Beneatha as a paradigm for African American Women in A Raisin in The Sun

In Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun a number of social issues are both explicitly and subtly exemplified through out the characters experiences and relationships. Living in a cramped Chicago apartment, the Youngers’ display both influential goals and conflicting restraints. Beneatha Youngers is a controversial character; she complicates society’s typical gender roles, introduces the wrestle between assimilation and ancestry of African-Americans, but specifically serves as a paradigm for her generation in the play.

When Beneatha is first introduced in the play, we see her waking up on a regular morning; she is living under the same confined circumstances as the rest of the characters. Prior to Beneatha’s entrance, the audience observes Walter and Ruth over breakfast. Walter begins to complain about “colored women” through out the play his character continually spits out patriarchal and misogynistic comments, often targeted at Beneatha. As he finishes his negative complaints, Beneatha enters. The long character description molds her persona. She is illustrated not as pretty but her “almost intellectual face has a handsomeness of its own”(Hansberry, 35). This specific use of handsome portrays her character as a sharp and unfeminine. Hansberry’s word choice is extremely intentional as she connects Beneatha with masculine qualities, which inherently matches the stereotype of her feminist personality. The fact that her face is also described as intellectual implies that she carries an intelligent look in her features.

“Her speech is a mixture of many things; it is different from the rest of the family’s insofar as education has permeated her sense of English- and perhaps the Midwest rather than the south has final…

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…list, but she grows to adapt idealist thinking. Her presence in the play was symbolically targeted toward the audience. She is both inspiring and relatable to any audience. At the play’s end it is Beneatha’s character that voices her future plans, even after they successfully move to Clybourne Heights. She proves her goal fluidity by wanting to practice her medical career in Africa, blending her two passions. Beneatha Youngers is the influential prototype for a generation of people, which history has validated.

Works Cited

Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. New York: Random House, 1958. Print.

2) Wilkerson, Margaret B. “‘A Raisin in the Sun’: Anniversary of an American Classic.” Theatre Journal Johns Hopkins University Press Vol. 38, No. 4.Theatre of Color (1986): 441-452. JSTOR. Web. 29 Mar. 2012. .

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