What is a good thesis statement for Dee in the short story "Everyday Use?"

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A thesis statement is a clear and concise expression that ascertains how you feel, or what you think, about something specific. In this case, what you want is to make a statement about Dee that you can support with evidence from the story, whether it is done with characters' quotes, or citing events that take place in it. 

This being said, think about Dee and all the different things you can opine about her. It really all depends on what point of view you will take regarding Dee: Are you going to be partial, impartial, or neutral toward her character? Your point of view will be vital to the defense of your argument because it will help guide you in finding supporting facts. 

Here are some ideas that you could use for a writing on Dee:

  • Dee's embrace of her African heritage is mostly superficial.

A statement like this needs to be followed by two or more examples from the story that will support it. One of these examples could be that Dee seems to be more focused on the outer appearance of her racial identity, for instance, in the form of home decorations, her new name, and the way she now dresses and styles her persona. Granted, there may be evidence that she is confused as to how much of her African heritage should be valued in comparison to her African American heritage. Therefore, that is one analysis worth looking further into.

Based on the previous information, another potential argument about Dee that could be expanded upon is:

  • Dee is conflicted as to what is her true heritage.

For this statement, again, you could focus on Dee's penchant to have her African roots supersede her African American history; a history that, sad as it is, must acknowledge the realities of social injustice, racism, and even slavery, that took place in the family. If Dee made the choice of embracing one heritage and neglecting the other, is she really getting to know herself? That question, alone, could be the basis of yet another thesis statement. 

One last thesis statement could be that Dee embodies the complexities of racial identity.

Compare Dee's exploration of her heritage with today's ancestry craze. We live in a time when people even send their DNA to be analyzed to get a "true reading" of their genetic and cultural heritage. It is clear that then, as it is now, race and culture help to define who we are.

As people, we aim to belong "somewhere;" we especially love to see the peculiarities of our heritage and how they manifest externally in language, customs and tradition. Dee is not alone; we are all like Dee, in a way. However, when using this argument to analyze Dee, ask these questions:

  • To what extent does giving more value to one heritage over the other limits the knowledge of who we truly are?
  • How did Dee limit her identity search by placing more value in the African and less value in the African American side of it?
  • What is identity?
  • Does racial heritage represent a blueprint of who we are?
  • Is racial identity a simple term to define?

Think about all those routes of study and just make sure that, whatever you decide to state about Dee, can be supported with evidence from the story. 


missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of course, it depends what you are trying to say about Dee. When you are writing a thesis statement about a literary work, it is important to consider using the title or author, a strong verb, and a position you have about what you are writing about.

In this case, a variety of thesis statements might work for you:

1. Walker's "Everyday Use" illustrates Dee's struggle for identity by juxtaposing her quest for a new identity against her family's desire for maintaining culture and heritage.

In this case, you could write a healthy first body paragraph about how Dee is venturing on her own and seeking to use the family's heirlooms for art, while your second body paragraph could express her mother and sister's urging to keep the items for everyday use.

2. Dee's character in Walker's "Everyday Use" illustrates the themes of heritage, materialism, and identity.

This simpler thesis sets the writer up to thematically explore her character throughout the storyline.