Alice Walker Identity

1936 Words8 Pages

Everyone defines and identifies themselves in different ways. Whether it’s by our names, our religion, or our sexuality, we all have something different that make us unique and that we identify ourselves as. In Alice Walker’s short story “Everyday Use,” an African American woman tells the story of her daughter Dee’s long awaited visit. Upon her arrival the mother and her other daughter, Maggie, discover some drastic changes in Dee: she has changed her name to Wangero, she has also arrived with a mysterious man who calls himself Asalamalakim, and has adopted an African style of dress; all of this in an effort to depict what she sees as her heritage. During the course of her visit, Dee tries to take several items important to her family’s heritage. …show more content…

In the story, Dee is presented to the audience as someone who enjoys nice things and “had a style of her own: and knew what style was.” She wears the typical Americanized clothing style common to that time period. However, when she arrives at her family’s home, her family finds that she has completely altered her style: Walker writes in description of Dee, “A dress to the ground, in this hot weather. A dress so loud it hurts my eyes. There are yellow and oranges enough to throw back the light…It is her sister’s hair. It stands up straight up like the wool on a sheep…and around the edges are two long pigtails…” For Dee, the changing of her hair and clothing is a way for her to further the change of her identity. Although it is not explicitly stated, one can infer from the context of which the story was written, and by the description of her clothing, that Dee has begun to identify herself as African. At some point during the time away from her family, she adopted an African style of dress: she wears a dress with bright colors such as yellow and orange in a flowing style that is typical of native Africans, and begins wearing her hair in a more natural style that is also typical to native Africans. Nguyen and Brown explain the importance of clothing for identity, “Clothing and other forms of style are also reported to signify ethnic and cultural identity and used to differentiate among types of …show more content…

One can become whomever they want to be if they simply make the changes necessary that reflect their new discourse. Alice Walker uses her story to depict the factors that make up one’s identity. Dee has shifted her abandoned her American identity, along with her name, to take on the new identity of Wangero. Wangero lives within the African Discourse that she believes best reflects her heritage. She wears traditional African clothing, has created a relationship with people who live within her new discourse, and has taken a traditional African name. This heritage that she seeks to connect to through her identity, is not something she truly understands. She has never lived in Africa and neither has any of her family, but she still believes that her new identity reflects who she truly is. She connects the various items passed through her family as part of her heritage, but has no idea of the meaning behind any of it. However, Mama and Maggie look at heritage much differently than Dee does; they look at it is as a long connection to their long gone family members that is always being expanded. Walker’s theme of identity is present in almost every aspect of her short

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