Chicago’s South-side, like other towns, suffered tremendously from racism and discrimination during the Great Depression. Racism has swept across the nation and landed in the Youngers’, an African-American family in A Raisin in the Sun, household. Lorraine Hansberry, playwright of A Raisin in the Sun, is vividly portraying life in this low-level town where discrimination explodes into conflict. Since equality among races is not common, the Youngers battle hardship just for being black. Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun demonstrates how racism affects the everyday life of the Younger family.
One way Hansberry shows the harshness of racism is through the Youngers’ way of living. The Youngers’ way of living is depicted as lower-class estate when the play reads, ” The YOUNGER living room would be a comfortable and well-ordered room if it were not for a number of indestructible contradictions to this state of being” (Hansberry 26). Being as they are a family of African Americans, the Youngers live in a social downfall due to their race (Hilliard 67). They are not respected as those of the white race and are not as applicable for jobs (Hilliard 67). To add, their lower way of living is shown when the play states, “Weariness has, in fact, won in this room. Everything has been polished, washed, sat on, used, scrubbed too often. All pretenses but living itself have long since vanished…” (Hansberry 23). Though they don’t have much, the family does the best they can with what they have to work with (Gordon 24). However, at this point, there isn’t too many things they can do to improve their home (Hansberry 12). To summarize, the way that the Younger family lives shows how disadvantaged they are from having the finer things in life.
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The form of language used within the play shows the lack of respect people have towards them because of the color of their skin. This can be strongly inferred when Mama says,” Cause it sounds respectable to ’em. Something white people can get, too. They know ’bout the flu…” (Hansberry 43). Mama believes that Ruth’s boss will understand her absence from work if she tells them something that they are subjective to also (Matthews 556). This statement insinuates that white people believe that African Americans carry different diseases than them (Foertsch 408). Another good example of diction in the play is shown when Walter exclaims, “I’m going to feel fine, Mama. I’m going to look that son-of-a-bitch in the eyes and say” (He falters)”and say, ‘All right, Mr. Lindner”(He falters even more)”that’s your neighborhood out there! You got the right to keep it like you want! You got the right to have it like you want!’…’And you”you people just put the money in my hand and you won’t have to live next to this bunch of stinking niggers!” (Hansberry 144). The fact that John Lindner was sent my his neighborhood organization to prohibit the Youngers from making their new life was angering to Walter (Hansberry 145). He, along with everyone else in his family, knew the only reason they were being shunned was because of the color of their skin (Gordon 132). In short, language used by different characters throughout the play gives a very good look into how blacks are seen through the eyes of others.
Furthermore, the Youngers’ jobs represent discrimination. Hansberry states, “the Younger family”maintained by two female domestics and a chauffeur, son of a laborer dead of a lifetime of hard labor “was transformed into an acceptably ‘middle class’ family” (Hansberry 9). At the time, the only reasonable jobs opened up to blacks were jobs serving and cleaning for white people (Giles 97). They had the option of working the low grade jobs or letting their family starve (Giles 99). In Walter’s words, “You are in it” Don’t you get up and go work in somebody’s kitchen for the last three years to help put clothes on her back?” (Hansberry 37). In order for the family to maintain their “not-so-comfortable” way of life, it is essential for everyone to contribute(Gordon 120). Walter struggled to understand Beneatha’s argument due to the fact that she does not provide any finances for the house (Hansberry 38). In brief, every aspect of the characters lives, including their jobs, experienced discrimination.
Moreover, the struggle to accomplish the family’s dreams represents oppression of African Americans. Walter remarks, “Yeah. You see, this little liquor store we got in mind cost seventy-five thousand and we figured the initial investment on the place be ’bout thirty thousand, see. That be ten thousand each. Course, there’s a couple of hundred you got to pay so’s you don’t spend your life” (Hansberry 33). Walter aspires to run his own liquor store (Hansberry 31). Not only are finances a problem to have his dream, but he doesn’t have the support of his family (Foertsch 417). Another time when a dream is deferred is when Beneatha says, “Oh, I probably will … but first I’m going to be a doctor, and George, for one, still thinks that’s pretty funny. I couldn’t be bothered with that. I am going to be a doctor and everybody around here better understand that!” (Hansberry 50). Beneatha dreams of becoming a doctor in a time period that does not advocate women to do much of anything, especially black women (Matthews 24). By having this dream, Beneatha is challenging the status quo by being both black and a woman (Hilliard 52). All in all, many challenges hold African Americans back from achieving the dream that they long for.
Finally, potential threats made on the Youngers’ lives show how much African Americans are not appreciated. When Johnson says, ” One thing ’bout Brother, he always know how to have a good time. And soooooo ambitious! I bet it was his idea y’all moving out to Clybourne Park. Lord”I bet this time next month y’all’s names will have been in the papers plenty”(Holding up her hands to mark off each word of the headline she can see in front of her) ‘NEGROES INVADE CLYBOURNE PARK” BOMBED!'” (Hansberry 101-102). Not only does this possibility frighten the Youngers, but it also makes them think of how much hatred is poured on the black race for no good reason (Giles 33). Also, the fact that their neighbor would say a thing like that allows them to see the slight jealousy that is held against them for trying to have a better life (Giles 40). Following this quote is “James Baldwin has written that ‘Americans suffer from an ignorance that is not only colossal, but sacred’. He is referring to that apparently endless capacity we have nurtured through long years to deceive ourselves where race is concerned…”Hansberry 8). Baldwin is agreeing that racism will forever be a problem within the systems of the world ( Baldwin 23). Though people believe that the situation is resolved, Baldwin believes that discrimination between races will always exist (Baldwin 44). Overall, threats made to or towards the characters in the story play a role in the discrimination factor of the story.
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