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NOVEL GUIDE ( RAISING IN THE SUN)

Biography: Lorraine Hansberry


Lorraine Hansberry, African-American playwright, was born into a relatively wealthy-middle class family in
Chicago in 1930 and was raised with the belief in fighting for injustice. She studied at the University of
Wisconsin for two years and moved to New York in 1950 to study and then write. She married in 1953 and
separated in 1957 after privately coming out as a lesbian. Her short life is marked by the impact her writing had
in the world of drama and also for the commitment she had in the fight for equality. This entailed challenging
racism, sexism and homophobia.
In 1959, she became the first African-American woman to have a play shown on Broadway. This was the
seminal A Raisin in the Sun (1959), which was also awarded the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best
Play of the Year (and she is the first African American to receive this). Her other dramatic works include The
Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window (1964), To Be Young, Gifted and Black(1969) and Les Blancs (1970).
Her ex-husband, Robert Nemiroff, completed Les Blancs after her death. She died of cancer in 1965 and,
consequently, her full potential as a dramatist has not been realized.

++++SUMMARY RAISING IN THE SUN

Plot Summary with Analysis


The title for A Raisin in the Sun is taken from a line in the Langston Hughes’ poem, ‘Montage of a Dream
Deferred’: ‘What happens to a dream deferred? / Does it dry up / Like a raisin in the sun.’ Bearing this reference
in mind, it is possible to see immediately that this play is concerned with the quashing of ambition, and with the
dangers associated with thinking small rather than big.
Summary – Act One, Scene One
The stage directions describe the Younger living room and its furnishings are referred to as ‘typical and
undistinguished’ and we are told they have had to accommodate too many people for too many years. It is also
possible to see that they have been chosen ‘with care and love and even hope’, but this was a long time ago and
everything is worn now.
There is a kitchen in a section of the room and meals are also eaten here. There is only one window. On the left, a
door leads to a bedroom which is shared by Mama (Lena Younger) and her daughter, Beneatha. Opposite this is
a second room, which probably used to be called a breakfast room and is now a bedroom for Walter (Mama’s
son) and his wife Ruth.
It is somewhere between World War II and the present, 1959, and the play is set in Chicago’s Southside. It is
morning and Travis – the son of Walter and Ruth – is asleep on a ‘make-down’ bed. An alarm clock rings and
Ruth comes out of her room into the living room. As she passes her sleeping son, she shakes him a little. She
raises the shade and a dusky morning light comes in feebly. She calls to the boy ‘between yawns, in a slightly
muffled voice’. She is aged around 30 and we can see that she was pretty, ‘even exceptionally so’. ‘but now it is
apparent that life has been little that she expected, and disappointment has already begun to hang in her face.’ In
a few years, she will be known as a ‘settled woman’.
She crosses to Travis and gives him a rousing shake and tells him it is 7.30. He sits up at last and is described as
‘a sturdy, handsome little boy of ten or eleven’. He goes to the bathroom out in the hall and it is explained in the
directions that this is shared by ‘another family or families on the same floor’.
Ruth then crosses to her bedroom and calls her husband three times to get him out of bed. She reminds him that
if he does not use the bathroom after Travis, Mr Johnson will be in there. The fourth time she tells him she starts
to go into their room and then returns to the kitchen apparently satisfied he is rising.
He comes out in his pajamas, ‘which are rumpled and mismated’ and he is described as ‘a lean, intense young
man in his middle 30s’. He is ‘inclined to quick nervous movements and erratic speech habits – and always in his
voice there is a quality of indictment.’ He asks why she was yelling him if Travis is still in the bathroom and then
asks if the check is coming today. She tells him ‘they’ said Saturday and today is Friday and then says she hopes
he is not going to start talking about them not having any money.
She asks what kind of eggs he wants and he says ‘not scrambled’. With this, she starts to scramble eggs. He looks
at the newspaper and says how another ‘A-bomb’ was set off yesterday and she shows ‘maximum indifference’.
He then complains about Travis taking a long time and says he should get up earlier. She responds by turning on
him: ‘It ain’t his fault that he can’t get to bed no earlier nights ‘cause he got a bunch of crazy good-for-nothing
clowns sitting up running their mouths in what is supposed to be his bedroom after ten o’clock at night.’
He says the things that he wants to talk about with his friends are not important to her and he crosses to the
window as he smokes a cigarette. He points out how people are ‘running and racing to work’. He then tells her
