Is Dee unsympathetic in "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker? Is the mother's victory positive? What ambivalence exists in the final scene?

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In "Everyday Use," Dee is not a wholly unsympathetic character.  In the story, she represents the voice and ideology of the Black Power Movement, so her motivation for wanting to preserve her family's items as cultural artifacts is understood.  As a result, Mama's victory over Dee in the end is not entirely positive; in fact, the story suggests that Mama and Maggie may never see Dee again because they cannot come to a compromise on where they stand regarding how best to honor the family's heritage.  Mama does not buy into the notion of "preserving" culture.  

The emotional ambivalence at the end of the story occurs when Dee tells Mama that she does not understand anything about her heritage.  She goes on to say that "it is a new day for us," meaning that black people have more opportunities in the country than ever before, but Maggie just smiles and Mama says nothing.  The reader is left to consider which side to support:  Dee's or Mama's.  The story does imply that Walker's message sides with Mama's perspective; however, readers are left to consider Dee's perspective too.  This ambivalence represents the tension in critical thought at the time regarding the ideas posited by the Black Power Movement.

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In "Everyday Use," is Dee wholly unsympathetic? Is the mother's victory over her altogether positive?

What an interesting consideration! 

As to Dee:  first, I think it is important to note the date of publication of Walker's story, 1973.  This was a time when African-Americans were truly starting to discover their African heritage.  Magazines, novels, newspaper articles all celebrated the uniqueness of African life and urged readers to embrace their authentic selves.  As a young woman trying to find her place in the world, such rhetoric had vast appeal.  We want to feel we are special.  Furthermore, it is not unique to shove away the familiarity of our parents in favor of something "new."  No doubt, were we able to "speak" to Dee in the future, she will have mellowed and found the value both in her own life and in her heritage.

As for her mother, she does miss out on some things:  knowledge of her deeper roots and an education.  These impediments create a rift between Dee and herself that may never be fully overcome.  When a child and mother are so at odds, a victory can never be seen as complete. 

Here is Dee's line at the end of the story:  "Your heritage," she said, and then she turned to Maggie, kissed her, and said, "You ought to try to make something of yourself, too, Maggie. It's really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live you'd never know it."

It truly was a new day for appreciation of roots.  The problem is in going too heavily in one direction or another. 

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Is Dee wholly unsympathetic in "Everyday Use"? Is there any emotional ambivalence at the end between the mother and Maggie?

In this short story the overwhelming impression that we have of the character of Dee is rather negative. It is clear that Dee, in her rejection of her own American roots and her embracing of her African roots now disparages her mother and Maggie, thinking they are beneath her and that she is superior to them. It is clear that even before she left home, Dee, with her ambition and perspectives, made Maggie and her mother feel ignorant through her habit of reading to them:

She used to read to us without pity, forcing words, lies, other folk's habits, whole lives upon us two, sitting trapped and ignorant underneath her voice.... Presed us to her with the serious ways she read, to shove us away at just the moment, like dimwits, we seemed to understand.

However, although we can see this rudeness in her attitude, the way she demands the quilts and holds them as if they were "already" hers, we can also perhaps understand her perspective. We are told that she always wanted "nice things" and had a determination to rise above her poor roots:

She was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts. Here eyelids would not flicker for minutes at a time... At sixteen she had a style of her own: and knew what style was.

She is clearly a very self-determined woman who is ambitious to achieve things in life despite her background and this is something that we can admire in her character. In forgetting her roots, what we perhaps cannot forgive is her attitude to household objects that are part of her history that she has now rejected. We can see this when she asks for the churn top. It is clear with Maggie's memory of who made the churn that for Maggie and Mama it is a vital link to loved relatives who are now no longer here. Dee just wants it for an artifact to decorate her home.

There does not appear to be any ambivalence in the ending between Mama and Maggie - in fact, Mama's actions in bequeathing the quilts to Maggie has bolstered Maggie's self-esteem and made her feel loved and valued, and they share a moment of happy intimacy together.

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