What are some strengths that Beneatha has in Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin In The Sun?

Expert Answers
jerseygyrl1983 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The character of Beneatha is, arguably, the most dynamic in the play. She represents the hopes and ideological aspirations of the generation that would propel the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. 

She is intelligent, energetic, open-minded, curious, insightful, progressive, and politically conscious. 

Her willingness to try new things, particularly to take advantage of opportunities that were not available to previous generations of black people, is an important character strength. In Act One, Scene One, we learn that she has taken guitar lessons and horseback-riding lessons. By doing such things, she is asserting her desire to be creative, to "express" herself. This desire is lost on Ruth and Mama Younger, who would have had few, if any, opportunities to express themselves creatively. 

Her feminism is on display during her conversations with Asagai, one of her boyfriends, whose traditional Yoruba ideas regarding relations between men and women strike Beneatha as backward:

BENEATHA: You see! You never understood that there is more than one kind of feeling which can exist between a man and a woman -- or, at least, there should be.

ASAGAI: (Shaking his head negatively but gently) No. Between a man and a woman there need be only one kind of feeling. I have that for you...Now even...right this moment...

BENEATHA: I know -- and by itself -- it won't do. I can find that anywhere.

ASAGAI: For a woman it should be enough.

BENEATHA: I know -- because that's what it says in all the novels that men write. But it isn't...

In her romantic relationships, she expresses a need for intimacy that reaches beyond sex and romance. She also wants more than simply to be looked after by a man, a facet of her character which is eventually acknowledged by Asagai. In this way, she represents the burgeoning feminism of the 1960s.

Her atheism can be regarded as another example of her progressiveness, or as one of the ways in which her "matter-of-fact" approach to life renders her less sympathetic to other ideas and belief systems. 

However, her keen insight is on display during Mr. Lindner's visit at the end of the play. She is the first to pick up on Lindner's true intentions. She watches him carefully as soon as he announces that he is from the Clybourne Park Improvement Association -- a moniker that, at the time, referenced associations that worked to keep black people out of certain suburbs. 

Beneatha is a rich character with many strengths. However, it is my view that Hansberry presents her as a figure who is representative of the well-educated, politically-motivated young black people who emerged during the late-1950s and early-1960s. She is what Walter calls the "New Negro." As a result, her character is not as emotionally complex as Ruth or Walter.

Read the study guide:
A Raisin in the Sun

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question