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The Conflict between Traditional and Modern: Mama and Beneatha from A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
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Mama, a mother to Walter and Beneatha plays an important role of holding her family together even in the absence of her deceased husband. She maintains her dreams of having a better life by buying a good house. Thus, she plays a vital role in ensuring that the traditions of the old generation and beliefs are followed. On the other hand, Beneatha is a college student. She plays the role of a young, independent and a feminist. She has a great desire to become a doctor one day after finishing her studies. Unfortunately, the girl has not discovered her identity. This is evident from the fact that throughout the play: she dates two different men. Beneatha brags from the fact that she is independent. Her Nigerian boyfriend Asagai criticizes her behaviors. She does not want to get married nor leave America due to her high ambitions. At the end of the play, the girl, however, confesses that she was very far from being independent as she had claimed. Beneatha had been relying on the insurance money that her dead father left. She also relied on the investments that were made by her brother as a way of facilitating achievement of her dream of being a doctor. The protagonist is greatly influenced by her dream at a point where she realizes her independence. This makes her to develop a difference perspective that re-moulds her dream. Beneatha decides to achieve the dream in her own way.
According to Mama, family members should respect themselves and pursue their dreams with passion. As a result, she ensures that the apartment where she lives is kept clean, neat and polished. The mother stands by her beliefs tat give a clear perspective on the traditions of the older generation. She believes that without striving, there is no success. However, in the process of striving, one should ensure that he or she maintains good morals. Mama is also a strong Christian who believes she should work within the will of God. On the other hand, Beneatha relies on help from her family in order to achieve her dream. Worse still, she brags that she is independent yet she is very far from achieving her dream. Asagai tells Beneatha,"Girl, I do believe you are the first person in the history of the entire human race to successfully brainwash yourself." (Hansberry 98). This shows two conflicting beliefs about life: where one believes she had to work and maintain her dream while the other believes on reliance in order to fulfill her dream.
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Another conflicting issue between Mama and Beneatha is their orientation towards Christianity. Mama is a progressive and a serious believer while Beneatha does not believe in this religion. As the mother rejects Ruth’s idea to go for an abortion, the daughter does not see anything wrong with it. On the other hand, when Walter comes home planning to venture and store liquor in their family, Mama is disappointed and explains that there is no way she is going to take part in such un-Christian activities. This woman is seen as a mother who cares for her children despite the fact that they have grown and have conflicting issues towards life.
Mama also believes that money is only a means to an end. This protagonist believes that dreams are more important than craving for material wealth. As a result, she condemns people who think that wealth is more important than anything else in life. Thus, Mama holds on to her dream that one day she will own a house with a garden where her child, Travis can play. Mama states, "Sometimes you just got to know when to give up some things . . . and hold on to what you got." (Hansberry 130). This is contrary to Beneatha who pretends to be independent despite the fact she is relying on others. This evidently shows that the girl values money than anything else. She believes in wealth as the only means to live and achieve her dream of becoming a doctor.
In the play, Mama shows a nurturing character. She just acts like a mother and a wife. The woman often reminds Walter that the only thing he can do is make his children happy and provide for the family. Her sense of caring is also evident as she gives Walter her remaining insurance money. The only thing she wants from Walter is to make the children happy and not money as most modern women desires. On the contrary, we come across Beneatha blaming Walter for his shoddy investments as well as questioning his manhood. She does not appreciate his effort to help her achieve her dream. The girl argues that, "What you need me to say you done right for? You the head of this family. You run our lives like you want to. It was your money and you did what you wanted with it. So what you need for me to say it was all right for? So you butchered up a dream of mine - you - who always talking 'bout your children's dreams..." (Hansberry 87).
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Mama also loves her children very much. This is evident from the way she handles her children; as she hopes that the house they will own one day will have a big yard where they can play. She also cares for plants as she tries to nurture them every day. On the contrary, Beneatha values what one has: she dates two men at the same time, a Nigerian and black American, but she appreciates what men can give her despite the fact that she claims to be independent.
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