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Please compare Dee's character from Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" to the grandmother in...

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lehcir | Student | Valedictorian

Posted October 14, 2012 at 3:34 PM via web

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Please compare Dee's character from Alice Walker's "Everyday Use" to the grandmother in Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find."

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 15, 2012 at 1:04 AM (Answer #1)

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In comparing Dee in "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker and the grandmother in Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find," initially there seems little the two characters have in common.

The two women are of different races. One thing they do have in common is their dismissal of those of another race: Dee, declares her rejection of the oppression of her ancestors at the hands of whites; the grandmother's seemingly tolerant attitude toward the little black child they see on their trip is reflective of her dismissal of the child not just because he is poor, but because he is poor and black.

Dee makes her position on racial oppression clear when she declares that she is no longer to be called "Dee," but "Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo." When her mother queries why she has changed her name, "Dee" states:

I couldn't bear it any longer being named after the people who oppress me.

Note that "oppress" is in the present tense, showing that her sense of oppression at the hands of whites is not based on family members oppressed  (especially the strong women of her family responsible for the quilt that Maggie will probably "put them to everyday use"). She feels racial control being exerted over her now. With all she has, she seems more prejudicial that she has a right to be, for no one seems to be hurting her at all. The narrator could complain—she has nothing, but she does not. Strangely, Dee has no sympathy for the women in her family that suffered unadulterated oppression, including her mother who still lives in abject poverty. Dee has come not to support her family and make their lives better, but to collect heirlooms that will look chic in her new home (where she lives with beautiful clothes and jewelry, with her college education). In this perhaps we see something else the two women have in common: they lack depth—they care only for self. Neither really cares for the plight of the unfortunate.

The grandmother in O'Connor's tale is a one that has little regard for her family, especially her son. She emasculates him to a terrible degree, whining and nagging at him—never giving him credit for begin an intelligent man. Just as Dee showed a lack of regard for the memory of her grandmother and those women before her, the grandmother in O'Connor's tale acts this way with her son. Their final, fateful predicament is a result of the grandmother's unrelenting demands that her wishes be carried out contrary to her son's. Her prejudicial behavior is seen as they pass a poor little boy, and ironically, her comments come with a scolding of her grandchildren about appropriate behavior:

"In my time...children were more respectful of...their parents and everything else. People did right then. O look at the cute little pickaninny!" she said and pointed to a Negro child standing in the door of a shack. "Wouldn't that make a picture, now?...If I could paint, I'd paint that picture..."

Dee is disdainful of the past, while the grandmother looks to the past with nostalgia—for the way things once were. As Dee ignores her family's dire financial circumstances, the grandmother does the same of the young, half-clothed black child. For her, she sees nothing wrong with the child's life—wishing she could preserve it in a photo or a painting—showing her lack of depth. 

In both stories, the women are unappreciative and strongly biased. They are interested only in self and see nothing wrong with the way they see the world.

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