she is looking young this morning, just for a second, and she tells him to shut up and leave her alone. At this
point, Travis comes out of the bathroom and Walter leaves the living room to go in after him.
Analysis – Act One, Scene One
The stage directions emphasize how the Younger family live squashed into a small apartment. Four adults and
one child live here and Travis has to sleep in the living room. The only light, which is described as feeble, comes
in from one window and this highlights further how the family are living in restricted circumstances.
The strained relations between husband and wife (Walter and Ruth) are made evident as they snap at each other
and this is seen to be worsened by the cramped conditions. They argue about getting up in time to use the shared
bathroom and how Travis is kept awake when Walter talks to his friends. Their antagonism towards each other is
also shown when Walter’s voice is described as always having a ‘quality of indictment’ to it and we are told that
Ruth makes scrambled eggs for him when he specifically asks her not to.
Their lack of money, which is demonstrated by their small worn home, is given another dramatic edge when
Walter makes the first of many references in the play to the arrival of the check. This check is of great importance
as it potentially offers the family an opportunity for change.
When Travis returns from the bathroom, he sits down and gleefully mentions how the check is coming
tomorrow. Ruth tells him to take his mind off money and he says how he needs 50 cents for school. She informs
him that she does not have it and he wonders if his Grandmama or father will give it to him. She tells him to be
quiet and he is for several seconds, but then asks if he could carry some supermarket groceries for a little while
after school. She orders him to be quiet and he jabs his spoon into his cereal bowl ‘viciously’ ‘and rests his head
in anger upon his fists’. She tells him to make up his bed and he obeys stiffly.
Travis turns to leave with ‘sullen politeness’ and she mocks him a little about the anger he has shown her. He
turns to her and when she laughs he crosses to her and allows her to embrace him. ‘In the face of love’, he shows
a new aggressiveness and asks again if he may carry groceries. She says it is cold in the evening and Walter enters
at this point and asks what Travis wants to do.
She explains and Walter says she should let him. Travis spots an ally and explains he has to as ‘she won’t gimme
the fifty cents’. Walters asks why and she says it is because they do not have it. He then asks why she is telling
him this and he gives Travis the money ‘but his eyes are directed to his wife’s’. She watches both of them with
‘murder in her eyes’ and Walter stares back with defiance. He suddenly reaches into his pocket again and without
looking at his son he gives him another 50 cents. Travis leaps up and clasps his father around the middle with his
legs and ‘they face each other in mutual admiration’. Walter slowly looks round to his wife and he catches ‘the
violent rays’ from his eyes. He draws his head back as if he has been shot.
When Travis leaves, Walter tells Ruth what he and Willy Harris were talking about last night. She says
immediately (as a refrain) that Willy Harris is a ‘good-for-nothing loudmouth’. He reminds her that she said the
same about Charlie Atkin. He had wanted Walter to go into business with him in his dry-cleaning firm and is
now grossing over $100,000 a year. She folds her head on her arms and he rises and stands over her. He says
how she is tired of everything. She does not look up or answer and he continues and says she moans and groans
all the time, but ‘wouldn’t do nothing to help’. He says a man needs a woman’s support and that Mama would
listen to her.
Walter then demonstrates how Ruth should let Mama know about the deal and he will give her the details of the
proposition that he, Willy and Bobo have figured out. She says ‘Bobo?’ with a frown and he explains they have a
little liquor store in mind. It costs $75,000 and they have worked out that they will need $10,000 each and
couple of $100 to pay out so they will not have to spend their lives waiting for a licence. She asks if he means
‘graft’ and he frowns impatiently at what he sees as women not understanding the world.
She tells him to leave her alone, stares at him and then tells him to eat his eggs. He straightens up and says,
‘that’s it. There you are. Man says to his woman: I got me a dream. His woman say: Eat your eggs.’ He repeats
this point two more times and brings his fist down on his thighs. She says softly, ‘that ain’t none of our money’
and he does not listen or look at her. He says how this morning he looked in the mirror and thought how he is 35
years old, has been married 11 years and has a boy who sleeps in the living room. Very quietly he says that all he
has to give him is ‘stories about how rich white people live’.
Wearily, she claims he never says anything new: ‘So you would rather be Mr Arnold than be his chauffeur. So – I
