental of her. Dee and Maggie both want their mother's quilts, but for different reasons. Dee wants them for superficial reasons, as she plans to use them for decoration.

Maggie plans to actually use them. Their attitudes regarding the quilts and other family keepsakes illustrate another difference between the sisters. Dee wants these keepsakes to show off her African heritage but actually knows little about that heritage.

Maggie knows about her heritage but doesn't care about showing off. More From Reference.Maggie is defined in a less than complimentary way to the reader. Maggie's identity as unattractive and slow-witted yet lovable is largely born out of a juxtaposition to Mama's perception of Dee as an attractive but callous super-achiever.

This duality suggests the contrast between the old and new generation of African-American women in the late 's. Mama indicates that her children are coming of age in a world much different from hers. Mama had been raised to be wary of speaking out against inequality, instead adapting to injustice through quiet passivity.

But by the s and s, blacks had begun to challenge the status quo. By extension, a stronger African-American voice brought with it greater opportunities for advancement that Mama had not been afforded in her youth. Her daughter Dee also alludes to this changing sociopolitical atmosphere when she tells Maggie that this is "a new day" for them. Dee Wangero looked at me with hatred.

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The point is these quilts, these quilts. This quote from Dee reflects the theme connected with the title of this story. She is dismayed that Maggie and her mother would use the quilts everyday, despite their functionality.

Dee views the quilts as remnants of a culture that is dying or already dead. In this moment, Dee is not Dee, but Wangero - she ceases to understand the heritage in her hands. Dee rejects factory made quilts that Mama offers her: she cannot exploit them.

Everyday Use Quotes and Analysis

My hair glistens in the hot bright lights. Johnny Carson has much to do to keep up with my quick and witty tongue. The difference in Mama's and Dee's responses illustrates how mama views both their relationship and their personalities.

In particular, her daydream highlights Dee's deepest-held desire to be a part of a world she was not born into. Mama knows Dee wishes she had a different upbringing, and Mama's fantasy of what she would look like in this setting reflects Dee's idealized version of self. Mama is remembering earlier days when Dee would return from boarding school in Augusta and patronize her and Maggie with stories of other people and knowledge beyond the scope of their experience. Mama reflects on what Maggie thinks of her big sister.

The audacity of a rural Black girl from Georgia not accepting to be defined by anyone is both a blessing and a curse for both Maggie and Mama. Dee would fight her reality, even stepping over her own family to become something else.

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In the winter I wear flannel nightgowns to bed and overalls during the day. I can kill and clean a hog as mercilessly as a man. My fat keeps me hot in zero weather.

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Mama has been daydreaming about herself in a different image. In her daydream, she is on the Johnny Carson show slimmer in weight and lighter in skin color. This is how, she interprets through Dee's desires, a black woman gains acceptance in the white world. Mama returns to reality and describes what she really looks like. Her description of herself fits the stereotype of a farmwoman who can easily do the work of a man. There is, however, beauty in her practicality.

Her body type and work ethic enable her to survive and provide for her family. Mama is matter of fact about her appearance rather than judgmental or dismissive, which belies her practicality.The story begins with Mama waiting in the yard for her eldest daughter Dee to return. We are told little about Mama's husband; he is simply out of the picture and all of Mama's accomplishments, including the raising of her children, seem to be done by her own hand.

Mama discusses her younger daughter Maggie. Maggie nervously anticipates her big sister Dee. Maggie is apprehensive about the emotional stress and anxiety that will come with Dee's arrival. Mama daydreams about being on the Johnny Carson Show and reuniting with Dee in front of a sea of white faces. Mama breaks out of her reverie to explain the realities of her life. Unlike the slim and lighter-skinned fantasy of herself on the Johnny Carson Show, Mama has darker skin and is big boned, wearing overalls rather than feminine clothing.

She points out that her fat keeps her warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Mama does the work of two men on her farm. She can kill a bull calf and have the meat hung up to chill by nightfall. Maggie lurks in the shadows not wanting to be fully visible. Mama describes her as a lame dog. Mama recalls the fire that burned their first house down. Maggie still bears the scars of that fateful night.

Mama also recalls that Dee just stood there and watched the house burn with a condescending smile on her face. To Dee, the old house defined them as poor black farmers, the descendants of sharecroppers.

Mama remembers how Dee willed herself to be different from her rural neighbors with her book smarts and by having a style all her own. Dee wanted nice things and was intent on getting them. If she couldn't afford to buy fancy clothes, she would make them. She seldom heard the word "no". Dee finally arrives wearing a colorful, chic African dress. Maggie tries to bolt for the house but Mama stops her.

Mama attempts to explain that her given name Dee holds deep family meaning but "Wangero" insists that, at one time, it must surely have been a slave name forced on them by white owners.Dee shows her anger towards this immediate past in her happiness when their house burned, her readiness to leave her home behind when she went to college, and her lack of interest in learning family skills like sewing.

When Dee returns to her home as an adult, she attempts to make her immediate past as distant and imaginary as this African one. Overall, Walker seems to criticize this imagined, distant view of heritage. Mama and Maggie, on the other hand, exemplify the alternative view of heritage that Walker proposes— one in which heritage is a part of everyday life, fluid and constantly being added to and changed.

Mama and Maggie have no higher education or knowledge of Africa, but they do appreciate their more immediate roots: their house, their family heirlooms, their traditions. Maggie, unlike Dee, also learned to sew from her grandmother, and so can add to the family collection, pass on her skills, and keep the tradition alive. How long ago was it the house burned? Ten, twelve years? Her eyes seemed stretched open, blazed open by the flames reflected in them. She had hated that house so much. In fact, there were a lot of small sinks; you could see where thumbs and fingers had sunk into the wood.

It was a beautiful light yellow wood, from a tree that grew in the yard where Big Dee and Stash lived. Everyday Use. Plot Summary. LitCharts Teacher Editions. Teach your students to analyze literature like LitCharts does. Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts. The original text plus a side-by-side modern translation of every Shakespeare play. Sign Up. Already have an account? Sign in. From the creators of SparkNotes, something better.

Sign In Sign Up. Literature Poetry Lit Terms Shakescleare. Download this LitChart! Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Everyday Use can help. Themes All Themes. Symbols All Symbols. Theme Wheel. Themes and Colors. LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Everyday Usewhich you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Related Themes from Other Texts. Compare and contrast themes from other texts to this theme…. Find Related Themes. How often theme appears:. Everyday Use Quotes. Related Characters: Mama speakerDeeMaggie. Related Themes: Heritage and the Everyday.