A Raisin in the Sun

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Beneatha Younger Character Analysis

Nicknamed “Bennie,” Beneatha is Mama’s daughter and Walter Lee’s younger sister. A twenty-year-old college student with dreams of becoming a doctor, Beneatha is “as slim and intense as her brother,” with an “intellectual face.” Beneatha holds modern views on gender and shows great interest in her African heritage. The most educated member of the Younger family, Beneatha is not afraid to butt heads with Mama, Walter, and others when it comes to her opinions on religion, feminism, and racial assimilation. She dreams of becoming a doctor, and believes that she should have the right to express herself, a concept foreign to the other women in the play. Beneatha’s way of speaking is different from the rest of her family’s speech, characterized by her education and a Midwestern rather than a Southern accent.

Beneatha Younger Quotes in A Raisin in the Sun

The A Raisin in the Sun quotes below are all either spoken by Beneatha Younger or refer to Beneatha Younger. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Dreams Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of A Raisin in the Sun published in 2004.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

Walter: Who the hell told you you had to be a doctor? If you so crazy ‘bout messing ‘round with sick people – then go be a nurse like other women – or just get married and be quiet . . .
Beneatha: Well – you finally got it said . . . It took you three years but you finally got it said.

Related Characters: Walter Lee Younger (speaker), Beneatha Younger (speaker)
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Walter chastises his 20-year-old sister Beneatha for wanting to be a doctor. Before this, Beneatha wakes up in the room she shares her mother and comes out to talk with her family. Already in a fit of frustration regarding the insurance money, Walter suggests that his mother will play favorites and give a portion of the $10,000 to Beneatha to finish her schooling. He is both frustrated that his mother holds control of the money and bitter that a portion of it will go to his sister. 

This moment excavates themes of gender and feminism and dreams and dreaming. A Raisin In The Sun is set in the mid-1950s, a time where women weren’t seen as leaders in the workplace. Instead of doctors, they were more commonly nurses. Instead of business owners,  they were secretaries. Many were housewives and mothers. Beneatha challenges the socially constructed expectations of both her gender and her race. As a black woman pursuing a career in medicine, she fights stereotypes and aspires to go beyond what is culturally expected and even acceptable.

Beneatha and Walter are more similar than they both think. Both of their aspirations extend beyond what society expects of them. However, Walter sees Beneatha’s role as exclusively mother and wife. Beneatha, on the other hand, doesn’t take Walter’s dream of opening a liquor store seriously. This moment is just the beginning of what will be an ongoing discourse between Walter and Beneatha regarding the validity of one another's dreams. 

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Mama: What is it you want to express?
Beneatha: Me! Don’t worry – I don’t expect you to understand.

Related Characters: Lena Younger (Mama) (speaker), Beneatha Younger (speaker)
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

This moment happens during a conversation between Beneatha, Ruth, and Mama. When Mama asks Beneatha about what time she's going to be home from school that evening, Beneatha tells Ruth and Mama that she is coming home late because she plans on taking her first guitar lesson after school. Mama goes on to tease Beneatha, telling her that she’s flippant with her forms of "expression." First it was acting, followed by horse back riding, and now it's guitar. Mama hardly trusts that Beneatha will commit to this new hobby.

Beneatha defends herself by telling Mama that she doesn’t “flit” but rather experiments with different forms of expression. Mama then asks her what she’s trying to express. And Beneatha responds angrily with, “Me!”

Here we learn that Beneatha takes great pride in her self-expression and is in search of her own identity. Throughout the play she defines herself by her education, her dress, her activities and her connection to her African heritage. In this moment, Hansberry also highlights the generational differences between Mama and Beneatha. Mama doesn’t understand Beneatha’s need to express. Like Ruth, she is pragmatic and reserved. The only thing she expresses is her love for her family and staunch sense of survival.  She fits the traditional 1950s mold of mother, and takes pride in that. Indeed, after this moment Mama immediately re-routes the conversation to George Murchison, Beneatha’s suitor, pushing her to make a commitment to him, like a good woman should. 

Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

Asagai: You wear it well . . . very well . . . mutilated hair and all.
Beneatha: My hair – what’s wrong with my hair?
Asagai: Were you born with it like that?
Beneatha: No . . . of course not.