would rather be living in Buckingham Palace.’ He says that this is what is wrong with ‘the colored woman in this
world’. He argues that they ‘don’t understand about building their men up and making them feel like they
somebody’. She is hurt and says how there are ‘colored men who do things’ and he replies, ‘no thanks to the
coloured woman’; she answers that as she is a ‘colored woman’ she cannot help herself. He mumbles that he is of
a group of men, ‘tied to a race of women with small minds’.
The antagonism between Ruth and Walter is heightened in this section of the play and as they talk it becomes
increasingly apparent that the effects of racism have divided the sexes here. Walter blames Ruth for quashing his
ambition, and yet Ruth’s caution may be understood as having its roots in pragmatism and in the limited
opportunities available for the African American in a racist society.
When interpreting their argument in relation to the title, however (which claims that the deferral of dreams leads
them to shrivel like a raisin in the sun), Ruth’s limited yet practical view may be interpreted as unwittingly
contributing to the effects of racism.
Beneatha enters and is described as being 20 years old and ‘as slim and intense’ as her brother. Her speech is a
mixture of ‘many things’ and different from the rest of the family in that ‘education has permeated her sense of
English’, but there is still an influence of the South and the Southside (of Chicago).
The Johnsons have gone into the bathroom before her and she sits at the table ‘a little defeated’. Walter asks how
school is coming on and she becomes impatient as he keeps asking her this. She plans to be a doctor and he asks
if she knows yet how much this will cost.
Ruth tells him to leave Beneatha alone and he mentions to Beneatha about the check that is coming tomorrow.
Beneath turns on him with sharpness and says it belongs to Mama, and so it is up to her to decide what to do
with it. Walter replies bitterly that she is ‘such a nice little girl’ and refers ironically to how she just got her
Mama’s interests at heart, as Mama can always take a few thousand and help her through school. Beneatha says
she has never asked anyone around here to do anything for her and he implies the line between asking and
accepting is not wide.
After Beneatha asks him if he wants her to quit school or drop dead, he tells her to stop acting holy and points
out that he and Ruth have made sacrifices and asks why she cannot do something for the family. She drops to her
knees to thank everybody and asks to be forgiven. Walter enquires, ‘who the hell told you you had to be a doctor?’
and points out that she could be a nurse like other women, ‘or just get married and be quiet’.
The brother and sister continue to argue as she tells him again that the insurance money belongs to Mama and
picking on her (Beneatha) will not make Mama invest in the liquor store. She says, ‘God bless Mama for that!’
and calls him a ‘nut’ and he hears her. He retorts: ‘The world’s most backward race of people.’ She implies that he
thinks he is a prophet who would lead them from the wilderness to the swamps. He slams out and then returns
and says he needs money for the carfare. Ruth teases him with warmth and gives him 50 cents.
He exits and Mama enters. She is in her early 60s and is described as ‘beautiful’. Her speech is ‘as careless as her
carriage is precise’ and her bearing is compared to that of the women of the Hereros of Southwest Africa. She
opens the window, brings in a feeble little plant, feels the dirt and puts it back on the sill.
She moves to Travis’ bed that he has ‘sloppily made up’ and blesses his heart for trying. Ruth says he does not try
at all as he knows Mama will ‘come along behind him and fix everything’. Mama replies that he is a little boy and
then asks what she fixed for his breakfast. Ruth says angrily, ‘I feed my son, Lena!’ Mama claims she is not
meddling, but then says she noticed how he had cold cereal all last week and he should have something hot when
it gets this chilly. Ruth is furious and tells her she gave him hot oats.
Beneatha leaves for the bathroom and after asking what the fuss was about earlier, Ruth tells Mama that she
knows as well as she does. Ruth asks what she plans to spend the money on and says how Walter has his heart
set on the store. When Mama says they are just ‘plain working folks’, Ruth points out that, ‘ain’t nobody business
people till they go into business’ and adds that Walter needs this chance, and people are always going to drink
liquor.
Mama says she does not want this on her ‘ledger’ (come Judgement Day) and changes the subject. She notices
Ruth looks sick and tells her to stay off work, but Ruth argues that they need the money.
The conversation returns to the check, which is for $10,000 and Ruth says she should take a trip with it and
forget about the family. Mama throws her hands up at this idea. She lets Ruth know that she has not fully
decided yet, but some will go towards Beneatha’s fees and is thinking of getting a two-story house somewhere
with a yard for Travis to play in. Some of the insurance money could be used as down payment and they could all
