Abstract illustration of the houses of Clybourne Park

A Raisin in the Sun

by Lorraine Hansberry

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In A Raisin in the Sun, what is Beneatha doing and wearing at the start of Act II?

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In the play's second act, Beneatha explores the idea of taking on a Pan-African identity, connecting herself to her dignified and historic African roots. We see this exploration as the act opens.

Beneatha comes out of her room in Nigerian dress, which Asagai gave her, and puts on the records of African music.

The idea of an African-oriented identity is counter-poised to the more assimilationist attitude represented by George Murchison. The opposition of these positions are explicitly depicted in this scene when Beneatha reveals her hair in an afro. 

When George Murchison joins in with the negative reactions, saying she looks “eccentric,” she calls him an “assimilationist.”

Much of Beneatha's character - her internal conflicts as we all as her interactions with others, especially Mama - are driven by her desire to achieve an adult identity that affords her some dignity. Thus she considers pursuing medicine and explores the pros and cons of the identities represented by George Murchison and Joseph Asagai. 

While Beneatha's behavior can arguably be seen to incorporate some elements of play, such as her dancing at the opening of the second act, her turmoil regarding the problem of establishing a positive (racial, gendered, and adult) identity is one that the play takes seriously and spends considerable time in examining. 

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