Everyday Use Characters at a Glance

"Everyday Use" key characters:

  • In "Everyday Use," Mrs. Johnson is the narrator. Though she suggests her own self-esteem by imagining her daughter returning as a better-looking version of herself, in the end she defends her values and refuses to let Dee have the quilt.

  • Maggie is the shy sister who lives in her sister’s shadow. In the end, Mrs. Johnson redeems Maggie’s sense of worth by acknowledging Maggie’s understanding of her heritage and connection to her family.

  • Dee is Mrs. Johnson’s oldest daughter. She has always been successful and determined, and she surprises her mother and sister by renouncing her family background in favor of reclaiming her African heritage.

  • Hakim-a-barber is Dee’s boyfriend. He has embraced black nationalist ideas and signals his disconnect from rural African-American life by refusing to eat Mrs. Johnson’s food.

  • Grandma Dee is now dead but her association with the quilt marks the importance of her presence in Mrs. Johnson’s and Maggie’s memories.


See Hakim-a-barber.

Grandma Dee
Although Grandma Dee, as the Johnson women call her, does not appear in the story, she is a significant presence. Maggie is attached to the quilts because they make her think of Grandma Dee. Thus, although the woman is dead, she represents the cherished family presence that lives on in Maggie's and her mother's connection to the past.

Hakim-a-barber is Dee's boyfriend who accompanies her on her visit back home. Though he has grown his hair long in an African style that identifies him with the black power movement, he refuses to eat collard greens and pork at dinner— traditional African-American foods. This minor character's name is perhaps his most significant feature. Mrs. Johnson confusedly accepts his black Muslim greeting, "Asalamalakim," as his name, and "Hakim-a-barber" is her guess at the pronunciation of what he tells her to call him. This confusion signals the gap between black nationalist ideas and rural African-American life.

Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo
See Dee Johnson.

Dee Johnson
Dee is Mrs. Johnson's oldest daughter; the one who has always been determined, popular, and successful. Upon returning home after escaping her impoverished home life and forging a new identity at college, one which ostensibly celebrates her African heritage, Dee tells her mother that ''Dee is dead,"...

(The entire section is 466 words.)