Beneatha is an attractive college student who provides a young, independent, feminist perspective, and her desire to become a doctor demonstrates her great ambition. Throughout the play, she searches for her identity. She dates two very different men: Joseph Asagai and George Murchison. She is at her happiest with Asagai, her Nigerian boyfriend, who has nicknamed her “Alaiyo,” which means “One for Whom Bread—Food—Is Not Enough.” She is at her most depressed and angry with George, her pompous, affluent African-American boyfriend. She identifies much more with Asagai’s interest in rediscovering his African roots than with George’s interest in assimilating into white culture.
Beneatha prides herself on being independent. Asagai criticizes her for being both too independent by not wanting to marry and too dependent by not wanting to leave America. Asagai’s wish that Beneatha be quieter and less ambitious obviously outrages her, and his contention late in the play that she has been far from independent—she has had to rely on the insurance money from her father’s death and the investments made by her brother to realize her dream of becoming a doctor—greatly influences her. When she realizes this dependence, she gains a new perspective on her dream and a new energy to attain it in her own way. This realization also brings her closer to Walter. While she earlier blames him for his shoddy investing and questions his manhood, she eventually recognizes his strength, a sign that she has become able to appreciate him.