SAMPLE EXCERPT:

The couple do care deeply for each other, however Beneatha is not as involved in the relationship as her suitor, Asagi. He does not truly accept her attitude and says "liberated women are not liberated at all" (Hansberry, 64). Asagi is very proud of his heritage and teases Beneatha for straightening her curly hair for a more European look. He brings Beneatha a gift of authentic Nigerian clothing. Beneatha is pleased with the gift and very interested in learning more about African history. She said "Mr. Asagi, I am looking for my identity," when they first met (Hansberry, 62). Asagi comes from Nigeria and is attending college, he is articulate and shares insight about the royal lineage of African tribal history. Having lived on two continents, he is experienced in Western culture as well as his own roots in Africa. He expects Beneatha to agree to his values which place the man as the head of the relationship and the woman to willingly follow his direction.

Beneatha is the first to attend college in the family and is a typical 20th century woman. African-American women of the 1950s typically did not attend college. They primarily worked to help their parents raise the siblings and then got jobs to help support the household. When they dated their suitors were expected to meet the father and get his approval to court. Beneatha is casually dating a couple of students which is not the norm in the 1950s. This was a time when African-American family members often lived and worked toward meeting the household needs together. However in the case of this story Beneatha is only concerned about her future. This is definitely something she has in common with the young college women of the 1980s and 1990s. Ruth says to Beneatha that she is 'fresh as salt" (Hansberry, 46). Referring to a quote in the bible. Beneatha then quotes Matthew 5:13 to show off her knowledge, yet she has no religious attachment. These remarks make it clear that the other family members consider Beneatha more worldly and knowledgeable than themselves. Many women that left home for college never return home to their families, having chosen instead to live in the town where they attend school or move away after finding employment. Many African-American young women are estranged from their mothers, never bridging the generation gap that led them away from family values of their parents. There is also an intellectual gap due to the education disparities. As Beneatha tries to teach her mother about African politics by saying Africans "need more salvation from the British and the French," rather than missionaries in the church (Hansberry, 64). It appears that the values the mothers were raised with were not passed to the daughters. Values such as working to support the family, learning their values from their religion, and even having a goal of getting married and raising a family. The fact that Beneatha has pulled away from these values puts her in an entirely different generation.

Conclusion

In A Raisin in the Sun, the character Beneatha is a woman ahead of her time. She has moved forward in her thinking and values on education, dating and relationships, and where she comes from. She doesn't see herself as an young African-American woman from the ghetto of South Chicago, but as a liberated woman with roots in Africa and a future career in medicine. She is knowledgeable about her mother's religion but does not share her devotion in honoring its teachings. She cares for her family but has a detachment toward their aspirations as being beneath her. It is interesting that her name is Beneatha, a play on words by Hansberry possibly indicating that the typical life of women in the 1950s as uneducated, wife, mother of children, and employed as a housekeeper. Asagi says that Beneatha is a woman for "whom bread, food, is not enough" (Hansberry, 65). Beneatha seeks a deeper understanding of herself and the world around her much like the women of future generations 1960 and beyond.

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