"A Raisin in the Sun" by Lorraine Hansberry: Analysis of Beneatha Younger | Teen Ink

"A Raisin in the Sun" by Lorraine Hansberry: Analysis of Beneatha Younger

September 15, 2014
By AGarsson PLATINUM, Mill Valley, California
AGarsson PLATINUM, Mill Valley, California
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For this essay, I have chosen to write about the character “Beneatha Younger.” She is the eccentric, driven daughter of “Lena Younger” and taunting sister to “Walter Lee Younger.” As I researched the symbolism behind A Raisin in the Sun, I have come to realize that those characters in fact represent the three ways an American citizen tries to pursue success. Lena, also known as “Mama,” represents planning carefully for your success. Walter embodies the way of trial and error. Beneatha epitomizes the act of jumping head first into a challenge. Her character brings both pride and shame to the Younger family through her persistence, her curiosity, and her refusal to acknowledge her family’s obstacles.

Beneatha is the only family member who has been college-educated. She is an intellectual, who brings politics and civil rights into the apartment, eager to be discussed. However, her hardworking family that is more concerned with money gives Beneatha no time to reveal her true potential. Therefore, when we are first introduced to Beneatha, her dialogue comes across as somewhat ungrateful and self-centered (page 37 “What do you want from me, Brother- that I quit school or just drop dead, which?”). In reality, Beneatha is working zealously to fulfill her dream of being a doctor, a job that was considered taboo for her status during the play’s time period. The reason behind Beneatha’s dream can be found on page 132, where she remembers a childhood friend splitting their head open after a sledding accident. This fascination with “making people whole again” is the root of Beneatha’s struggles with her family. The profession of a doctor is what Beneatha believes is mankind’s strongest evidence to prove that we can change the world, not the sole wrath of God. Her persistence to accomplish things all by herself causes Beneatha to criticize God for taking the credit (page 51 “... There simply is no blasted God- there is only man and it is he who makes miracles...”).

In high school, students are encouraged to participate in activities outside of class. Joining clubs and sports give us the opportunity to meet new people and new some helpful new skills. Although her family mocks her for her unstable interests, Beneatha is very curious by nature and is eager to try new things. When I imagine Beneatha, I picture a woman who was born during the wrong time. Her personality reflects the ideals of the Renaissance Era, where people were encouraged to step outside of their main trades and explore different fields. Joseph Asagai, Beneatha’s love interest and teacher, recognizes this constant desire for knowledge by nicknaming her “Alaiyo” or “One for whom bread- food- is not enough.” While Beneatha’s vivacious curiosity acts as amusement for her peers, her continuous search has led her straight into an identity crisis. The fascination with Africa comes out of a deeply-hidden desire to be included as a part of a majority (page 77 “It’s from Nigeria. It’s a dance of welcome”).

Beneatha has always lived by shooting for the stars. Nevertheless, Beneatha does not pay any attention to the rocket ship that intends to take her there. She expects her family to pay for her medical school, but does not bother to ask if she needs a job. She is arrogant in the way she refuses to acknowledge her family’s setbacks, and distances herself from the reality that her future is limited. Beneatha and her brother share this common trait of putting money above other things, although Beneatha does this much more subtly. Walter Lee needs money to invest in a liquor store in order for his dreams to become true. Beneatha doesn’t ask for Mama to pay for her tuition, but rather pressures her mother to do so by expressing the importance of being a doctor and women in the workforce. I find it very interesting in the way Beneatha feels towards Travis and the upcoming baby. Easily annoyed by nephew “Travis” and disheartened when her sister-in-law “Ruth Younger” announces that the baby is due, Beneatha feels threatened by the younger members of the family. They serve as further divisions to the family’s small assets, and a secure financial future for Beneatha’s schooling (page 58 “It is my business- where is he going to live? On the roof?”).

In the end of A Raisin in the Sun, Walter Lee loses the payment for Beneatha’s medical school to a scam. With reality toppling over Beneatha’s pillars of determination, she seeks the wise counsel of Joseph Asagai. Through her conversation, she has a revelation that she must not let the obstacles of the future stop her journey. She learns that the true meaning of success is to be able to improve a world in which others view as satisfactory.

The author's comments:

To write this essay for my English class, I both read the script for A Raisin in the Sun, and watched the made-for-TV movie. For those who have never heard or seen A Raisin in the Sun, it is a play written in the late 1950s about an African-American family living in Chicago's Southside. The Younger family is composed of five people who share a small, two-bedroom apartment. The head of the Youngers is Lena, a widowed but wise woman who recently has received a life insurance check for her dead husband. Walter Lee, her eldest son, wishes to invest that money to start a liquour store so he can have a well-paying job. Ruth, Walter Lee's wife, wishes to use that money to move out of the cramped apartment into a house for her young son and the baby she is pregnant with. Beneatha, sister to Walter Lee, wants part of the money to go towards her college tuition in order to become a doctor. This play was based off a poem by Langston Hughes and focuses heavily on issues such as discrimination, gender roles, and identity.

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