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Character Analysis of Dee Johnson in "everyday Use"

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Alice Walker crafts the character of Dee Johnson in the short story "Everyday Use" in a clever way. Starting from the first paragraph, Walker creates an image of Dee, who at first seems very shallow. Dee then becomes a more complex character as the story progresses. Blessed with both brains and beauty, Dee emerges as someone who is still struggling with her identity and heritage.

Dee is a flat character, who is described as arrogant and selfish. Through the eyes of Dee, one can see her egotistical nature. Dee is portrayed as a light-skinned black person who feels as though she is better than everyone else because her waist is small, her skin is light, she has a nice grade of hair, and she is somewhat educated. Although she may be educated when it comes to college, she is not educated with her family heritage. For the most part, Dee believes that she is too good for her family. She wrote to her mother saying "no matter where we 'choose' to live, she [Dee] will manage to come see us. But she will never bring her friends" (162). From this quote, it is apparent that Dee is ashamed of her family's home.

In this story, Dee is completely unappreciative. One can get the feeling that the mother in the story had worked long and hard rearing her daughters, and has even gotten Dee into college somehow. Dee returns with her college education and new personality trying to preach to her mother and sister about what they are doing wrong. Plenty of times Dee spoke down to her mother and little sister, Maggie.

Dee's physical beauty can be defined as one of her biggest assets. The fact that Maggie sees Dee "with a mixture of envy and awe" (160) lets the reader know that Dee has the more favorable appearance. The simplistic way in which Walker states that "Dee is lighter than Maggie, with nicer hair and a fuller figure," (161) gives the reader the idea that Dee's beauty has made it easier for her to be accepted outside her family in society, "...her sister has held life always in the palm of one hand, that 'no' is a word the world never learned to say to her," (160). One is left with the impression that Dee's appearance is above average. Walker plays on Dee's physical beauty to contrast the homeliness of Maggie and her mother. Walker goes so far as to describe her feet as being more favorable as if God only wanted Dee to have pretty feet,



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