Araisin the sun
Lorraine Hansberry set a social and literary milestone with her play “A Raisin in the Sun.” This literary gem broke away from the usual ethnic stereotypes, and was the first to give a realistic depiction of what the African-American life was like (Cocola & Ross). It paints an honest, realistic picture of the struggles of an African-American family in the 1950s. This piece of literature is so remarkable and groundbreaking in its time, that the play’s performance in Broadway won 1959 Best Play of the Year Award from the New York Drama Critic’s Circle. She is the only black playwright to win the award (Cocola & Ross).
The story is set in 1950s South Side of Chicago, and it is about the Younger family. The play starts with the family’s reception of a check for $10,000, which came from the deceased patriarch’s life insurance policy (Cocola & Ross). Each family member has a different plan for the money, and most of the story revolves around those differences. The matriarch, Mama, wants to purchase her dream house. Her son, Walter, wants to invest the money in a liquor store. Beneatha, Walter’s sister, dreams of becoming doctor and wants the money for her tuition. Ruth, Walter’s wife, agrees with Mama. She wants a house where there is enough space in which her son, Travis, can play. Mama then decides to pay the down payment for her dream house, which is located in Clybourne Park, a white neighborhood. When the present occupants found out that the Youngers were moving in, they asked Mr. Lindner of the homeowners association to bribe the Youngers so that they would not move in. The family refused even in time of financial need, since Walter’s friend runs off with the money Mama gave him to invest in the liquor store. Beneatha, on the other hand, is preoccupied with her two suitors. She dumps her suitor George Murchison for her Nigerian boyfriend Joseph Asagai. The play ends with the family leaving their old apartment.
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Walter is both the protagonist and antagonist of the play (Cocola & Ross). The plot consists mostly of his decisions and mistakes, and he embodies the typical African-American male (Cocola & Ross). He believes that money is the answer to all the family’s problems, until he realizes that it is more important to bring the family together. Mama, on the other hand, is the morally upright member of the family. She believes in dreams and all the great things that dreaming can do. She then encourages her family to honor their dreams, which she values most than anything else. She is the “most nurturing character of the play (Cocola & Ross).” Beneatha is the feminist member of the family. She personifies independence and ambition; she is on a continuous journey to search for her identity. She feels she can stand on her own, until Joseph makes her realize that her dream of becoming a doctor was dependent of her family’s money (Cocola & Ross). This changes her perspective in life. Joseph is an ideal character in the story. Instead of being preoccupied with the white culture, he is much more concerned with tracing his African roots. He is proud of his heritage, and he encourages Beneatha to do the same.
The play is essentially autobiographical (Cocola & Ross). Hansberry lived in the South Side of Chicago, and grew up with parents who rallied against racial discrimination. They moved into a white neighborhood, and faced some difficulties from their neighbors. Her play then mirrors the ethnic segregation that was evident during her time. It is not the only thing the play reflected; “Ms. Hansberry explored the whole spectrum of black American issues of beauty, identity and class. Her challenge was twofold: to impel white Americans to let down the barriers preventing African Americans to fulfill their dreams and to challenge people of color to redefine what those dreams should be (Sommer 1).” In fact, the book has no apparent weakness, only a handful of strengths. Hansberry was ahead of her time with the release of this play. She spoke of racial tension, poverty, discrimination and the quest for identity, which still exists at present. However, the most important message of this play for me is the necessity of dreams. Regardless of color, race, age, religious beliefs or sexual preferences, dreams are significant, so they must be honored.
Sommer, Elyse. A Curtain Up Berkshire Review: A Raisin in the Sun. 22 July 1999. Curtain Up. 28 Nov. 2007 <http://www.curtainup.com/raisininthesun.html>.
Cocola, Jim and Douthat, Ross. SparkNote on A Raisin in the Sun. 28 Nov. 2007 <http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/raisin/>.