Beneatha Younger: The Written Play vs. The Movie

By Leah

The character of Beneatha is either loved or hated by the audience in A Raisin in the Sun depending on the version of the play. In the written play, Beneatha can be seen by the reader as a strong, mature women who prioritizes her education and strives to become a doctor. Her character in the movie; however, is shown as a child who hasn’t matured and takes everything for granted. We can see these two types of Beneatha’s in the scene with Mama and Ruth and the later scene with Asagai.

Towards the beginning of the play, we have the scene between Mama, Ruth, and Beneatha about marriage and religion. Beneatha states that “[She’s] not worried about who [she’s] going to marry yet-if [she’s] ever get[s] married.” (50). Then she goes into her beliefs about religion and how “It’s all a matter of ideas…” (51) which triggers Mama to the point where she smacks Beneatha across the face. In the written play, she comes across more passionate about how she views her beliefs and she want to explain her beliefs to Mama and Ruth. With Beneatha’s education, she believes that God shouldn’t be “getting credit for all the things the human race achieves through its own stubborn effect.” (51). Her education has shown her that humanity has created so many objects throughout time and with that realizes that God hasn’t done anything for anyone. In the movie; however, she appears to be pushy with her actions towards her family. While Beneatha is talking to both women about her beliefs, the camera keeps cutting back to both Ruth’s and Mama’s reactions. At the point where Beneatha explains that “God hasn’t got a thing to do with it.” (50), both women stop their tasks and stare at Beneatha with disbelief. As Beneatha continues talking, Mama gets seriously angry at Beneatha and calls her a child. In the movie, Beneatha thinks she knows everything about life but doesn’t realize what sacrifices Mama had to go through to get Beneatha and Walter to church every Sunday.

Later, in the play, the reader comes across the scene between Beneatha and Asagai. In the written play, Beneatha appears to be passionate about her curiosity for Africa with Asagai. Asagai even explains to Beneatha about their first meeting at their school. At that time, she asks him questions “About Africa” (62) and how she was “looking for her identity” (62). With her schooling she starts to question her own heritage and wonders if Africa is where she belongs instead of America. Even with the stage direction it shows that Beneatha is passionate about her own beliefs and how she isn’t an assimilationist like the rest of her family. On page 63, her stage direction wants the character of Beneatha to be “Wheeling, passionately, [and] sharply.” Even though she may seem passionate on paper, on the big screen she appears to be childish. With the same scene of being called an assimilationist, her tone of voice appears to be whiny instead of sounding like a mature woman. Then when Asagai tries to reference marriage or a relationship to Beneatha, she explodes about how she is “not interested in being someone’s little episode in America…” (64).

Beneatha is educated women who can be interpreted as either mature or childish. She knows a lot the outside world of Chicago through her college with books, but she hasn’t gone out to the real world and implement those teachings like Mama. She hasn’t seen how much her mother has scarified for her to have a better life and career for her and she hasn’t realized that her heritage is really in America with the rest of the Younger family.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What other examples are shown throughout the play that makes Beneatha mature or childish?
  2. How are Beneatha’s actions similar or different to her actions shown in the movie?

3 Replies to “Beneatha Younger: The Written Play vs. The Movie”

  1. By Amanda

    Discussion #1: In the movie, we see Beneatha dancing like crazy trying to be the African woman, but she does not really no much about Africa. It is her heritage, but she lives in America she knows America’s customs and traditions not Africa’s. On page 62, Beneatha says, “It’s from Nigeria. It’s a dance of welcome.” Beneatha tells Ruth about this dance because she is now appreciating her heritage from Asagai. Ruth questions Beneatha about this dance. Ruth says, “Who are you welcoming? (62).” Beneatha states, “The black men to the village (62).” She knows about the dance except when Ruth asks her where have these men have been. Beneatha does not know the answer. She believes she is smarter than everybody in the movie. Beneatha is pretty cocky in the movie. In the book she shows intellectual and maturity. Beneatha is so excited to see Asagai she forgets all about her boyfriend George.

  2. By Nevin

    Hey Leah, I liked your blog and how you analyzed Beneatha based off of her educational background. I think that the way she carries herself portrays her more as mature than childish. Towards the end of the play when talking with Walter she says “Sticks and stones may break my bones but… words will never hurt me” (113). This is a short quote but I think it shows her maturity and what she values in life. She is always looking at the big picture and little things in the present tend to not bother her.

  3. By Grace

    Hey Leah, I liked you post and I feel like Beneatha definitely comes off more mature in the book than in the film. In the play, Beneatha 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” (1.1.268). This really shows how focused she is on her future and how she won’t let men or marriage come in the way of that. She also uses this as a way to challenge gender stereotypes.

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