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.
Beneatha’s Hair Quotes in A Raisin in the Sun
The A Raisin in the Sun quotes below all refer to the symbol of Beneatha’s Hair. 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: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of A Raisin in the Sun published in 2004.).
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.
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
...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)
Act 2, Scene 1
...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)