Raisin in the sun

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Handlebar’s play showcases the clash between different generations within a household, leading to internal strife. Walter and Beneath, who are siblings, both aspire to improve their socioeconomic circumstances. However, the contrasting perspectives they hold and their individual beliefs set them apart. In A Raisin in the Sun, Handlebars portrays Walter Lee Younger as an ambitious yet insightful African American man. Walter Lee is filled with anger and dissatisfaction concerning his current life situation, feeling like a marginalized individual.

Despite being thirty-five years old and working as a chauffeur for a white man, Walter Lee does not find any satisfaction in his own life. He struggles to provide for his family and feels dissatisfied with his situation. When he discusses this with his wife Ruth, he confesses that despite his age and marriage of eleven years, all he can offer their little boy are stories about wealthy white people. Despite facing financial difficulties, Walter is determined to protect his son from witnessing their hardships. As the supposed head of the household, Walter Lee feels like a complete failure.

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He desires to imitate the lifestyle of wealthy individuals and reside in the same manner. At the age of thirty-five, his tone alone signifies his dissatisfaction with not having achieved any significant accomplishments in life. He refuses to remain a hopeless chauffeur indefinitely. Living in his cramped apartment, so small that his son must sleep in the living room, is something he despises. His aspirations extend far beyond that. Walter’s sole focus is on his present economic situation and how he can better his circumstances, disregarding the broader perspective his sister Beneath possesses.

Handlebars presents Beneath as a young and intelligent African American woman who criticizes the intelligence and achievements of African American society. However, Beneath is unable to see beyond her current circumstances and comprehend her true identity and life goals. She is the sole family member who is exposed to novel concepts and consistently questions the traditional values, racial norms, gender roles, and religious beliefs that her family has embraced, as she has been granted the opportunity to pursue higher education. Occasionally, her academic background creates difficulties in connecting with her relatives.

When her boyfriend is about to visit, Beneath tells her mother not to ask him ignorant questions about Africans. She believes she is smarter than her family, forgetting that her mother works hard to support her education. It is her college education that sets her apart from her brother.

While attempting to climb up the socioeconomic ladder, Walter only seeks upward mobility. Beneath, on the other hand, challenges the system in a manner that creates conflict with her brother. Beneath’s opportunity to attend school is an advantage Walter never had, yet she still believes she has the right to a higher education. The principal cause of the conflict between Beneath and Walter arises from Walter’s narrow perception of Beneath. In the play, Walter expresses dissatisfaction with the cost of Beneath’s decision to pursue Medical School and questions, ‘Who told you it was necessary for you to become a doctor?’

“If you are so interested in dealing with sick people, maybe you should become a nurse like other women or simply get married and stay quiet,” argues the speaker. The speaker’s argument is based on the belief that Beneath, being a woman, has unrealistic ambitions of pursuing a career in a male-dominated field. Handlebars uses the characters of Beneath and Walter to present contrasting perspectives within the household. Beneath’s higher intelligence level compared to Walter’s leads her to believe she is superior to him. On the other hand, Walter is not concerned with education; his only aspiration is to attain economic success and become a prosperous businessman.

Walter’s dreams revolve solely around materialistic goals as he strongly believes that money holds the key to his family’s happiness. However, as he grows older, he starts feeling an urgent sense of time slipping away and fears that his chances of achieving success are diminishing rapidly. Then, a golden opportunity presents itself when a $10,000 life insurance check arrives in the mail following his father’s demise. Despite facing opposition from all other family members who do not share his vision, Walter remains steadfast in his dream and ultimately manages to persuade Mama into providing him with the necessary funds. Determined to make his dream a reality, he intends to invest the money in a liquor store.

Walter emphasizes the significance and advantages of his plan to open a family-oriented liquor store. He conveys his aspirations for the family’s future to his son, stating, “You wouldn’t understand yet son, but your daddy’s gonna make a transaction… A business transaction that’s going to change our lives…” This statement illustrates Walter’s optimism towards achieving his goal. However, his life takes a drastic turn when he chooses to invest all of his money in the liquor store venture alongside two acquaintances. Unfortunately, the plan fails as one of the individuals absconds with all of the funds.

