The Power of Women

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.

Discussion Questions-

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?

Thanks!- Treasa

11 Replies to “The Power of Women”

  1. Hey Treasa!! I absolutely loved reading your blog post and how you showed the power these women display throughout the play. During that time period women didn’t really have much power, yet all of them have different reasons as to why they are. Mama has such an important role and always puts her family before anything else. She is the authority figure and definitely the most powerful person in the entirety of the play. She calls all the shots and never lets anyone talk back to her, especially Walter. One scene really stood out to me while reading and adds to this point. Mama says, “If you a son of mine, tell her! You… you are a disgrace to your father’s memory. Somebody get me my hat!”(P.75) I just feel as though this demonstrates the strong voice she has in the house especially the way she ends it by telling someone to grab her hat for her. She truly goes against the stereotype of a typical woman during the time this play was created and certainly can be seen as a feminist along with her daughter Beneatha.

  2. Hi Treasa! I really enjoyed reading your blog post and how you conveyed Mama’s and Beneatha’s power and intelligence. During the 1950’s women had many restrictions and boundaries. Feminism was not on the rise as how it is currently. You didn’t hear much about women speaking up or acting in what they believed in because that was not the “norm”. Throughout the play, both mama and Beneatha has had scenes where they showed feminism before their time. For example, page 80 says, Beneatha 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 hair “natural,”. To me, Beneatha cutting off her straight hair to expose her natural hair is an extremely strong and bold, FEMINIST move to make for a woman during this time period. Beneatha believed that letting out her natural hair was a step towards being more connected with her culture and heritage.

  3. Hi Treasa! I really admired the points you made throughout your blog post. I agree that when it comes to passion, big dreams, and feminist ideals that Mama and Beneatha are both different and the same. To answer your second discussion question, there are multiple times that each of the women contradict the ideals that are associated with the symbol of feminism that they embody throughout the play. One of the more notable examples is the fact that Mama wants and expects Beneatha to marry. Despite being a supporter of her daughter following her dreams, when Bennie says that she’s not worried about who she’ll marry and that she may not marry at all, both Mama and Ruth gasp in shock. The time period and its traditional standards of women clearly have a strong influence on this reaction. They both shout, “If!” and Mama follows with, “Now Bennie” (50). The idea was very uncommon before the Civil Rights and Women’s movements, and even Mama fell prey to the sexist norm despite her opposition to most others. This norm still persists today, as do many, and women who never marry are looked at as “different.” Another example of such contradiction is how Mama wants Walter to be the man of the house. Though it is evidently in a compassionate way and comes from a place of honor towards her late husband, Mama constantly tells Walter to step up and be the man his father would be proud of. The expectation of the man to be the head of the household is another age-old social norm that also originated before the movements.

  4. Hi Treasa! I enjoyed your blog post a lot and the title especially. Your points on the feminist movement is very interesting and extremely relevant especially in this play. There are a couple points made that are arguable. In the beginning of the post it was stated that the characters Mama and Beneatha both push back against the stereotypical women of the 50’s. However, I think Mama is the quintessential face of women in the 50’s. She is the traditional mother that expects the rules to be obeyed and works hard taking care of white children. She says,”Son-I come from five generations of people who was slaves and sharecroppers-but ain’t nobody in my family never let nobody pay’em no money that was a way of telling us we wasn’t fit to walk the earth” in Act III (Hansberry, 143). Mama shows the audience what the African American population was like in the 50’s being controlled still by white people and their decisions in the midst of integration. In regards to Beneatha, it was stated that she needed the insurance money from Mama to fulfill her dream of being a doctor. Although it may help Beneatha to have the money, she does not need it nor does she want it. When speaking to Walter Beneatha says,”That money belongs to Mama, Walter, and it’s for her to decide how she wants to use it. I don’t care if she wants to buy a house or a rocket ship or just nail it up somewhere and look at it. It’s hers. Not ours-hers” (Hansberry, 36-37). She clearly states that she does not want anything to do with Mama’s money. That being said, I loved how this blog post is a bit controversial because there are so many factors that could be argued here. You did a great job with bringing up points that can have multiple sides and opinions!

  5. Hi Treasa! I found this post super insightful and I liked the points you made about feminism and the power of woman back during this time period, as well as the way that you related it to feminist movements today. I also found it very interesting to compare Mama and Beneatha in the ways that you did, considering that they are from two very different generations and have two different mindsets about the world. I also liked how you brought up Mama and Beneatha’s disagreement about God. This was a scene that strongly stood out in my mind and I think that it not only revealed differences in the relationship between the two of them, but it also showed generational differences between them. Mama heavily asserts her power when she slaps Beneatha after she says she doesn’t believe in God. After this, Mama says “…[t]here are some ideas we ain’t going to have in this house. Not long as I am at the head of this family” (Hansberry, 51). This shows a power dynamic between Mama and Beneatha that we had not yet seen before, and it reiterates that even though Mama cares deeply for her family, she will not tolerate any disrespect or any negative words about God from anyone.

