Discussion Topic

Dee from "Everyday Use" as a Symbol of a Camera


In "Everyday Use," Dee can be seen as a symbol of a camera because she views her heritage and family from a detached, superficial perspective. Just as a camera captures images without engaging with the subject, Dee seeks to collect and display cultural artifacts without understanding their deeper significance or the living traditions they represent.

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How does Dee from "Everyday Use" symbolize a camera? Include quotes from the text to backup your answer.

The response generated is correct but misses certain messages. Yes, the camera is a symbol that reflects Dee’s need to distance herself from her family. However, the camera also underscores how much they embarrass Dee, who wants to memorialize their backwardness in a pretentious way. It is noteworthy that she grabs the camera before she even embraces her mother, who understands that Dee is ashamed of her. In the mother's Johnny Carson fantasy, she imagines herself as,

I am the way my daughter would want me to be: a hundred pounds lighter, my skin like an uncooked barley pancake. My hair glistens in the hot bright lights. Johnny Carson has much to do to keep up with my quick and witty tongue. 

Maggie too is nervous about seeing her estranged sister,

Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes: she will stand hopelessly in corners, homely and ashamed of the burn scars down her arms and legs, eying her sister with a mixture of envy and awe.

Yet, the dichotomy of Dee's "superior" education and embarrassment of her family is that she is pretentious, supercilious and unaccepting. The mother thinks,

She washed us in a river of make-believe, burned us with a lot of knowledge we didn’t necessarily need to know.

Another key message is that Dee's view of her heritage underscores their differences. Maggie and the mother are proud to show off their rural home. For them, the home and Dee’s namesake are part of their heritage. Dee's heritage, however, is based on their African ancestry. She returns home with a new name and dress, saying,

“I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me.” 

“You know as well as me you was named after your aunt Dicie…”

The mother is accepting, while the educated Dee is not. The mother says, “If that’s what you want us to call you, we’ll call you.” Dee is also blatant in her disdain for them. Her lack of respect is seen in her grabbing the camera before greeting them and in her blurting out,

“Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts!” she said. “She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use.”

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How does Dee from "Everyday Use" symbolize a camera? Include quotes from the text to backup your answer.

The generated response offers a good explanation of how Dee in “Everyday Use” is symbolized by a camera. The response is correct in its description of Dee’s view of her heritage and of Dee’s separation from her family and culture. Dee looks at life in her old home through a camera’s lens, refusing to actually participate.

We might also say that Dee’s views of family heirlooms like the quilts are kind of like a camera. Again, Dee separates herself from these objects. They are pieces of art to her rather than representations of the life of a family. These objects were always intended to be used, enjoyed, and even worn out rather than displayed as art pieces. They are not to be merely looked at but valued for their utility and practicality. They are meant to serve people, not the other way around.

Dee refuses to understand this. Again, she looks through a particular lens, refusing to pull back or angle out for a broader perspective. Therefore, all she ever sees is part of the picture.

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