Lorraine Hansberry’s classic play, A Raisin in the Sun, culls its title from the infamous poem “Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes, and both works discuss what happens to a person when their dreams -- their hopes, their aspirations, their lives -- are endlessly put on hold. For this analysis of the dreams and character of Beneatha Younger in Raisin, I would like to pull on another dreamy poem of Langston Hughes’ entitled “Dream Boogie.” Like all the characters in the play, Beneatha has dreams that are dear to her, but their deferment does not cause them to dry up, fester, rot, crust, sag, or explode. Rather, the deferment of Bennie’s dreams expresses itself in her “dream boogie”: in her sarcastic, biting wit and her life perspective that to the outside world might seem a bit naive or cutesy, in much the same way that jazz is described in “Dream Boogie”. Through Beneatha’s relationships and interactions with her mother, Walter Lee, and Asagai, we see the effects of the deferment of a dream on Bennie, and the peculiar rhythm of her boogie.
The mother-daughter relationship between Beneatha Younger and Lena Younger is one that, at first blush, appears to be the typical struggle between a defiant daughter and her older, wiser mother. However, when we look deeper, we see the deferred dreams of both women come through. One morning after breakfast, Bennie admits to her mother that “I don’t believe in God. I don’t even think about it . . . I get tired of Him getting credit for all the things the human race achieves through its own stubborn effort.” (51) This brash statement is immediately followed by some slapping action on the part of the mother, who is naturally horrified at the blasphemous things coming from her offspring’s tender...
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...lminates in her relationship with Asagai, who represents to her the embodiment of her perceived identity: intellectual, cultured, and culturally aware. To Asagai, Bennie’s search for self is a tad amusing, a bit unrealistic, a trifle sad, and as misunderstood as the rhythm of the boogie to the untrained ear.
As far as dreams go, few are attained in A Raisin in the Sun. For Beneatha Younger, her dreams -- of understanding, of education, of self-value -- are constantly put on hold, deferred indefinitely. The strain of these deferments expresses itself in Bennie’s interactions with her mother, Walter Lee, and Asagai, and the metaphor of Langston Hughes’ “dream boogie” runs through her story. Beneatha is not a dried up, festering, stinking, crusty dreamer. She’s dancing her dreams to sleep, boogying her way through her feelings and making up her own rhythm for her life.
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