  6. Hi Teresa, excellent blog post! I think that Beneatha and Mama are exceptional role models for women. To have those types of characters portrayed in a play that takes place in the 1950s says a lot about the depth of their strength. I have an abundance of respect towards Beneatha for wanted to be a doctor while it was not fully accepted by society that woman could do that. She even said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but…words will never hurt me!” (113). This shows how she does not let what people have to say about her effect her and that is key for succeding when everyone is against you. This shows a different point of view on how to strive for your goals, especially as a woman, since woman are put at a disadvantage in life. Mama helped me view feminism in a different way because she is a traditional woman, yet she does not let people walk over her. She speaks her mind when she has a different opinion, like when she yelled at Walter for being a disgrace to his father’s name. On the other hand, she also said “She” – What doctor you went to?” when Ruth told her about her baby. This is showing how she had judgment towards woman being powerful but still views herself (a woman) as powerful. This shined light on how society can influence people and their opinions. If society never had any judgment towards woman, then most people would have never thought of woman as less superior. I loved how that question made me think about numerous examples of feminism in different ways! Good job!
    -Jill Venditti

  7. Hi Treasa! I really enjoyed reading your blog post. Your post was very thoughtful and well organized. I agree with you about Mama and Beneatha’s being strong female characters. Throughout the book, both characters are always being told that they cannot do/have something or be something because they are females. Regardless of their gender or race, they do not give up on their dreams. Mama is a hardworking mother that wants everything for her family. Beneatha is determined to become a doctor, she doesn’t care what others think of her or what they say about her future profession. For example, earlier on in the book, Beneatha is talking to her family saying she is focusing on becoming a doctor first and then maybe looking for a husband. On page 50 she says, “Get over it? What are you talking about, Ruth? Listen, I’m going to be a doctor. I’m not worried about who I’m going to marry yet- if I ever get married.” Women are always being told that they need to find a man, someone that can take care of them but with Beneatha she’s saying she doesn’t need a man. She will take care of herself and even take care of others too. Beneatha doesn’t listen to people that put her down, she has shown that women are strong too, just as strong as men. A woman can do anything that a man can do. -Deirdre Lynch

  8. Hi! I really enjoyed your response! One thing I really enjoyed was that you were able to state how Beneatha and Mama are great examples of women. I find this to be great in that since they are women of color that they are able to overcome and be able to do what they feel is beneficial for the family. A quote from the text that I liked was “sticks and stones may break my bones…but words may never hurt me!” Beneatha makes it very clear that she will do whatever is needed to make sure she is good and she will not allow anyone else to ruin that for her. I loved this theme and I really enjoyed how you were able to present this in your post! Amazing job!

    – Andrea Moro

  9. Hi Treasa! I truly loved your post about Mama and Beneatha and how the title of your post truly captures your theme throughout your post. Mama and Beneatha both are portrayed as these two determined, hardworking women who both have their restrictions in life. The author I believe wants us to envision these two has powerful and proud, but in their own ways with their own limitations. In Act 1, Scene 1 Mama says “Now—you say after me, in my mother’s house there is still God.” (pg. 98) This is where Mama states a clear rule and aims to make it stick in Beneatha’s head when she goes into her own rant using God’s name in vain. She intends for Beneatha to know that God is and always will be part of the family. Beneatha and Mama enlightened I myself and I’m sure many other readers to feminism, where they are their own women and independent. They work hard for what they believe in and show little to no sign of conceding defeat. Mama and Beneatha both hold themselves up very highly, there was one scene where I believe Beneatha slightly contradicted herself, when Asagai brought her the wrap from Africa and her response in my opinion was almost childish. This blog post was very insightful and well thought out and truly captured the theme of the powerful women in “A Raisin in the Sun”.

  10. Hey Teresa! I found your blog post to be very insightful about the characters, Beneatha and Mama. These two particular characters have gone through similar situations throughout the play, where Beneatha is fighting the stigmatism that being a doctor is a male profession and Mama fights for her right to live where she wants, even if the area is white-dominated. At first glance, Mama and Beneatha seem to butt heads over their own values. Mama thinks that the right path for Beneatha is marriage to George, while Beneatha finds George distasteful, and even goes as far as saying that she is unsure if she wants to get married in the first place. Beneatha doesn’t like to attribute anything to God, but Mama believes that all the accomplishments of mankind can be attributed to God’s work. I think it’s important to highlight that though Mama and Beneatha do disagree on issues, they are still very similar characters with the mindset that nothing or nobody can stop them from doing what they want. This is clear when Beneatha states, “I am going to be a doctor and everybody around here better understand that!” (Hansberry, 50). They may share different values, but at the end of the day, their struggles as driven, motivated, woman of color, make them closer than ever.

  11. Hi Treasa! I decided to comment on your blog post because I enjoyed reading your focus on the powerful women that encompass Beneatha and Mama. To answer your first question, yes, Beneatha and Mama have helped me see a different side of feminism. Beneatha and Mama are two very determined women that will not let anything stand in the way of what they want, which is very inspiring. While reading A Raisin in the Sun, Beneatha’s strong work ethic to become a doctor is very motivational to me because it shows women are able to have goals that are bigger and more important than cooking and cleaning. Her goal to be a doctor proves that with hard work and dedication anything can be possible. Beneatha and Walter argue throughout the play because Water makes stereotypical comments that include “Go be a nurse like other women.” (Hansberry, 38) Comments like this that are said by Walter show that he is not comfortable with a woman having a high level of education, which is why Beneatha is very headstrong and will not let comments like this affect her. Great job on your blog post, you had a very strong argument!!

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