To what extent do you think Hansberry is critiquing traditional sex roles in the play?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I tend to think that like so much in Hansberry's work, there is a call to examine what defines traditional roles of gender or sex.  Hansberry is smart enough to call for an examination.   She does not seem to be suggesting that one version of sex roles or tradition is going to be preferable than another.  Rather, she suggests that any time social orders dictate how individuals should be, there must be some level of questioning and analysis along those lines.  For example, I think that Beneatha would represent how part of what it means to be a woman is to have dreams and hopes that are varied as the human experience of freedom can be. Her dream of being a doctor is constantly scrutinized, primarily because of the traditional conception that women cannot be anything more than domestic bound.  However, her presence in the drama is to precisely represent how dreams can be achieved and can be present for women.  In this, there is a direct critique of traditional sex roles.  Additionally, Mama Younger is the matriarch, but must act as a patriarch to guide the family in the right direction. Her investment of the money in a house is a role that a man would traditionally undertake.  Here again, one sees how Hansberry is making clear the idea that traditional sex roles might have to be challenged when context and circumstance demand.  For individuals to be happy, Hansberry is suggesting that any socially dictated gender role has to  face examination and scrutiny.


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