Abstract illustration of the houses of Clybourne Park

A Raisin in the Sun

by Lorraine Hansberry

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What is the significance of Beneatha's atheism in A Raisin in the Sun?

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During a conversation between Beneatha and her mother, Lena mentions that her daughter will become a doctor, "God willing," and Beneatha responds by saying that God has nothing to do with it. Beneatha goes on to say that she is sick of hearing about God and expresses her atheistic beliefs by telling her mother that God is simply an idea that she does not accept. Beneatha says that she is tired of God getting all the credit for the accomplishments of the human race and tells Lena that there is "only man and it is he who makes miracles!" Beneatha's bold comments infuriate her mother, who proceeds to slap her in the face and forces her to repeat the phrase "In my mother’s house there is still God" (Hansberry, 54).

Beneatha's atheism is significant for several reasons. Her atheistic beliefs establish her as an unapologetic African American humanist and reflect Lorraine Hansberry's critical view of God. Beneatha's atheism also contributes to her individuality and adds depth to her character. She is portrayed as a free-thinking, educated young woman who is outspoken and ambitious.

Beneatha's atheism also challenges her culture's traditional beliefs as well as Lena's way of life. In Lena's home, Beneatha struggles to express herself and embrace her controversial beliefs. Her unique thoughts and beliefs are often stifled by Lena, Walter, and Ruth, which creates conflict in their family. Additionally, her modern views regarding religion contribute to the progressive identity of African American culture during the civil rights movement. Overall, Beneatha's atheism contributes to her characterization, reflects Hansberry's beliefs, and coincides with the progressive nature of the Pan-African movement, which is something Beneatha champions throughout the play.

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