chip in.
Beneatha is introduced in this section and from the outset we are told that she is the educated one in the family.
As with Walter, she has ambition and it is telling that he attempts to quash her dream in favor of his own. When
he argues that she should become a nurse or marry as other women do rather than become a doctor, he plays his
part in trying to defer the dream of another. At this stage, he is unable to see that her aspirations are as valid as
his and he uses patriarchal thinking as a framework for his argument.
Their mother, Lena (who is mostly referred to as Mama throughout the play), also appears for the first time here
and her first action involves tending the feeble plant on the window sill. Her care for this plant is a significant
motif of the play and this comes to symbolize hope against adversity.
While Ruth does the ironing, she studies Mama furtively and says how they have paid enough rent for this ‘rat
trap’ to buy four houses by now. Mama becomes reflective and remembers the day she moved in with Big Walter.
They had only been married for two weeks and did not plan to stay for more than a year. They dreamed of
moving to Morgan Park, but it never happened.
Ruth keeps her head down and says, ‘yes, life can be a barrel of disappointments, sometimes’. Mama recalls the
time she lost a baby, little Claude, and how her husband was so down she thought she would lose him too. She
supposes that this is why he worked himself to death: ‘Like he was fighting his own war with this here world that
took his baby from him.’ She adds that there was plenty wrong with him, but he loved his children and thinks
this is where Brother (Walter) gets his ‘notions’ from.
Beneatha returns and after cursing the woman upstairs for the noise she makes vacuuming her apartment, she
says she will be home late as Madeline is starting her guitar lessons today. Mama and Ruth look up with the
same expression and Mama criticizes her for flitting from one thing to another (such as horse riding, drama and
photography). Beneatha says she does not flit and claims she is experimenting with different forms of expression.
When Mama asks what it is that she wants to express, she replies angrily, ‘me!’ The other two women look at
each other and laugh raucously.
Mama then changes the subject and asks Beneatha who she is going out with tomorrow night. She says she is
seeing George Murchison again, but adds that she thinks he is shallow. Ruth points out that he is rich, but
Beneatha says she would not understand (as she married her brother). Beneatha explains she would not marry
George and his family would not like this either: ‘The Murchisons are honest-to-God-real-live-rich colored
people, and the only people in the world who are more snobbish than rich white people are rich colored people.’
She then says she is not worried about marrying yet and if she does, she is going to be a doctor first (which
George thinks is funny).
She continues and explains everybody had better understand this. Mama agrees and adds, ‘God willing’.
Beneatha says drily that God has got nothing to do with it. After being reprimanded, she tells them she is sick of
hearing about God. Further arguments ensue, and Beneatha says there is only man, ‘and it is he who makes the
miracles’. Mama rises slowly and slaps her and orders her to repeat after her that in her mother’s house ‘there is
still God’. Beneatha complies the second time she is asked to do this. Mama walks out of the room and Beneatha
says her mother is a tyrant. She then picks up her books and exits.
Ruth goes to Mama’s door and says Beneatha said she was sorry. Mama comes out and goes to her plant and says
her children frighten her: ‘There’s something coming down between me and them that don’t let us understand
each other and I don’t know what it is.’ Ruth tries to soothe her and says they are just strong willed. Mama looks
at her plant, sprinkles water on it and says she has to admit Bennie and Walter have spirit: ‘Like this little old
plant that ain’t never had enough sunshine or nothing – and look at it ...’
Her back is to Ruth and she does not see that Ruth has had to stop ironing. Ruth leans against something and
puts her hand to her forehead. She tries to not let Mama see her distress and says how she sure loves that plant.
Mama agrees and says it is the closest she has come to having a garden. She asks Ruth to sing and turns to see
her slumped in a chair in a state of semi-consciousness.
In this section, the plant that has survived despite the lack of sunshine is admired by Mama and is compared to
her children as having the same sort of spirit. Although it barely thrives, its continued existence is a reminder of
how necessary it is to battle to survive.
However, Mama earlier saw Beneatha’s spirit as evidence of a split between her and her children. The divisions
between the two generations are made clear as Beneatha refuses to thank God – or believe in Him – as her
mother wishes her to. Whereas Mama appears to be more acquiescent, her children question the position they
are expected to be grateful for.

