Throughout the play, A Raisin in the Sun, Beneatha and Mama are revealed as fierce, intelligent, and strong-willed women. They are both women that push against the stereotypical women’s role during the 1950s. They are powerful however, their power is generated from different sources. Mama’s power is created from her maternal and conservative personality whereas, Beneatha’s power is created from her independence, passion for life, and desire to fulfill her dreams.
In Act 3, Beneatha states “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 that. I always thought it was the one concrete thing in the world that a human being could do. Fix up the sick, you know – and make them whole again. This was truly being God…I wanted to cure. It used to be so important to me. I wanted to cure. It used to matter. I used to care. I mean about people and how their bodies hurt” (113).
In this scene, Beneatha explains her reasoning being why she wants to become a doctor. She wants to give people medical attention which is one of the most genuine acts a human could ever desire. Majority of the time, especially in the 1950s, being a doctor was a male dominated profession. Beneatha does not allow this boundary to prevent her from fighting for what she dreams of. She uses her strong-willed and determination to prove to her family that she needs the insurance check to fulfill her dreams.
Beneatha’s mother, Mama, supports her in this dream and wishes she could help her daughter. However, Mama also has dreams of her own. She wants to use the insurance money to buy a bigger home to support her family. The home that the Youngers currently live in is way too small for their family, extremely old and run down, and has no room for Travis to play. Though Beneatha is going to school full time, Mama works full time to support four other people who also live in the house. Their home is way too small for a family of five but their home is built on “care and love and even hope.” (23) You can clearly see the hope that Mama has for the family but the conflict within the home is obvious.
During Act 3, Mama states “Lord, ever since I was a little girl, I always remembers people saying, “Lena – Lena Eggleston, you aims too high all the time. You needs to slow down and see life a little more like it is. Just slow down some.” That’s what they always used to say down home – “Lord, that Lena Eggleston is a high-minded thing. She’ll get her due one day” (139).
In this moment, Mama is blaming herself for dreaming too big. She believes that her dream of buying a bigger home is not the right way the insurance money should be spent. Mama and Beneatha have different opinions on how the insurance money should be spent. As mother and daughter, they tend to butt heads about many different topics including the insurance money, religion, and Beneatha’s free-spirit. Mama believes as long as Beneatha lives under her roof, Beneatha should be having respect for God and the morals that Mama has placed in the family household. However, Beneatha believes that she should not have to filter what she is thinking and her views.
Beneatha- “Why? Why can’t I say what I want around here, like everyone else?”
Mama- “It don’t sound nice for a young girl to say things like that- you wasn’t brought up that way…” (51).
Today, the feminist moment is more prevalent than it has ever been. Women have decided to take back their freedom of speech and be able to say what they want regardless of the reaction from men. As the #metoo movement has come to light, women have begun to support other women more and more instead of putting each other down. As of today, women have taken over the job force in the medical field with 78% of women working in the medical field.
How have Beneatha and Mama helped you to see a different side of feminism?
Did you notice any parts in the play or movie where Beneath or Mama may have contradicted their feminist views?