A Raisin in the Sun

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Beneatha’s Hair Symbol Icon
Beneatha’s natural hair symbolizes her pride in her African heritage and her desire to explore her African roots. After Joseph Asagai refers to Beneatha’s Caucasian-style straightened hair as “mutilated,” Beneatha reevaluates the significance of her “assimilationist” hairstyle and decides to cut her hair and wear it in its natural form. While Ruth, Walter, and George Murchison are flabbergasted by Beneatha’s abrupt decision to wear her hair “all nappy like that,” Beneatha sees her new hairstyle as a way to distance herself from “the dominant, and in this case oppressive” mainstream culture and to fully embrace her African heritage. With her natural hair, Beneatha proudly marks herself as an anti-assimilationist and visibly expresses her racial identity. Her decision foreshadows the “Natural Hair” movement that many young African Americans embraced in the 1960s, which championed the beauty of African-American hair.
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Beneatha’s Hair Symbol Timeline in A Raisin in the Sun

The timeline below shows where the symbol Beneatha’s Hair appears in A Raisin in the Sun. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 2
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
...the robes, he compliments her appearance, teasingly adding that she looks good even with “mutilated” hair. Beneatha is taken aback by this comment and explains that she straightens her hair because... (full context)
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Beneatha gazes at herself in the mirror and “clutches at her hair,” squinting her eyes “as if trying to imagine something.” Suddenly, she grabs her coat and... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
...stares at him and “ceremoniously” takes off the headdress, revealing her newly “close-cropped and unstraightened” hair. Ruth and George are both shocked by Beneatha’s “nappy” hair. While Beneatha proudly declares her... (full context)