ASAGAI It’s just that every American girl I have known has said that to me. White – black – in this you are all the same. And the same speech, too!…It’s how you can be sure that the world’s most liberated women are not liberated at all. You all talk about it too much! (Act I, scene ii)
Asagai and Beneatha are discussing the idea of freedom. Asagai thinks that if Beneatha were so liberated, she wouldn’t need to talk about it so much. In this way, Asagai argues, both black and white American women are the same: Neither are really free. Asagai, a symbol of black identity in the play, argues that true freedom for blacks is not attained through assimilation, but from returning to Africa.
ASAGAI You talk about what good is struggle, what good is anything! Where are all going and why are we bothering? (Act III, scene i)
Asagai here addresses Beneatha’s fatalistic attitude towards her dream of being doctor. He points out that everyone struggles and all must choose to persevere in their goals. Asagai makes a sharp observation: There must be something wrong in your world if your dreams “depend on the death of a man.” Asagai wants Beneatha to stop relying on her father’s insurance money to make her dreams come true. Asagai represents a black identity based on independence won through struggle.
ASAGAI (He smiles) Don’t you see they have always been there… that they always will be. And that such a thing as my own death will be an advance? They who might kill me even… actually replenish all that I was. (Act III, scene i)
Towards the end of the play, Asagai replies to Beneatha who says he will die a martyr in Nigeria and not accomplish much more. Asagai argues that whether he dies a martyr or lives to be an old man there, his presence in Africa, as a man who can read and write, will help change the country. Asagai’s belief in this idea is so strong, he views his death as a positive event if it happens as a result of his efforts.
ASAGAI Nigeria. Home. (Coming to her with genuine romantic flippancy) I will show you our mountains and our stars; and give you cool drinks from gourds and teach you the old songs and the ways of our people – and, in time, we will pretend that – (Very softly)– you have only been away for a day… (Act III, scene i)
Asagai has tried using reason to persuade Beneatha to travel to Nigeria with him and is now trying romance. Asagai considers Nigeria the true home for black Americans, but his version of Nigeria, the version he depicts in these words, is certainly romanticized. He appeals to her abiding need for identity by assuring her she will come to feel Nigeria is her home.
ASAGAI For a woman it should be enough.
Asagai declares that love should be enough for Beneatha to come to Nigeria with him. In fact, he believes that love is a sufficient reason behind any action she takes. Beneatha, however, doesn’t want to become an “episode” in someone’s drama, and thinks love is not reason enough to make major decisions in one’s life. Beneatha doesn’t argue that she wants love, she wants a career, too. Asagai’s intellectual, romanticized view of the world is in stark contrast to Beneatha’s pragmatic view.