A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

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To what extent do you think Hansberry is critiquing traditional sex roles in the play?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I tend to think that like so much in Hansberry's work, there is a call to examine what defines traditional roles of gender or sex.  Hansberry is smart enough to call for an examination.   She does not seem to be suggesting that one version of sex roles or tradition is going to be preferable than another.  Rather, she suggests that any time social orders dictate how individuals should be, there must be some level of questioning and analysis along those lines.  For example, I think that Beneatha would represent how part of what it means to be a woman is to have dreams and hopes that are varied as the human experience of freedom can be. Her dream of being a doctor is constantly scrutinized, primarily because of the traditional conception that women cannot be anything more than domestic bound.  However, her presence in the drama is to precisely represent how dreams can be achieved and can be present for women.  In this, there is a direct critique of traditional sex roles.  Additionally, Mama Younger is the matriarch, but must act as a patriarch to guide the family in the right direction. Her investment of the money in a house is a role that a man would traditionally undertake.  Here again, one sees how Hansberry is making clear the idea that traditional sex roles might have to be challenged when context and circumstance demand.  For individuals to be happy, Hansberry is suggesting that any socially dictated gender role has to  face examination and scrutiny.

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jameadows eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Hansberry's play is a critique of traditional gender roles. Ruth, Walter's wife, shows the pressures of having lived a traditional female life. Her marriage and her need to work and raise her son in a cramped apartment have begun to take a toll on her. She is pregnant and wonders if she should have another child, and the playwright indicates that Ruth's face looks worn and weary from her life.

Beneatha, on the other hand, is a symbol of the more modern woman who wants something beyond marriage and children. She plans to pursue an education to become a doctor, even though her brother urges her to be a nurse. She also decides not to get married to the rich George Murchison, even though she would have a comfortable life as his wife. Through Beneatha, the playwright suggests that women can hope for something greater than the traditional roles they are given.

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