The ‘Beneatha’ In Me

Something happened in literature tutorial today that I’ve been dying to pen down. The class was amidst a discussion on Lorraine Hansberry’s play, ‘A Raisin in The Sun’. My prof was being quite critical of the character ‘Beneatha’. He commented that while her ‘dream’ was nobel in some sense, as compared to her brother’s, it was quite self-serving. Whereas, Walter’s dream was essentially rooted to his family.

“Professor, I’ve got a question. Don’t you think that we are being too critical of Beneatha? I mean, she is still studying in college– so she’s quite young. And in that age, isn’t that normal? To waver between identities and ambitions?”

Prof goes on to poll the class on whom they agreed with; him or me. (He wasn’t being condescending; it was all in the name of intellectual discourse.) The results of the poll was pretty evenly split. So he asked a few people who agreed with him to respond with their viewpoint.

A girl, whose name slips my mind, spoke up. She remarked that Beneatha should be around our age– and that should translate into some form of maturity to consider her family’s needs rather than just her own. “Her dreams are quite selfish,” she said.

Prof surveys the class once again, “Who agrees that Beneatha is selfish.”

Majority of the class’ hands were raised; mine included.

“So you changed your mind?” he asked me.

“No. I agree that she is selfish. But shouldn’t that be expected of her? I feel like it is a phase that many of us go through, even at the university level. We are still in the process of building our self-concept, and it tends to be more selfish than not. So I was just wondering if we should hold it against Beneatha for thinking a little too much about herself.”


 

I didn’t really didn’t know how to feel about the response elicited from the class. Was I literally the only person who resonated with ‘Beneatha’ in some sense? If that is the case, it’s really quite alarming for me. Note that most of my classmates are younger than me in their late teens– while I am a 21 year old, grown up man-child.

I still do not know what I want to do in life. I am wavering between majors, yet alone careers. All I am concerned about right now is my education choices, my desire to travel and to create lasting memories in my youth while I still can. These ambitions are so self-centred. I haven’t really considered about my family. And is that so wrong of me? Isn’t that somewhat expected of someone who is just starting out their university life; their youth?  

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6 thoughts on “The ‘Beneatha’ In Me

  1. Sounds to me like a lot of your classmates were rushing for the bandwagon, scared to be different, which is also normal at that age. Be proud of yourself for seeing a little deeper, a little differently 🙂

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  2. Frankly, I think your analysis of Beneatha is quite apt. Of course she is self-centered; she must be, and that is acceptable, reasonable. She is, as you pointedly remarked, at the age where one is in the process of learning of his or her own identity, his or her place within the world. Walter Lee, on the other hand, while having practical intentions due to societal expectations and familial responsibilities (he is a grown-up, after all), still makes incredibly selfish decisions (e.g. HIS “dream” — the get-rich-quick scheme of the supposed liquor business) much to his family’s detriment.

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    • Thank you for your insights. And I agree with your analysis on Walter Lee. In fact, for the first three-quarters of the play I was annoyed with his childish attitude. He came across as petulant to me, even more so than his sister!

      Liked by 1 person

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