Walter’s desperation leads him to do anything necessary to solve his financial problem. He sacrifices his pride and dignity in his obsession with materialistic possessions, fully concentrating on fitting into the white man’s world. Despite this, he fails to recognize that their predicament is not solely due to a lack of money. His intense desire for wealth almost strips him of his integrity. When his white neighbors offer to buy back his mother’s house at a price that could alleviate his financial situation, Walter must face a challenging decision.

Walter Lee informs his family that he contacted the man to claim the money. In this particular moment, Walter assumes the role of a subordinate black man in the presence of a superior white man. He is willing to embrace both the money being offered and the stereotype of a black man lacking pride. However, prioritizing monetary gain over human dignity is highly disgraceful to the family and completely unacceptable. While Walter initially appears resolved to accept the offer, his decision ultimately shifts at the last moment, primarily influenced by his son.

It was not Walter’s decision to decline the offer; his mother persuaded him because it was clear that he was willing to sacrifice his pride for money, a choice his sister Beneath would never make. Beneath is a determined young woman who prioritizes her own happiness when making decisions. She is in relationships with two men who have contrasting perspectives on African American culture. George, her first boyfriend, comes from a privileged background and is affluent. Sagas, her second boyfriend, is a Nigerian college student.

He introduces Beneath to the African heritage through Nigerian cloths and music. George, however, does not see a reason to honor their African heritage. He sees himself as an American first and also feels like it is a waste of time to learn about the African heritage. In the play, both Ruth and Mama try to convince Beneath to be with George because of his wealth. However, for Beneath, it is not the money and the riches that she wants to achieve in life but an understanding of her background and who she truly is.

The fact that Beneath becomes knowledgeable about the African culture boosts her self-esteem. She takes great pride in the African culture, as shown when Ruth comments, “You expect this boy to go out with you with your head all nappy like that?” and Beneath replies, “That’s up to George. If he’s ashamed of his heritage – … I hate assimilation Negroes! … Someone who is willing to give up his own culture and fully immerse himself in the dominant, and in this case oppressive culture!” Beneath always stayed true to her beliefs despite others’ opinions.

Even though it was evident that she would not conform to society’s expectations of African American women and sacrifice her pride or identity, she was not easily convinced. Throughout the play, Beneath displayed a strong-willed nature and never backed down, which had an impact on the entire family. While it is clear that the Younger family is impoverished, Beneath’s personal needs do not take her financial situation into account. She indulges in expensive hobbies without considering the practicality of her guitar lessons and horseback riding, which could have been used for more important purposes.

It is evident how self-centered Ruth can be when she announces that she is expecting her second child. Her immediate concern is about her own aspirations of going to Medical School, disregarding the well-being of both herself and the baby. However, Ruth’s self-centeredness is not unique; even Walter Lee displays selfish traits. He grapples with various conflicts that revolve around his identity as a man, including his roles as a father, husband, and provider.

The play demonstrates Walter’s failure in all three roles at some point. In a conversation with Ruth, she confesses to making a five dollar down payment for an abortion. Rather than fulfilling his responsibilities as a husband and supporting his wife’s choice, Walter stays quiet. Mama reminds him that his father didn’t raise him to behave like this and urges him to accept accountability for his actions. This moment effectively showcases Walter’s self-centered conduct as he prioritizes his own wants above everything else.

The play A Raisin in the Sun depicts the importance of success and the lengths people are willing to go to achieve it. Overcoming challenges and obstacles is key to achieving greatness. Both Walter Lee and Beneath demonstrate that one can achieve success without sacrificing pride and dignity, but selfishness will not lead to long-term success. The play also explores the question of what happens to deferred dreams – they do not simply dry up like raisins in the sun, but instead undergo transformations. Lorraine Handlebars illustrates this concept in A Raisin in the Sun.

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Raisin in the sun. (2018, Feb 11). Retrieved from


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