A Raisin in the Sun is a play written by Lorraine Hansberry which tells the story of an African-American family who lived in a community in Chicago. The story vividly portrays the struggle the Younger family went through when they received the insurance money left by the late Mr. Younger. Each of them has a different idea on how to use the money. However, in the end, they still managed to stick together and while there is still no certainty as to what their future might bring, they still managed to be optimistic about it, believing that they would be able to pass the difficulties life has to offer as long as they stick together.r
THEMES OF THE STORY
The play is basically about dreams and ambition. The Younger family experienced a great deal of hardship on their daily struggle with their lives. This led to their dream that someday they would be able to better their station in life. In fact, the inspiration to the title of the play, “A Raisin in the Sun” came from the poem “Harlem – 2” written by Langston Hughes. Harlem – 2 is a poem which talks about forgotten dreams. Hughes was able to ingeniously explore the dreams of the oppressed by comparing a deferred dream to an object which ultimately changes over time:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore –
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat? (74)
By reading the above poetry, one would eventually know where Hansberry got the title for her play. From the writer’s choice of title alone, one could conclude that the play gives importance to the value of dreams. Each member of the Younger family has a different dream which causes some strain in their relationship. For an instance, while Beneatha wants to be a doctor, Walter wants to have enough money so that he would be able to better provide for his family.
The story gave emphasis on how the family tried to realize their dreams and how, in the process, it affects their happiness and grief. While their dreams and ambitions clashes with each other, in the end they were still able to realize that Mama’s dream of buying a house is still the most important of their dreams as it serves the purpose of keeping the family’s unity.
Racial discrimination is also one of the integral themes of the story. Mr. Lindner serves his purpose in giving emphasis to the issue of racial discrimination which is still very common even at this point in time. Mr. Lindner was sent as the representative of the Clybourne Park neighborhood whose main purpose is to convince the Younger family to change their mind about living in the white’s community. This part of the story shows how shallow people could get as they tend to judge a person not by things which really matters but by the color of that person’s skin. This shows how certain people discriminates other race not on the virtue of their personality or individuality but on their physical appearance.
Among the tactics Dr. Lindner used in order for the Younger family not to move in the Clybourne Park’s neighborhood is to bribe them. This is one of the primary conflicts in the story as it served its purpose in almost breaking the family apart. In the end, the family was able to withstand the pressure by taking a stand and being adamant on what they want. This serves its purpose in showing the audience that in order to solve the issue of discrimination, the discriminated against must learn how to stand up for what s/he believe is right instead of simply letting the matter go without even trying to stand their ground.
VALUE OF FAMILY
Another theme present on the story is the value of a family. The play allowed us a glimpse to the daily struggles of the Younger family. However, it still showed us that in spite of the clash, the differences in opinion and beliefs they still managed to stick together in the very end. Mama, the matriarch of the family was able to instill on her children the value of family. Mama tried her best to instill this value on her children as she did what she could so that the family would not fall apart. Walter and Beneatha learned this the hard way as the former had to face the crisis caused by his wrong choice of investing in a liquor shop while the latter denied that the former is related to her.
The rift between the two notwithstanding, they were still able to reject Mr. Lindner’s racist behavior. When the two started to put the dreams of the rest of the family before their own ambition, they were able to resolve their differences which enabled them to realize their most important dream.
Closer analysis would show that the play primarily revolves on the family’s apartment, thus giving emphasis on one recurrent theme on the story, the home. The Younger’s apartment was portrayed as a small and dark place wherein the rest of the family tried to make enough room for all of them. Nevertheless, it is home to the rest of the family, it is where they shared certain moments of their life. It is because of this that the matriarch of the family sees buying a house as vital to the unity of the family.
The home reflects Mama’s belief that buying a house is important in that it would keep the family together. One could construe this to mean that Mama’s rationale for buying a larger house is so that it could take the place of their old home, a place where they could store their memories and other personal experiences.
SYMBOLISMS USED IN THE STORY
Earlier in the story, Ruth asked Walter to eat his eggs with the desired effect to quiet the latter. Walter reacted by using the phrase to point out that women keeps their men from realizing their dreams. We could conclude from Walter’s dialogue that he thinks that each time man is enthusiastic about one particular project or another, the woman always try to curve this excitement by asking him to eat his eggs.
In this regard we realize that “eat your eggs” is used by the author as a symbolic language in that following the instruction signifies the African American’s (Younger family) meek acceptance to the difficulties they experiences in their lives. Walter, in this scene, points out that Ruth (who is the one who cooks his eggs) keeps him from realizing his goals. He further went on to point out that Ruth should instead learn to support his dreams.
Mama’s plant in the story symbolizes the love and dreams the matriarch has for her family. Please take note that the first time Mama appeared on the stage, she directly went over the plant to tend it. Mama mentioned that while the plant does not get enough sunlight or water it still managed to flourish under her care. One could take it to mean that the plant represents Mama’s children in that while their station in life prevents them from getting all the things they need to survive, they still managed to flourish under her care.
One could see that while Mama’s children had to take a lot of rough roads in life, in the end they are still born survivors and they still managed to stick together by learning to set aside their differences and learning what is really important in life.
At the start of the story, Beneatha had a straight hair. However, Beneatha cut her hair as she decided to go for an Afro look. This is one powerful symbol in the story in that by doing so Beneatha showed the audience her determination to embrace her own culture instead of trying to change herself in order to fit in to the white community. Instead of trying to conform to the norms of the society they lived in, she decided to be a non-conformist by showing everyone that she is proud of what she have and what she represents.
To conclude the play “A Raisin in the Sun” wishes to convey to the audience the importance of learning to love and accept your own roots in the same way that it teaches us the value of dreams and family.
I. Short Summary
II. Themes of the Story
B. Racial Discrimination
C. Value of Family
IV. Symbolisms Used in the Story
C. Beneatha’s Hair
Cheney, Anne. Lorraine Hansberry. Boston; Twayne, 1984.
Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. New York: Random house, 1959.
Hughes, Langston. The Collected Works of Langston Hughes Vol. 3 Ed. Arnold Rampersad.
Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2001.
May, Elaine Tyler. Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era. New York;
Basic Books, 1988.