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A clear understanding of racial discrimination in the 1950s helps to understand the themes of racial segregation and barriers that blacks in this time faced much more clearly. For example, it is only when the audience understands how many barriers face Beneatha as she plans to study to be a doctor--something that was, even for whites, only a career path chosen by males--that her bravery, courage and determination can be seen to its full extent, as her desire to study medicine shows she is challenging both white supremacy in society but also society's patriarchalism. Beneatha in this sense is doubly discriminated against, both as a woman and as an African American. Her dream of studying medicine even brings her into conflict with her own brother, as the following quote demonstrates:
WALTER (Defensively) I'm interested in you. Something wrong with that? Ain't many girls who decide--
WALTER and BENEATHA (In unison) --"to be a doctor." (Silence)
The way that Beneatha is able to predict how Walter will end that sentence suggests that this is a viewpoint he has shared many times before. Women at this point in history were still largely expected to get married and have children rather than strive to enter a profession that was full of males and seen as something only for men to do. Understanding the real situation facing African Americans in the 1960s helps the modern day audience appreciate Beneatha's character, and other aspects of the play, much more clearly.
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