Compare and contrast the characters of Walter and Beneatha in A Raisin in the Sun.

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Walter and Beneatha Younger are both ambitious dreamers throughout the play and have different ideas of how to spend their mother's insurance money. Both siblings are unique, charismatic, and capricious. Walter experiences highs and lows throughout the play, while Beneatha continually switches her hobbies and cannot determine which boy she...

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Walter and Beneatha Younger are both ambitious dreamers throughout the play and have different ideas of how to spend their mother's insurance money. Both siblings are unique, charismatic, and capricious. Walter experiences highs and lows throughout the play, while Beneatha continually switches her hobbies and cannot determine which boy she wants to date. Both siblings have high aspirations and wish to become successful individuals. Walter believes that he can solve the family's financial problems by investing Lena's money into a liquor business, while Beneatha challenges society's expectations in hopes of becoming a doctor. Walter and Beneatha are both relatively selfish individuals, who dismiss Lena's goals of moving the family out of their tiny apartment in favor of their personal dreams.

Despite their many similarities, Walter and Beneatha have different personalities and abilities. Walter is a controlling, ignorant man, who values traditional roles for women. In contrast, Beneatha is an educated woman, who values independence and challenges the traditional roles of women. Walter is also unhappy with his life and feels like his best days are behind him, while Beneatha looks forward to her future and is relatively upbeat throughout the play. Beneatha is also attracted to traditional African culture, while Walter illustrates his affinity for American ways of life.

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In Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, the characters of Beneatha and Walter Younger share the traits of being determined and ambitious. Walter, as we discover in Act I, Scene I of the play, wants to improve his family's financial situation by investing in a liquor store. Unsatisfied with his job and his quality of life, Walter dreams of success and the comforts it might bring, and he does so with a desperation that frequently makes him combative. For instance, his interactions with his wife, Ruth, in Act I of Hansberry's play reveal an ongoing conflict: Walter and Ruth have been arguing over money for quite some time (Hansberry, Act I, Scene I).

Similarly, Beneatha Younger is driven and goal-oriented, though her path is not one of business; rather, she pursues education. Beneatha is attending medical school to become a doctor, and by doing so she challenges the restrictions of both race and gender within the context of the play (Hansberry, Act I, Scene I).

In terms of differences, Beneatha spends a good deal of time attempting to understand herself and develop her own interests, which other characters often (gently) poke fun at throughout the play. For instance, we find that she has recently started guitar lessons after abandoning the pursuits of play-acting and horseback-riding (Hansberry, Act I, Scene I). Later, after we meet the character of Asagai, we see that Beneatha takes a keen interest in Nigerian culture, and by doing this, steps closer to elements of her own African-American identity (Hansberry Act I, Scene II). In this regard, Beneatha is a character who recognizes both the importance of pursuing one's interests and the importance of identity.

While Beneatha moves closer to her own identity within the play, Walter initially appears eager to step away from his. Both racial and wealth inequality act as forces of oppression for the main characters in A Raisin in the Sun, and Walter struggles profoundly with feelings of inadequacy and failure. For Walter, hobbies and interests do not dominate his vision, but success and independence. It is important to note, however, the Walter experiences a shift in his thinking during the course of the play, and by the conclusion, we see him embrace his identity by asserting his family's right to move into a white neighborhood (Hansberry Act III).

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