Related Characters: Beneatha Younger (speaker), Joseph Asagai (speaker)
Related Symbols: Beneatha’s Hair
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

Directly before this quote we are introduced to Joseph Asagai, a friend of Beneatha’s. Asagai, a Nigerian student, has returned from a trip to Canada and visits the Younger home to see Beneatha. When he arrives he gifts Beneatha traditional Nigerian robes. Asagai then comments on Beneatha’s hair. She asks him what’s wrong with it, and he tells her it isn’t “natural.” Beneatha replies that it’s easier to manage longer, permed hair. Asagai teases her, saying that he’s shocked that she would “mutilate” her natural hair for the sake of ease.

Here, Hansberry touches on the themes of assimilation, discrimination, gender, and feminism. Beneatha’s constant change of interests and hobbies represents more than a search for expression; she is also in search of her own identity. Beneatha represents the identity struggle many black people faced and continue to face in America. It is racist society that has dictated that Beneatha’s natural hair is unruly and messy. In Asagai’s view, by perming her hair Beneatha is assimilating to American cultural standards of beauty, which are grounded in whiteness and what white people consider attractive or appealing. Beneatha’s straight hair, although also possibly more manageable, mostly symbolizes her desire to fit in with white culture.

This also brings up questions of gender and feminism in A Raisin In The Sun. Like Ruth’s quote about Walter eating his eggs earlier in Act I, Beneatha’s response to Asagai’s comments about her hair are pragmatic. Straightening her hair is easier than letting it be natural. It’s a utilitarian choice. Furthermore, it’s important to note that only women’s hair is discussed in the play. Even though Asagai's comments are aimed at empowering Beneatha to be a strong black woman, the discussion of hair and her physical attributes of beauty indicate the gender roles and standards of the time. In her interaction with Asagai, there is more discussion about Beneatha’s hair than there is about her becoming a doctor.

Act 3 Quotes

Independence and then what? What about all the crooks and thieves and just plain idiots who will come into power and steal and plunder the same as before – only now they will be black and do it in the name of the new Independence – WHAT ABOUT THEM?!

Related Characters: Beneatha Younger (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Insurance Payment
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:

Before this quote, Asagai has returned to the Younger home to help Beneatha with packing for the big move. Beneatha tells Asagai that Walter has lost rest of the insurance money. Asagai asks her how this makes her feel, and she replies, "Me, I'm nothing." Beneatha tells Asagai that when she was a child, she discovered she wanted to be a doctor when she saw a little boy get badly cut on the face while sledding. She realized then that "fixing" someone else was the most "marvelous thing in the world." Beneatha goes on to tell Asagai that after today, she's learned that there are things in this world that can't be fixed. Mankind is sick with something that seems incurable. Asagai tries to help, but Beneatha tells him that his "Back to Africa" ideals are silly and that they won't cure anything. Asagai is the ultimate idealist, but what comes after his ideas of independence? What is the point of fighting if people don't seem to ever change?  

Here we see Beneatha's tenacity and passion for self-discovery deflated by the loss of the insurance money. Without the money for her education she feels aimless, like she has lost who she is, and the result of this is that she feels betrayed by humanity itself.

Then isn’t there something wrong in a house – in a world! – where all dreams, good or bad, must depend on the death of a man? I never thought to see you like this, Alaiyo.

Related Characters: Joseph Asagai (speaker), Beneatha Younger
Related Symbols: The Insurance Payment
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote happens after Beneatha tells Asagai that she has given up on her dreams of becoming a doctor. She has also, in many ways, lost hope in the world. She no longer believes that  humanity can be cured of its problems.

Always an optimist and idealist, Asagai tells Beneatha that the first step for change is acting, having a voice. Beneatha tells him that nothing has changed, and that "there is only one large circle that we march in, around and around," and that dreams are all a "mirage".

Asagai argues that life isn't a circle but rather a long line. "We cannot see the end" or how it will change—we cannot see our dreams but they are there. Asagai then tells Beneatha that the money didn't belong to her, she has lived without it and wouldn't have had it at all if her father hadn't died. He even calls into question the morality of a dream built upon a man's death. Asagai is disappointed by Beneatha's aspirations for wealth and how easily her dreams have deteriorated—if her dreams were purer and stronger, Asagai seems to argue, they wouldn't be affected by such setbacks.


