What could represent Beneatha in A Raisin in the Sun?

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

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This is a play that conerns the identity of blacks and how they often have to struggle to assert that identity, even in the face of other blacks who try to act like "whites" in order to fit in and get ahead in society. When we think of Beneatha therefore, one of the most powerful symbols in the play that could be used to sum her up is her hair, and what happens to it during the course of the play.

Note the way in which at the start of the play, Beneatha has artificially straightened hair. However, after Asagai asks her some hard questions about why she has her hair in that style, Beneatha choses to cut off her hair, which symbolises her acceptance of her African heritage. Note the reason she gives for this radical act:

Because I hate assimilationist Negroes!

It is clear that her new hairstyle is a very powerful statement, as it represents an acceptance and affirmation of what is natural. Before she forced her hair to conform to the style of a white-dominated society. Now, as part of her own increased understanding of her identity, she deliberately chooses a style that represents a reconciliation between her culture and her identity. It shows the way she believes that blacks should not try to "fit in" in addition to indicating that she wants to shape her identity by discovering her African roots.

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