In A Raisin in the Sun, what name did Asagai give to Beneatha and why?

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

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The answer to this question can be found in Act I scene 2, when we meet Asagai for the first time. What is really interesting about his character is that he represents a movement within Afro-Americans that concerned a return to Africa and a rediscovering of the importance of their original culture. You can find another literary example of this in the short story "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker, where Dee, the eldest daughter, embraces her African heritage. Thus the name that Asagai gives to Beneatha is a Yoruba name, as he is from the Yoruba tribe. It is "Alaiyo." When asked, he eventually translates it as "One for Whom Bread--Food--Is Not Enough." What is interesting about the meaning of this name is that it presents a comment on the character of Beneatha which perfectly captures her restless desire to know more and better herself. She is literally one for whom bread itself is not sufficient in her life, as she always wants more.

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