Have you cried for that boy today? I don’t mean for yourself and for the family ‘cause we lost the money. I mean for him: what he been through and what it done to him. Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most? When they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain’t through learning – because that ain’t the time at all. It’s when he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in hisself ‘cause the world done whipped him so!

Related Characters: Lena Younger (Mama) (speaker), Walter Lee Younger, Beneatha Younger
Related Symbols: The Insurance Payment
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote happens after Walter tells the family that he has asked Mr.Lindner to return to discuss striking a deal. Walter plans to negotiate with Lindner and try to make the money that he lost on his liquor store investment back.

Mama and Beneatha are devastated by this. Beneatha criticizes Walter for stooping so low that he would make a deal with a man who sees them as unfit to live in his community. Mama then reprimands Beneatha for her lack of empathy. She is upset that her children have been so selfish. Mama explains that she thought that she taught her children to love each other no matter what. In a time when the Younger family has had to face so much prejudice for simply being who they are, Mama begs Beneatha to love and empathize with her brother. He doesn't have anyone else, and in the face of so much poverty, racism, and bad luck, the family has to stick together.

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Beneatha Younger Character Timeline in A Raisin in the Sun

The timeline below shows where the character Beneatha Younger appears in A Raisin in the Sun. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Walter’s sister Beneatha enters from the stage-left bedroom in the midst of Walter and Ruth’s quarrel. As Ruth... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
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...a doctor in favor of being “a nurse like other women,” or simply getting married. Beneatha responds by telling Walter, “Thee is mad, boy.” Following his argument with Beneatha, Walter “slams... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Mama enters from her bedroom and asks Beneatha and Ruth about the argument with Walter that she just overheard. When Beneatha exits to... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...husband’s recent death. Mama declares that some of the money must be set aside for Beneatha’s schooling. As for the remaining amount, Mama “tentatively” begins to tell Ruth of her and... (full context)
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Beneatha returns from the bathroom and angers Mama by “reciting the scriptures in vain” when she... (full context)
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Mama then changes the subject to Beneatha’s love life, asking whom she will go on a date with tomorrow night. “With displeasure,”... (full context)
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After recovering from the shock of Beneatha’s comment, Mama says that Beneatha will certainly fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor, “God... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
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The following Saturday morning Beneatha and Mama clean the apartment thoroughly, a regular occurrence in the Younger household. Travis asks... (full context)
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Beneatha answers the phone and has a brief conversation with her classmate, Joseph Asagai, who asks... (full context)
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...and confirms Mama’s suspicion that she is pregnant. While Mama is overcome with “grandmotherly enthusiasm,” Beneatha and Ruth worry about the financial strain that a child will place on the family.... (full context)
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
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Suddenly, there is a “commotion” in the street, and Beneatha calls out of the window and orders Travis to come upstairs. While waiting for Travis,... (full context)
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Asagai notices that Beneatha looks rattled and asks if something is wrong, to which Beneatha says, “Yes . .... (full context)
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Before Asagai can exit, Mama reenters and Beneatha introduces her to Asagai. Honoring her promise to Beneatha, Mama refrains from asking Asagai ignorant... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
As he goes to exit, Asagai calls Beneatha by a Yoruba nickname, “Alaiyo.” Mama and Beneatha ask about the meaning of the nickname,... (full context)
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Beneatha gazes at herself in the mirror and “clutches at her hair,” squinting her eyes “as... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
That evening, Ruth is ironing and listening to the radio when Beneatha enters “grandly” from her bedroom, wearing the robes and headdress that Asagai gave her that... (full context)
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Walter enters during Beneatha’s “performance” and he is clearly drunk. Although he first watches the spectacle with “distaste,” he... (full context)
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Embarrassed, Ruth orders Walter off of the table. He exits. Looking at Beneatha’s African garb, George tells Beneatha to go dress properly for their date, snidely saying that... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Ruth tries to make small talk with George while Beneatha dresses. George, fairly indifferent, ignores most of Ruth’s chitchat, only commenting in order to display... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
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...ants!” Walter expresses his frustration that “not even my own mother” supports his dreams, but Beneatha’s reentrance puts an abrupt stop to his complaints. Beneatha and George leave, and George sarcastically... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
On a Friday night a few weeks later, George and Beneatha enter the apartment after a date. Packing crates, signifying the family’s upcoming move, dot the... (full context)