CHARATERS

Beneatha Younger
Beneatha is the educated daughter of Lena and sister of Walter. She hopes to become a doctor, but her ambition
is undermined when the money for her medical school fees is stolen.
Bobo
This is a minor character. He is a friend of Walter and he comes to the apartment to inform him that Willy Harris
has stolen their money.
George Murchison
George is from a wealthy family and is a possible suitor for Beneatha.
Joseph Asagai This character is referred to as Asagai and is a student from Nigeria. He is depicted as
optimistic in his idealism and he hopes for independence from colonialist rule. He proposes that Beneatha comes
to Africa with him to help in the fight for equality.
Karl Lindner
Lindner is from the so-called Welcoming Committee of the Clybourne Park Improvement Association and he
attempts to bribe the Younger family into not moving to the area he represents. His reasons are clearly
embedded in racist thinking.
Mama/Lena Younger
Mama is the head of the Younger family at the beginning of the play. Her relationship with her children and
daughter-in-law are central to the plot as she recognizes the barriers that have arisen between her and the next
generation.
Mrs Johnson
This is a neighbor of the Youngers and when she visits the family it is made evident that she is envious of their
move to another area and is also characterized as narrow in the way she thinks.
Ruth Younger
Ruth is married to Walter and is described as hard-working and worn down. During the play, she also discovers
that she is pregnant with their second child.
Travis Younger
Travis is the ten-year-old son of Ruth and Walter.
Walter Younger
As one of the main characters, it is of interest to note the changes he undergoes through the course of the play.
His bitterness is initially all-consuming, but when trusted he is given the opportunity to be more hopeful in his
outlook.

METAPHOR ANYLISIS

Insurance money
The play opens with references to when the check for this insurance will come and is a central motif. Its arrival
instigates happiness and anger and is also the means by which Hansberry is able to denote betrayal when Willy
Harris steals Walter and Beneatha’s share.
The constant early references to it are used as a repetitive device to illustrate how little the family has and they
also demonstrate how vital money is when one has very little. Because of this centrality, the check represents the
dire effects of poverty and the play may in turn be interpreted as succumbing to capitalism and middle-class
values if this is the only way the Youngers may escape the prejudices they face. However, the loss of the greater
part of the money and the family’s unity at the end come together to tell the reader/viewer that it is only by
uniting that prejudice can be challenged; money helps, of course, but it is not a panacea.
Mama’s plant
With an element of irony, Mama tells Beneatha that this plant expresses her. It is tired and feeble, yet it
continues to live on despite the lack of sunshine. Although a somewhat simplistic symbol, this plant also
becomes a metaphor for maintaining hope despite inequalities and lack of opportunities.
It is also a means for Mama to show her tenderness as she is often depicted looking at it, holding it or sprinkling
water on it. In this light, the plant represents the ability to love all things, as Mama says she has taught her
children to do, and even though it is only just living, it still deserves attention.

