A Raisin in The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry is an informative short story based on an African American family, and their life struggles. The audience is introduced to all members of the Younger family, along with a few additional individuals. The audience learns that the husband/father of the family has passed away. The family is waiting anxiously for the father’s insurance check which is worth ten thousand dollars. Each member of the family is expecting a payout of the money for themselves because they are on a mission where they all hope to live in a life full of happiness. However, it is difficult when each family member hopes to accomplish different goals, all of which would benefit that individual. This conflict creates frustration and tension between all family members (Leskowitz). The Youngers in A Raisin in The Sun each have their own dreams while living in a society filled with inequality and racism, but as time goes on, each member of the family puts their own individual dreams aside to follow a unified dream together because they recognize it is crucial for their survival as a family.
Lena, also known as Mama, is a widow of her deceased husband, Walter. She has two children: Walter and Beneatha Younger. She loves her family unconditionally and she has strong family values and morals. However, she is stuck between a rock, and a hard place due to the stress coming from her husband’s insurance check. Because everyone expects the money to be in their possession, she is conflicted on what to do. She hopes to keep this situation as non-confrontational as possible despite the disagreements of everyone (Gomes). Lena is not interested in buying materialistic items from the insurance money from her deceased husband. Instead, she would like to get her family a house where they can build a new life (Als). She strives to fulfill her dream of getting a house because it was what she wanted to do with her husband before he passed away (Gomes). Lena can be seen as a mother who is trying her hardest to keep her family together and close. After looking at houses, Lena finds the one she wants to purchase. Nonetheless, it is in a white neighborhood, which is a drastic change for the family (Leskowitz). Racial tensions were extremely high during this time. Equality and racism is a huge factor for the Youngers due to the family being African American. When Lena wants to move to a white neighborhood, many of the family members are unsure if it is the right thing to do. There were many factors that affected the African Americans negatively. They were viewed as unequal and not worth as much as a white individual. This took a huge toll on the family, especially Lena, since this was her dream that she hoped for with her deceased husband (Nowrouzi, Tayebeh, Faghfori, and Zohdi).
For many years, racism has always been an ongoing issue that has never been completely dismissed. Many issues have arisen from racism such as slavery, segregation, and even more difficult societal issues. In A Raisin in The Sun, it is evident that the Younger family had to deal with many racial issues that took a toll on their family as a whole. Especially with the mother being a woman, a black woman. Life had to be hard when living in a time where people were opinionated and judgmental of one another. Individuals are judged on the smallest things, such as having a different skin tone (Jose). Lena Younger’s son, Walter, has high expectations that he will be receiving all the insurance money from his deceased father. He lives with his wife, Ruth, and their son Travis. Life is not easy for the three of them because they have many economic woes, which is also affecting their marriage. Walter wants to invest in a liquor store with his friends in hopes to become successful. Walter is desperate and obsessed with the idea that creating this liquor store will solve all the economic issues that he has. During breakfast one morning, Walter is telling his wife Ruth about his dreams of starting a liquor store with his friends, Willy and Bobo. Ruth blows him off and tells him to Eat his eggs when he is trying to talk to her (Hansberry 316). She does not want to hear what he has to say because he never sticks to his word.
She is bothered by his constant lies and does not believe much of anything when he talks to her. Walter also talks to Lena, also known as Mama. He is confiding in her and expressing that he is scared of a life full of nothing and he is overwhelmed by the possibility of suffering for longer than he wants to (Hansberry 335). Bobo and Willy are Walter’s ‘friends’ that he wants to invest into a liquor store with. Both Bobo and Walter get taken advantage of by Willy. The audience does not get much insight on Bobo, besides the fact that he was involved in the liquor store chaos. On the other hand, Willy is a negative and inconsiderate individual. Willy decided to take Walter’s money which then resulted in Walter’s dreams being deferred. This not only affected Walter though, because his wife Ruth, and his son Travis also were affected by it. Ruth, Walter’s wife has a dream where she hopes to live in a more stable life, for the sake of her and Walter’s son, Travis. Ruth is a hardworking woman that does not have the opportunity to work an easy job. She is both a mother and wife that has to handle her daily routine along with doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. Her family cannot survive without her bringing home an income. One day she was talking to Lena and said to her Mama, something is happening between Walter and me. I don’t know what it is but he needs something, something I can’t give him any more. He needs this chance Lena (Hansberry 320).
