How is Beneatha different from other Younger family members in A Raisin in the Sun?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Beneatha is different in a number of key areas. Firstly, she is a character whom Hansberry uses to explore a feminist perspective on the issues presented in her play. Beneatha's desire to train to be a doctor clearly represents a challenge to gender roles at a time when women expected to either marry and have children or work in a more "traditional" female role such as a secretary. Secondly, she, more than any other character, is shown to search for her identity. This is illustrated through the two men in her life, George Murchison and Joseph Asagai. Both of these suitors represent two different views to Black American identity: assimilation, as shown through George Murchison, who has become a successful businessman by becoming as "white" as possible, and a return to African roots, as identified in Joseph Asagai, who calls Beneatha by a Yoruba name and urges her to wear her hair naturally. Note how Beneatha rejects assimilation through her choice to wear her hair naturally, and how she explains the word to her brother:

[Assimilationist] means someone who is willing to give up his own culture and submerge himself completely in the dominant, and in this case oppressive culture!

Beneatha is therefore different as she is the prime vehicle that Hansberry uses to explore black feminism and also identity in the play.


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