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Beneatha’s traditions and beliefs differ greatly from the rest of her family. She believes her education and independence to be of utmost importance, while Mama and Ruth value their family more than anything. Beneatha is an intellectual; as the most educated member of the family, she has obtained a mindset that she is above everybody else. This helps her stay focused on her goals, and despite the many demeaning remarks her family has thrown at her, she continues to follow her path to becoming a doctor. Beneatha also contradicts the norm of her family as she strives for a connection to her culture, and searches for her identity on a more spiritual level than the others. An instance of this is how she openly disagrees with her family’s religious convictions; while talking to Mama, Beneatha exclaims “I mean it! I’m just tired of hearing about God all the time. What has He got to do with anything? Does he pay tuition? (1.1.50)” Mama is extremely offended by Beneatha’s outburst because Mama has taught her children to believe that God is divine under any circumstances, but Beneatha doesn’t trust this.

Hansberry was wholly against the traditional gender roles that were ever-present in the 1950s. She was a bold feminist, and the characters in her play both mocked and contradicted these roles. Walter Lee, for instance, has gone through great emotional turmoil at his inability to be the man of the house. While he does have a job, he has never earned enough to provide a satisfactory life for his family; this gives rise to the majority of his struggles and is the reason behind his pigheaded need to open a liquor store. He is a mockery of these futile stereotypes, and he even goes so far as to taunt Beneatha for her manner of living. Amid an argument with Beneatha, Walter Lee yells “Who the hell told you to be a doctor? If you are so crazy ‘bout messing ‘round with sick people – then go be a nurse like other women – or just get married and be quiet… (1.1.125)” Alternatively, Hansberry portrays Beneatha as a contradiction of these gender roles. Beneatha has never had any intention of choosing a path of life ‘made for women’; she is unapologetically outspoken and she refuses to rely on a man for anything. She is portrayed as an antithesis of the gender norms from the 50s. From these portrayals, we learn not to allow stereotypes and prejudices to get in the way of our journey to success, in the same way that Beneatha does.

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Hansberry challenges the stereotypes of African Americans through how she concludes the Younger family’s journey. At the end of the play, the Youngers finally get the house that they have always dreamed of having. But when Ruth and Walter Lee find out that Mama has bought their new house in a white area, all of their previous elation fades, replaced immediately with dread. Segregation was a big aspect of life during the 50s, so the Youngers moving into a neighborhood where their white neighbors held up tremendously racist stereotypes against them was a risky measure. When informing Mama of the money that Lindner offered them, Ruth and Mama joke “What they think we going to do – eat em’? … No, honey, marry ‘em. (2.3.121)” This entirely reflects the social environment and beliefs of these times, and Hansberry confronts these issues by having the family move into their house regardless of Lindner’s opinions. She wants us to see that she doesn’t accept the idea that we have to allow other people’s judgments to impede our paths to success.

Mama’s ‘feeble little plant’ is a symbol of her care and dreams for her family. Mama wasn’t able to give her children the life that she and Big Walter wanted to give them; in the play, she talks about how she had imagined that the house they were living in now would have been a temporary place until they could afford to live in her dream house with both a garden and a yard. But she and Big Walter couldn’t make that dream come true while he was alive, so Mama settled for having a plant that embodies those hopes and desires. When talking to Ruth about Big Walter, she says “Lord, child, you should know all the dreams I had ‘bout buying that house and fixing it up and making me a little garden in the back – and ain’t none of it did happen. (1.1.45)” She gives that plant as much love and care as she can, but it isn’t enough to keep the plant healthy and alive. This is a symbol of how, no matter how much she tries and how much of her love she gives them, Mama can’t provide enough for her family to allow them to thrive. By the end of the play, when the Youngers are preparing to move into the new house, the family gifts Mama gardening tools and a gardening hat so that she can have the right equipment to grow her garden. This signifies that she is finally getting her chance to fulfill her dreams, and she gets to do it with her family by her side.

To each of the Youngers, the new house is a chance to start over and create a more fulfilling life. For Ruth and Walter Lee, owning this house is a chance for them to raise their family in a more comfortable and untroubled environment; their kids can grow up in a nice neighborhood with enough bathrooms and bedrooms for everyone to be content. It’s also a chance to restart her and Walter Lee’s failing relationship in a better environment. To Mama, owning a new house signifies a hope for transformation and a chance for their family to stay together under better circumstances. However, after Lindner offers the family money to convince them not to move into the predominantly white neighborhood, it also becomes about pride. Moving into the new house will not only help them set their lives on better paths but will prove to Lindner that his racist ideals won’t scare them away; the family’s reactions when they find out that Walter Lee almost takes the bribe money are a good portrayal of this. When Mama finds out, she says “Son – I come from five generations of people who were slaves and sharecroppers – but ain’t nobody in my family never let anybody pay ‘em no money that was a way of telling us we weren’t fit to walk the earth… We ain’t ever been that dead inside. (3.1.143)” She is essentially stating that their family has too much pride to stoop to Lindner’s level and that she is extremely embarrassed by Walter Lee’s actions.

Many of the issues presented in the play are still hugely relevant in our times; matters such as racism, poverty, and sexism affect the lives of countless people today. Redlining, for instance, persists as a major issue, and it causes serious consequences like health inequality and an unfair division of wealth. In the play, Mama says “Them houses they put up for colored in them areas way out all seem to cost twice as much as other houses. I did the best I could. (2.1.93)” This is an example of redlining and how it affects marginalized people, and these effects are similar to the consequences of redlining today; These examples, along with outright racism, are problems that we as a society have been working on for extended periods, and still haven’t found a suitable solution to. It is no revelation that poverty and sexism are still prevalent issues in the present times. Gender pay gaps, anti-homeless architecture, and abortion bans are just a few instances of the terrible conditions still in play. It’s critical to recognize how these issues have not come to a stop yet because it’s been 6 decades since the play was produced, and we haven’t gotten much closer to resolving these conflicts.

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