In "Everyday Use," why did Dee Johnson become arrogant and selfish?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dee Johnson has worked to overcome what she sees as the limitations of her family life. She believes that the old traditions of her life are useless and meaningless in the larger context of the world; she wants to be seen as a modern woman, not old-fashioned. She also believes that her mother and sister are incapable of higher learning and thought; she refuses to accept her heritage except as it serves her personal purposes.

This house is in a pasture, too, like the other one. No doubt when Dee sees it she will want to tear it down. She wrote me once that no matter where we "choose" to live, she will manage to come see us. But she will never bring her friends.
(Walker, "Everyday Use,"

It is obvious that Dee is ashamed of her heritage and home life. She doesn't want to acknowledge the influence that her family had on her, because she thinks it will make her seem backwards to her peers. Dee even rejects her given name, creating one in African; she claims that she wants to celebrate this heritage, but in fact she knows that it will make her seem thoughtful and deep to others. Above all else, Dee wants people to respect her not for her personal self, but for the falsity of the life she has built.