THEME ANALYSIS

Divisive effects of racism


The barriers between generations and the sexes are referred to several times in this domestic drama and are
reviled as weakening the bonds between the family members. Mama points out that something has come
between her and her children and Walter notes the same is happening between him and Ruth. These divisions
are only seen to be overcome at the end of the play when they finally, and jointly, agree to move to Clybourne
Park with pride. Their unity is seen to transcend the barriers and this becomes a weapon to challenge the divisive
effects of poverty and inherent racism.
Poverty
As the stage directions for Act One, Scene One reveal, the Younger family live in cramped conditions and as they
talk it becomes all the more evident that their lives are dominated by the combined traps of poverty and racism.
As Walter points, it has always been about money and this telling remark represents how this play tries to
demonstrate that poverty both justifies and creates inequalities.
Segregation
As an African-American family that has its roots in the South, Mama and her offspring are of the later
generations that have supposedly benefited by the economic migration North to Chicago. A Raisin in the
Sun questions this simplistic view of the North/South divide and uses the Younger family’s predicament as a
means to depict the ongoing social segregation that may be found in the North at the time of writing (and is still
evident today). Hansberry’s use of the format of drama to critique the social and racial divide in American
society, and the ridiculous figure of Lindner reinforces the criticism of white domination.
Money rather than violence is the obvious lever that Lindner uses when he visits the family to ask them to stay
away from his neighborhood, but the threat of violence is apparent in his speech and in the newspaper reports.
The enforcement of segregation may appear to be less threatening on the surface when compared to what Mama
has escaped from, but the menace is described as still being in place. Thinking big/Having aspirations
It is only with the help of aspiring dreams that these various members of the Younger family are seen to battle on
in a society bent on deferring or quashing them. By thinking big, they refuse to be the raisins in the sun of
Langston Hughes’ poem (‘Montage of a Dream Deferred’).
The hope to escape poverty is only given concrete assistance by the death of the father, but when most of this
money is stolen the family comes together in a show of unity. It is as though the play argues finally that just by
having the dream one will become a success as hope has triumphed over adversity.

Q ANSWERS….

1. Describe the setting and consider its relevance to the action of the play.
In the initial stage directions, the layout of the small apartment is given as wells as details of how worn the
furnishings are. The play never moves from this central living room, which is also a bedroom for Travis, and
the poverty of the Younger family’s circumstances is, therefore, driven home.
The constant use of this tight domestic space also reiterates the claustrophobic effects of living in such an
environment and adds tension to the already problematic relationships between husband and wife and parent
and children. The frustration of having dreams forcibly deferred, by law and capitalism, is captured in this
room which becomes an everywhere.
2. Analyze the relationship between Mama and her children.
Lena, who is for the most part referred to as Mama, is depicted as the matriarch of the family and she makes
the decision that they should move to the white-only area of Clybourne Park. She finally concedes some of
her power to her son, Walter, when she comes to recognize that she plays a part in thwarting his personal
ambitions.
She notes that something has come between her and her children after arguing with Beneatha about the
presence of God. This use of the theme of barriers is also drawn upon when Walter and Ruth argue. It is
demonstrated in the play that these barriers help to reinforce the effects of prejudice and it is only when the
family turn to each other with acts of unity that they are able to fight The Man (as embodied by Lindner).
3. To what extent does this play drawn on the contemporary issue of segregation?
Segregation is an intrinsic political injustice that is constantly questioned by Hansberry in this work. The
effect of segregation is seen clearly here as being separate but unequal as the family struggle to live in their
designated and confined space.
The visit by Lindner, from the Clybourne Park unwelcoming committee, emphasizes the racist underpinning
of segregation and when the family finally decide to move in the final scene they represent a decision to
undermine the segregation laws (both legal and illegal). This has echoes of Hansberry’s family moving to a
white-only area and the challenge they made in court, but is also in keeping with the action of the play,
which is far removed from Hansberry’s upbringing.
4. Consider the changes that Walter undergoes as the play progresses.
Walter’s voice is described as having a ‘quality of indictment’ when he is first introduced in Act One, Scene
One and is mostly bitter and angry with those around him until Mama trusts him with the greater share of the
insurance money. After Willy Harris steals this from him, he is seen to become bitter once again, but is
finally regarded as ‘a man’ (by Mama and Ruth) when he decides not to take Lindner’s bribe.
His anger is depicted as being tied to his frustration at the women in his life and it entails that he is an
emasculated figure at this point. He blames the women for holding him back, but the audience is able to see
that he is being short-sighted as it is the effect of racist ideology that diminishes his sense of self. It is only
when he turns Lindner’s offer down that he faces and refutes the workings of racist thinking.
5. Consider how this play challenges racism.
As a successful play written by an African-American woman, and one that has African-Americans at its
center, its very existence undermines racist ideology. This is further emphasized with the ongoing left-wing
examination of social injustice.
On a more detailed level, the central themes of segregation and the deferral of dreams mean that racist
ideology is under attack throughout. This work questions injustice in terms of sexism also, as when Walter
attempts to blame African-American women rather than racists for the inequalities he faces. Because of this,
Hansberry demonstrates that prejudice (in the shape of racism or sexism) is thrives with the abuse of power.
A Raisin in the Sun & the American Dream
Abstract
The American is defined by reaching the top no matter who you are or where you come from. In the ‘50s this
dream revolved around materialistic values. This play focuses on a family with each member having a different
dream and their journey as an African Americans. Walter, Mama’s son learns the meaning of pride and keeping
what his father has earned is more important than money. The play focuses on supporting each other through
rough times and learning to love. In the end, they achieve their American dream despite the color of their skin.