Ruth wants Lena to give Walter a fair shot with his dreams of opening a liquor store even though everyone is not the biggest fan of it. Ruth is trying her hardest to keep her family unit together and wants it to be known that her marriage is on the rocks and she is worried. She anticipates that if Walter is able to open his own business, it would then help their marriage improve. Despite Ruth trying to stay positive, it is extremely difficult when her husband, Walter is constantly talking down to her and causing more marital issues than needed. It is evident that Walter’s mental abuse is affecting Ruth in her daily life, as it is consuming her and making her depressed some days. Although, instead of Ruth being talked down to constantly, she says what is on her mind and tells Walter how she feels. Between the middle of all of their issues, Ruth finds out that she is pregnant. This, of course, stresses out Ruth even more because she is unsure if she should bring another child into the world where it is full of such chaos. Abortion was not a routine procedure back in the day. There was a large number of complications that can follow it and she is confused about what she should do.
Travis is the young, kind-hearted son of Walter and Ruth. He lives in a small, cramped apartment with his parents, where the living room is his bedroom. There is a fear that if his parents do not move out of where they are, Travis may never know what he is actually worth and they fear that he will settle for less than he should. One morning Travis asked his parents for fifty cents for school. This started a small argument with his parents because Ruth knew that they do not have money like that to just give out. However, Walter goes against what Ruth says and gives Travis the money, even though the cannot afford that. This, of course, is upsetting for his parents because they cannot help but feel guilty that they do not have much to give their son. Beneatha is the twenty-year-old daughter of Lena. She has high hopes to go to school to become a doctor in order to fulfill her dream of being able to help other individuals. She is a genuine, caring individual who is very educated, more than any of her family members. She is in a love triangle with two, very different men, Joseph Asagai and George Murchison.
Beneatha struggles with being an African American woman and straightens her hair to look white. However, her Nigerian boyfriend, Joseph Asagai, strongly encourages Beneatha to take pride in her African American roots and embrace who she was born to be. She decides to change her straightened hair to her naturally curly hair. She also wears a robe that Asagai brought her from Nigeria. Asagai makes Beneatha very happy and they do not have many disagreements. On the other hand, her other boyfriend, George is a black man who she is not the happiest and most compatible with. He is rich and does not encourage Beneatha to embrace her heritage. In fact, he believes those that spend a large amount of time worrying about Africa are just wasting their time (Beneatha Younger).
A Raisin in the Sun touches on the degree of racism and how much it has affected the Youngers dreams. However, no matter how hard life got, the family never gave up, even in their most vulnerable situations. Many of their dreams were deferred, but it made those individuals grow from it. Both racism and inequality affected the family, especially growing up in a time period where it was thought of negatively. Mama got her dream home with her family, the only person missing was her husband, Walter. Lena’s son, Walter, learned from his mistakes and he regained his dignity and hope for his future. Ruth decided to keep her baby rather than get an abortion because she knows there is hope for her family moving out of their little apartment when Lena got their house. Travis is excited for the future with his family in their new home and getting to spend time with those around him. Beneatha plans to marry Asagai and build a life with him, as well as, practicing medicine in Africa, where she can still embrace her African American heritage.
Als, Hilton. Mama’s Christian Love in A Raisin in the Sun.Free Man of Color, 14 Apr. 2014, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/04/14/free-man-of-color. Beneatha Younger.
A Raisin in The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, Shmoop University, 2018, www.shmoop.com/a-raisin-in-the-sun/beneatha-younger.html.
Gomes, Lizandra. The Visions of Lena Younger Created by Lorraine Hansberry in A Raisin in the Sun.The Visions of Lena Younger Created by Lorraine Hansberry in A Raisin in the Sun, 2010.
Bridgewater State College. Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in The Sun. Madden, Frank.Exploring Literature. Fifth ed., Pearson, 2012.
Jose, Sofia C. Racism In Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin In The Sun.Racism In Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin In The Sun, June 2014, thedawnjournal.in/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/18-Sofia-C-Jose.pdf.
Leskowitz, Ali. A Dream Realized: Hansberry’s A Raisin in The Sun.A Dream Realized: Hansberry’s A Raisin in The Sun, 2018.
Huntington Theatre. Nowrouzi, Tayebeh, Sohila Faghfori, and Esmaeil Zohdi.
“”In Search of Equality: A Dream Deferred for African Americans in A Raisin in the Sun.””Theory and Practice in Language Studies5.11 (2015): 2269-76.ProQuest.Web. 4 Nov. 2018.