Beneatha Character in “A Raisin in the Sun”

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Hansberry promotes a sense of African heritage through her character, Beneatha. Beneatha was a college student struggling to find her identity. She tried to find herself by getting in touch with her roots.

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Beneatha tries to express her opinions and ideas, but since she is the youngest she feels confined and restricted. Hansberry states Beneatha’s conflict when she writes Why? Why can’t I say what I want to around here like everybody else? (Hansberry 39). It is when she begins to embrace the thought of returning to her African roots, she started to appear happier. Although, Beneatha’s happiness may in some cases be attributed to possible infatuation, Hansberry shows her true passion concerning embracing her African heritage through Beneatha’s original conversation with Asagai when she states You see, Mr. Asagai, I am looking for my identity! (Hansberry 49). Thus, by revealing Beneatha’s interest in Africa to be genuine, coupled with her excitement, Hansberry then expresses a sense of pride in returning to one’s roots as well as encourages African Americans to embrace theirs.

Hansberry connects African heritage to not only a sense of belonging, but also hope in an unpredictable, and difficult future, which as a result gives strength, and hope to African Americans in a time when they faced resentment and segregation in various parts of the United States. This message continues today as a source of pride for one’s heritage as well as hope in times of trouble, such as the economic trouble faced by many Americans in the recent years.

However, Kristin Matthews argues that the focus on pan-Africanism takes Blacks away from more pressing issues like racism and civil rights. She states that during Beneatha’s dance her eyes are far away back to the past as a means of challenging the racist capitalist system represented by George Murchison (Matthews 563). Yet, by fantasizing in the past, Beneatha fails to focus on the issues of the present, thus inhibiting her from making time-relevant decisions regarding her current predicament and future. At the same time:

Just as George’s assimilationist black bourgeoisie is an escape rather than a solution to the socio-economic crisis of blackness facing the Younger family Asagai’s proposal of a Pan-African return an escape.

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