A Raisin in the sun & The American Dream

The American dream in the ’50s was close to materialism. The ownership of consumer goods was believed to
bring joy into a family’s life. This stereotypical view governs the dream of one of the main characters in Lorraine
Hansberry’s play. The title of the play is based on “Harlem” by Langston Hughes, a poem that raises a question
about a dream that is deferred. “Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? … Or does it explode?” (Rampersad, 1995,
pg. 426) There are three main characters and all three of them of have dreams that have been prolonged for too
long. A Raisin in the Sun is about the rocky journey they go through to acquire their dreams.

The Younger’s family has just received a $10,000 dollar check for their dead father’s life insurance policy. They
live in a two bedroom apartment on the black side of town in Chicago. Racial prejudices against blacks in that
era and a low income are the root of conflict in the family. Mama, deceased Mr. Youngers widow wishes to buy a
house and fulfill the dream she once saw with her husband. Beneatha, Mama’s daughter, hopes to find her
identity through looking towards true African heritage. Walter, Mama’s son, wishes to one day become rich. He
wants to replenish his marriage and provide his son with all the opportunities he never had growing up.

Walter wants to invest money in the liquor business with a few of his friends. Although the idea appalls Mama at
first, she trusts and supports her son with his decision. The night before making the investment Walter tells his
son about the business transaction he about to make while tucking him into bed. He tells the little boy that their
lives will change soon and paints an elaborate and vivid picture of the future. He tells his son that when he’s
seventeen years old he’ll come home and park the Chrysler in the driveway. The gardener will greet him and
when he’s inside the house he’ll kiss his wife and come up to his sons room to see him browsing through
brochures of the best colleges in America. He then tells his son that he will give him whatever he wants.
Although Walter is somewhat materialistic in what he wants at the core he just wants a happy family and a son
who should have all the chances he never had. During this time Mama buys a house to fulfill the dream she saw
with her husband; the only one she can afford is in a white suburban neighborhood. Mr. Lindner a man from the
neighborhood comes to the Younger house trying to convince them to not destroy the white community. He
offers a lot of money in exchange for their acceptance. Meanwhile Walter looses all the money he has invested in
the liquor store because I friend has run away with it. When he looses the majority of their financial resources the
entire family falls into a deeper level of depression. At this time, Walter decides to take the money the white man
has to offer. The thought of selling away their right vexes Mama, Walter’s sister and his wife. They detest Walter
for dealing with his dead fathers money so easily and feel that he has lost his soul when he days we wants to be
bought out by the white Mr. Lindner.

Ultimately, loosing everything they have unites them because at the last moment Walter changes his mind about
taking money from Mr. Lindner. Walter tells him that they have moved into the house because their father
earned it for them. He continues by saying that they don’t want to disturb the neighborhood peace or protest for
bigger causes, and that they’d be nice neighbors. He tells Mr. Lindner that he doesn’t want the money. At this
moment the entire family’s spirits are lifted and they are proud of the decision Walter has made. This act of
standing by your family to achieve the American dream of succeeding no matter who you are and where you
come from unites them. They learn to support each other and put their families before their own. By owning a
house, having a high morale, and the support of their family, each of them is on their way to fulfill their American
dream.
References