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A Raisin in the Sun

by Lorraine Hansberry
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Compare and contrast Joseph Asagai with George Murchison in A Raisin in the Sun.

George and Joseph are similar in that they are both intelligent and romantically interested in Beneatha. In every other way, the two are complete opposites. George is pretentious and uses his knowledge to assert his (supposed) superiority over others, whereas Joseph, who is also intelligent, is genuine and puts those around him at ease. George loses himself in his assimilation to white American culture, whereas Joseph is in touch with and takes pride in his Nigerian roots.

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In Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, Beneatha is romantically pursued by two very different men: George Murchison and Joseph Asagai.

George is well-to-do and educated but also arrogant and pedantic. He constantly feels the need to show off his knowledge, even in the presence of people he knows will not be able to understand his references. One such example of this is his pretentious response to Ruth asking what time the show he is taking Beneatha to see begins. Instead of simply responding with the time the play starts, he says, "It's an eight-thirty curtain" and then goes on to discuss the differences between "curtain times" in Chicago and New York. He is unable to pass up the opportunity to showcase his knowledge, and he looks down on other Black people, including Beneatha and her family. He does not fit in well with the Youngers because of his pompous behavior and style of dress. He constantly tries to make the Youngers feel inferior to him to boost his own ego.

Joseph is the exact opposite of George. George assimilates to White American culture and is a self-loathing Black man, whereas Joseph is strongly connected to and proud of his Nigerian roots. Joseph has a peaceful demeanor, unlike the obnoxious George, and is able to have open-minded, meaningful conversations and debates with others. He does not share George's affected behavior and does not feel the need to belittle those around him. Although he is just as intelligent as George, Joseph is genuine and likeable and does not assault others with his knowledge. He brings Beneatha thoughtful gifts and encourages her to learn about and embrace her African heritage.

Despite their stark differences, George and Joseph share some traits. Both are highly intelligent. Both are romantically interested in Beneatha. Both try to change Beneatha, but in different ways and for different reasons. George wants Beneatha to adapt to white American culture, as he has done. Contrariwise, Joseph urges Beneatha to connect to her roots and heritage and be true to herself.

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