The title “A Raisin in the Sun” comes from the Langston Hughes poem that says, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” Dreams play a major role in the theme of this play. Each individual has some kind of dream or goal that they want to make a reality. Walter wants to open a liquor store and provide for his family, Bennie wants to become a doctor, and Lena just wants a better life for her children and grandchildren.
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However, their financial state does not allow them to pursue these dreams. The family, to keep these dreams from “drying up”, must always believe there’s hope and a possibility that their goals aren’t out of reach.
The author, Lorraine Hansberry, uses her writing to demonstrate her values in society. The way she writes about the Younger family and their challenges show that she was aware of what African Americans faced during this time. The scene where Bennie wears here hair natural shows that Hansberry thought it was important for young African American girls to embrace their natural beauty. Another example would be when Mr. Lindner comes to bribe them with money to stop moving in the neighborhood. The fact that they were at such a low point after Walter lost the money and they didn’t take his offer shows that Hansberry really thought it was important to respect yourself and your identity.
A “Raisin in the Sun” takes place during during the 1950s in a small apartment in Chicago. Most of the scenes in the play take place in the apartment’s living room. This setting influences a lot of the play. The size of the apartment causes tensions to rise between the family because they practically live on top of each other, and they end up fighting a lot. Ruth even considers getting an abortion because she knows there won’t be any room for the baby and it will put more of a strain on her family. This causes Mama to go and buy a new house which turns into a focal point of the play.
In “A Raisin in the Sun” we are introduced to the Younger family, a poor, African American family living in a run-down, cramped apartment. Mama, the head of the house, gets a check for a thousand dollars which propels the plot forward. The first issue is deciding what to spend the check on. Everyone has different opinions of what they think they should spend the money on but the decision is made by Mama who decides to buy a house. Everything is good for a while until the family is visited by Mr. Lindner. He makes a very offensive offer to give the Youngers their money back to keep them out of his neighborhood. Of course the family says no, and things are going smooth until Walter loses the money. This would be considered the big climax of the play. After everyone gets over the shock of what happened, the family tries to think of a way to deal with it. Walter decides to call Mr. Lindner and talk about the deal. The resolution starts when Walter realizes this is not the way to go about the situation. The family has a bonding experience and although the still don’t have the money, they decide to get the house anyway.
Since “A Raisin in the Sun” is a play, it is written as third person objective. However, Hansberry uses the different characters to show different points of view on each issue. For example, Ruth’s main focus is her family. When issues arise, such as Walter losing the money, Ruth is always concerned about her family and how to take care of them. On the other hand, Walter’s main concern is money and status. He doesn’t want to be the stereotypical, poor, African American. He wants to make something of himself but he comes across as a little aggressive sometimes. Beneatha shows the younger perspective on certain topics. She doesn’t necessarily care about money like Walter does, but she does want to do something bigger with her life. She shows that African Americans, specifically women, should pursue their dreams, no matter the circumstances.
Most of “A Raisin in the Sun” is centered around Mama and Walter because they have the most influence on the family as a whole. Mama is the head of the household and is in charge of most of the things that happen in the apartment. She’s extremely caring, humble, and her main focus is her family. Walter, on the other hand is more aggressive and concerned with material things. He cares about money and status. In fact, one of the first things we see him say is, “Check coming today?” (26). At the end of the play however, Walter shows that he’s a dynamic character by not taking Mr. Lindner’s deal. Walter’s wife, Ruth, has a very different perspective when it comes to money. She knows their family doesn’t have a lot of it, so she’d rather not worry about it. Ruth’s way of showing she cares can come off as harsh and rude sometimes, but she truly loves her family. The last major character in this play is Beneatha. Beneatha is feisty, she knows what she wants, and she doesn’t care for your opinion. Beneatha is way ahead of her time in the fact that she’s already embracing her African roots. She is also breaking gender stereotypes for wanting to be a doctor, which back then not many women were.
The main theme of “A Raisin in the Sun” is having dreams while not having the opportunity to fulfill them. The Younger family has plenty of dreams that are just not realistic for them at the moment. With no money, no space, and constant fighting, it is hard for the family to actually think their goals are achievable. This African American family have almost no money, no space, and not to mention the oppression of their race. All the odds are stacked against them and yet they still find a way to pursue their dreams.
One of the main symbols in the play is the plant that Mama keeps on her window. This represents the hope she has for her family. Plants usually grow in a garden or at the very least outside. This plant however is growing in the window of an apartment and probably doesn’t get enough sunlight. Even though the plant isn’t growing under the best circumstances, it is still growing nonetheless. Another example of a literary device used in the play would be the house and the new beginnings and challenges it will bring. The buying of the house really moves the story along and causes new conflicts to arise, such as Mr. Lindner and the problem of the bombings.
An important quote in the play is when Mama says,”There is always something left to love. And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing” (145). Mama is explaining to Beneatha why she should feel for her brother after he lost the money. This quote is explaining how family sticks together and loves each other, no matter what. Another quote that is important in the story is when Walter tells Mr. Lindner, “We have decided to move into our house because my father”my father”he earned it for us brick by brick.” This quotes shows the recurring theme that the people before the Youngers worked to get a society where African Americans didn’t have to do anything white people said. Walter realized he didn’t want to throw all that away and set a bad example for Travis, so he tells Mr. Lindner that he won’t be taking the deal. Another example of a quote that shows the theme is, “Sometimes it’s like I can see the future stretched out in front of me just plain as day. The future, Mama. Hanging over there at the edge of my days. Just waiting for me a big, looming blank space full of nothing. Just waiting for me. But it don’t have to be” (73 – 4). Walter is explaining to his mother that he has dreams that he can see just ahead of him, waiting on him. He’s tired of waiting though, and he wants to pursue those dreams as soon as possible. This shows that Hansberry thinks dreams should be sought after, no matter what.
When reading “A Raisin in the Sun”, I was forced to look at my own life and compare it to the Younger family. While I know that I have never experienced anything as serious as the situation the family was in, I have put off some dreams that I had that never came true. I enjoyed reading this book but I’m not a very big fan of plays so it was a little hard for me to understand. When Walter breaks down when he finds out he lost the money, it really made me sad because I think he really wants to provide for his family and he just made a mistake that could cost them everything. In our world today, there’s still racist people that don’t want equality. It was extremely hard to watch a good family go through these struggles, but the fact that they still preserved is incredible.
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