Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.” As carbon matter endures unimaginable heat and pressure to transform into a beautiful diamond, so also do individuals experience incredible situations in life, which lead to opportunities for personal development. These times of struggle do not always produce the most gracious or picturesque representations of a person, but they are often necessary for that person to experience internal growth. Throughout Lorraine Hansberry’s story of A Raisin in the Sun, Beneatha’s character is forced to deal with conflict from many different sources, thus taking her through a process of self-actualization.
Externally, upon introduction to her character, Beneatha struggles against a society that does not readily accept her as an African-American woman. Set in Chicago’s Southside in a time before the Civil Rights Movement had really gained momentum, A Raisin in the Sun places Beneatha in a tumultuous environment. Simply by virtue of her birth, this young African-American woman finds herself catapulted into a time of social conflict and unrest due to the highly charged civil rights issues coming to surface. Additionally, in this time, if they insisted on working, women were expected to become domestics, secretaries, nurses, or teachers: all roles which ultimately submitted to male authority. To add fuel to the fire of her individual situation, Beneatha finds inspiration from a personal experience and decides to become a doctor, which at that time was rare, if not dissident, to the current society as a woman of her race. In a moment with her friend Asagai, Beneatha shares the memory of a neighborhood child being injured and her internal response to his treatment: “That was what one person could do for another, fix him up – sew up the problem, make him all right again. That was the most marvelous thing in the world…I wanted to do...
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