Is Beneatha a believable character, or is she a stereotype in Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun?

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Beneatha is a complicated character who embodies aspects of stereotypes but still comes across as authentic. The stereotypical aspects pertain to various aspects of her identity: She is barely out of her teens and has many adolescent longings, she aspires to move beyond the race and class limitations of her family's position, and she is fascinated with African culture.

The complexity of Beneatha's character is conveyed in part through Lorraine Hansberry's detailed description and stage directions at the point in Act I, Scene I when Beneatha first appears. It includes a discussion of her speech patterns, which reflect some of the identity issues she is experiencing.

Her conflicted but affectionate relationship with her older brother also comes across as authentic, as she teases him mercilessly. Picking and choosing elements of African culture, and developing an interest in an African student could be considered stereotypical, but her perspective also changes at various points.

More than Beneatha, the two young men interested in her and the diametrically opposed relationships seem stereotypical. George, the conventional, unimaginative, boring good guy whom she finally rejects is strongly contrasted to Asagai, the foreign, fascinating man who charms her with Yoruba culture and dress. The scenes with them do not leave much room for her character development, as they do not come across as individuals.

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I think that one of the fundamental issues coming out of this question has to consider the time period of the work.  Hansberry writes her work at a time when women were not able to fully assert their own identity and actively embody their own sense of freedom and choice.  In this, women were seen as having to conform to a patriarchal notion of the good.  To this end, I don't see how Beneatha can be seen as a stereotype.  She is shown to be a very headstrong woman, who is able to exercise her own freedom in her choices and the identity that she wishes to embrace.  This is fluid over the course of the play, and even reflects a lack of complete totality in her choices.  In this, Beneatha is radical because she is a woman who will define herself and not allow others to do so.  This might be stereotypical by modern standards.  Yet, this could not be seen as stereotypical of women during the time period.  Beneatha is a character that is one who cannot fit into any box.  She is conscious of this, and in the process, she really does not embody the stereotypical notion of women.

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