Who is the antagonist of this story?
The Women Writers Texts and Contexts series has a book on “Everyday Use” that includes essays by critics as well as an interview of Walker, which together enable us to understand the story in different ways. Insofar as she represents the opposition against which the protagonist (the narrator, or Maggie, or both) must contend—the classic definition of “antagonist”—Dee does seem to be the antagonist in “Everyday Use.” However, considering her in the broader context of Walker’s work, Dee functions as a woman who does not understand her heritage and therefore is a victim of the dominant ideologies of what counts as value, which, as Barbara Christian explains, “have pulled Southern and American blacks from their cultural history.” Indeed, Dee is a figure common to much of Walker’s fiction; she is what Thadious M Davis terms a “maimed and damaged soul within the family structure” because she no longer understands who she is—what her roots are. If we interpret Dee as a victim, then, the antagonist becomes a “what” rather than a “who,” namely, those “instititutional theories of aesthetics,” shaped by the dominant white culture, that work against an aesthetic of heritage growing from continual renewal rather than nostalgia or mere appreciation.
Dee is the antagonist of the story. She has moved on to a new life, leaving her sister, Maggie, and her mother behind. They are still living as they did when Dee was at home. Dee wants some of the objects in her mother's house to show off in her place as examples of "folk art", but her mother and Maggie still use these things in their daily lives. Dee forgets her real origins and the people who raised her. In the end, her mother realizes that Maggie is the daughter who understands the importance of her heritage.