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Mama asks Beneatha about her date, and Beneatha responds by telling her mother that, “George is a fool.”... (full context)
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Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
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Wearing a bathrobe, Beneatha enters from her bedroom and heads to the bathroom. On her way, she “crisply” says... (full context)
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Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
...a good plow hand.” Mama responds by calling Washington a “fool.” Offended, Mrs. Johnson exits. Beneatha reenters and Mama lightly scolds her behavior towards Mrs. Johnson, to which Beneatha responds, “If... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...insurance payment to Walter. She tells him to put $3,000 in a savings account for Beneatha’s schooling but gives him complete control over how to spend the rest of the money.... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Dreams Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
...curtain rises, Ruth’s joyful singing “cuts through the silence” as she finishes the family’s packing. Beneatha enters and Ruth happily shows her some curtains that she bought for the new house.... (full context)
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
...a record. He and Ruth begin to dance “a classic, body-melding ‘slow drag,’” which prompts Beneatha to call them “old-fashioned [Negroes].” Continuing to dance, Walter playfully tells his sister, “Damn, even... (full context)
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Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
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The man tells Beneatha that he is looking for Lena Younger. She briefly excuses herself, closes the door, and... (full context)
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As Lindner sits and begins to explain the purpose of the Clybourne Park Improvement Association, Beneatha grows suspicious of Lindner’s explanation that the association exists to solve “special community problems.” The... (full context)
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...– but we are trying to do something about it.” This seemingly open-minded statement piques Beneatha’s interest and she begins to listen with “genuine interest.” (full context)
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With this evidence of Lindner’s true motive in visiting the family, Beneatha bitterly denounces the so-called “Welcoming Committee.” Walter is “dumbfounded.” Lindner adds that the association is... (full context)
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Mama and Travis enter the apartment. “Smiling,” Beneatha says that Mama had a “caller,” and Beneatha, Walter, and Ruth “saucily” and playfully relate... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
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Beneatha “laughingly” notices that Mama is carefully tending to her plant during this conversation. She asks... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
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...set of gardening tools. Mama is deeply touched by the gift from Walter, Ruth, and Beneatha, which is the first gift that she has received in her life “without its being... (full context)
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The doorbell rings and Beneatha heads to her room to continue packing. Mama and Travis go to exit. Walter sings... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...Walter falls to the floor and sobs, pounding the ground with his fists. Mama and Beneatha enter from the bedroom. Walter screams, “THAT MONEY IS MADE OUT OF MY FATHER’S FLESH.”... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...Walter admits that he never went to the bank and never placed the money for Beneatha’s schooling into a savings account. Mama stands quietly in disbelief, looking at her son “without... (full context)
Act 3
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
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...fills the apartment with “a sullen light of gloom.” Asagai enters the apartment to visit Beneatha, who is deeply upset about the lost money. Beneatha explains the situation to Asagai and... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Asagai tries to convince Beneatha of the value of idealism, but she rejects his arguments. She mocks Asagai’s dream for... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
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Beneatha laments that with the loss of the insurance money her dream for the future has... (full context)
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When Beneatha accuses Asagai of being unable to provide an argument in favor of idealism, Asagai shouts,... (full context)
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“Rather quietly,” Asagai suggests that Beneatha “come home” with him. At first, Beneatha mistakenly believes that Asagai is merely asking her... (full context)
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...the bedroom and “feverishly” begins to look for something. Filled with disgust for her brother, Beneatha launches into a “monologue of insult,” mockingly calling Walter an entrepreneur. Walter ignores her comments... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
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...table and returns it to its former spot by the window. She asks Ruth or Beneatha to call the moving company and cancel their move. Mama remembers how people “down home”... (full context)
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Walter reenters and tells Mama, Ruth, and Beneatha that he made a phone call to “The Man.” Beneatha realizes that Walter is referring... (full context)
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Beneatha sneers that Walter is “not a man . . . but a toothless rat.” Mama... (full context)
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...we come from people who had a lot of pride.” He adds that his sister Beneatha plans to become a doctor. (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
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...try to ignore “the nobility” of Walter’s decision, focusing instead on the task at hand. Beneatha excitedly tells Mama that Asagai proposed to her that afternoon, but in the busyness of... (full context)