In Alice Walker’s popular short story “Everyday Usage,” Dee is viewed as an unsympathetic character. It is difficult for the reader to feel empathy for Dee since she has repelling characteristics; she is as authoritative, manipulative, and narcissistic. Although “Everyday Usage” supplies brief glimpses into the past, it is nearly impossible for the reader to have a complete understanding of the truth in Dee’s upbringing prior to the story. Ruth and Augustus Goetz’s play The Heiress presents the journey of Catherine, a character who, in the final scene, shares comparable characteristics with Dee; however, the audience witnesses Catherine’s frustrating childhood and the distressing occasions that unfold before the final scene. In The Heiress, the audience sees a modification in Catherine, providing factor as to why she turned into a cold-hearted character. “Daily Usage” is equivalent to the last scene of The Heiress, with the considerable difference that the reader does not have the chance to experience Dee’s journey. This contrast raises a concern: Would the reader be more supportive towards Dee if the reader truly knew her past?
It appears that Dee is the villain of Walker’s “Everyday Usage.” Although the term “antagonist” doesn’t always explain the bad guy of a story, Dee is clearly a villain. In the opening paragraph, the character and narrator, Mom, is scared of her child Dee, as she and her youngest daughter, Maggie, wait upon Dee’s arrival. According to Susan Ferrell in her short article “Fight Vs. Flight: A Re-Evaluation Of Dee In Alice Walker’s ‘Everyday Usage,'” “Dee inspires in Mom a kind of awe and fear better to the development of a goddess than the love one may anticipate a mother to feel for a returning daughter” (Ferrell). After getting back from college, Dee gowns in attire that is strictly her own style– entirely different from the clothing of her sis and mom. Dee says that orchids from home are “ugly flowers,” and Mama just thinks of a moment when Dee would pin an orchid on her shirt (Walker 78). Because moving out of your house, Dee has even altered her name to Wangero, saying “‘I could not bear it any longer, being called after the people who oppress me'” (Walker 81). And throughout her visit house Dee has actually brought with her a boyfriend who states that farming and raising cattle aren’t “his style” (Walker 82).
While Dee has changed her appearance and way of life to escape her heritage, she likewise practices manipulative and reliable strategies to get what she wants. “She would always look anyone in the eyes. Hesitation was no part in her nature,” Mama would state, and Maggie thinks that Dee “has held life always in the palm of one hand, that ‘no’ is a word the world never ever discovered to say to her” (Walker 78). With an overdramatic level of appreciation for house, Dee tries to control her mother into providing her a family treasure to take back with her to the city. She arrives with a Polaroid video camera and “never takes a shot without ensuring the house is consisted of” (Walker 81). As she sits at the dinner table she exclaims how terrific the food is and how she never understood how “charming” the benches were and that she could “feel the rump prints” in them. All of this prior to saying, “‘I understood there was something I wished to ask you if I might have'” (Walker 82).
In Catherine’s final scene of The Heiress, she shares comparable characteristics with Dee. Morris has actually arrived at Catherine’s house– to the inherited home of her departed dad. Catherine practices excellent control by agreeing to pursue marital relationship as soon as again with Morris, and, after his attempt to embrace her, she states, “Not now, Morris, later on. If we begin to kiss we will never ever make it to the parsonage” (Goetz 87-88). While Morris gathers a few belongings from his home before the elopement, Catherine practices an authority similar to Dee’s by closing the drapes on all the windows and ordering her maid to bolt the front door. As she rises the stairs, Morris bangs on the door, calling for Catherine, but she doesn’t look back.
Based upon the final scene of The Heiress alone, it would be challenging for the audience to sympathize with Catherine. Rather, the audience cheers for Catherine due to the fact that the audience has experienced her journey. At the start of Act II, Catherine accepts wed Morris, the first guy to court Catherine, a lady who is not referred to as being lovely. On the night of their elopement, Catherine excitedly awaits Morris in the downstairs of her daddy’s house with her bags packed; nevertheless, Morris never returns to your home to get her, and she never sees him again until the final scene 2 years later. Catherine’s view of love was previously distorted by her relationship with her daddy. Catherine’s mom died in giving birth to her. Her father continuously talked about how Catherine’s mom had so much “grace” and “merriment” and how she was “a satisfaction to look at and be with.” Instead of caring Catherine as his child, her dad states, “I have concentrated my entire life on seeing her approach the excellence of her mom” (Goetz 19). After experiencing this journey of heartbreak with Catherine, the audience can easily see the reasons for her harmful actions in the final scene.
With the factor to consider of context clues, it is possible to draw reasonable conclusions from Dee’s unwritten past that would provide more compassion for her character. It is necessary to bear in mind that “Everyday Use” is told through the eyes of Mom: “the understandings are infiltrated her mind and her views of her 2 children are not to be accepted uncritically” (Farrell). The way that Mom describes Dee may not be entirely true, given that the storyteller is also a biased character in the story: “Mother’s expectations of Dee inform us more about Mother herself than they do about Dee” (Farrell). It is clear that Dee had actually constantly been various than her family. She was smart, outbound, and “at sixteen she had a style of her own: and understood what design was” (Walker 79). It’s reasonable to picture that Dee felt suffocated by her family which she was punished for being various. In a household with such strong roots, Dee was probably never encouraged to dream huge or to pursue anything outside of her village. These are plausible reasons that would trigger Dee occupy the atrocious characteristics the reader sees in “Everyday Usage.”
At the end of the short story, Dee informs her little sister, “‘You ought to try to make something of yourself too, Maggie. It’s a new day for us. But from the way you and Mother still live you ‘d never understand it'” (Walker 84). What if the story could have been informed in Dee’s perspective throughout several years, with “Everyday Usage” as the final scene? Would the reader think of her differently? While the reader might fail to have compassion with the Dee presented in the narrative, the reader may have the ability to sympathize with her past.
Farrell, Susan. “Battle Vs. Flight: A Re-Evaluation Of Dee In Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”.” Studies In Other Words Fiction 35.2 (1998 ): 179. Academic Search Total. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.
Goetz, Ruth, and Augustus. The Heiress. New York: Dramatists Play Service Inc., 1946. Print.
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.” Knapsack Literature. 5th ed.: Pearson. 77-85. Print.