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Beneatha As A Paradigm For African American Women In A Raisin In The Sun

2139 words - 9 pages

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 finally- at last won out in her inflection; but not all together” (35), as she enters the room the audience is aware of her educational background from the second she opens her mouth. She makes it clear she has acquired a higher education with her word choice and her ability to smoothly blend her Mid-Western accent, that at the same time she has not seemed to unfasten.
As we see from her first entrance, Beneatha is a loud and outspoken character. She is a single young female living in a home with Ruth and Mama. Quite similar as characters, they share traditional values and believe women should care for the wellbeing of their family. Ruth and Mama take pride in doing domestic service work as their source of income and are continuously seen putting their children’s needs before theirs. Hansberry uses Beneatha’s character to contradict these values and introduce a character with modern feminist views. Beneatha fiercely fires back to anyone who questions her life goals. She is constantly found bickering with Walter about her dream of becoming a doctor. She is reminded by him that “girls” shouldn’t be doctors. Beneatha voices her feelings on male dependency when she mentions to Mama and Ruth “Listen, I’m going to be a doctor....

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