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A Raisin in the Sun Essay

Lorraine Hansberry, the play writer of A Raisin in the Sun portrays the life of impoverished African American family living on the south side of Chicago sometime between World War II and 1959. This is a play about a family whose dreams are deferred due to the struggle for everyday survival to get ahead in life.  Throughout the play Hansberry shows the importance of family value, the individual’s dream that arise conflicts between them, and racial discrimination within the society for a second class citizens.

The family institution is significantly appraised in this play. Mama acts as a leader and the voice of the family. Her position has been necessitated due to her husband’s demise. Most African American men in this contemplary time in America were subjected to hard labor and poor working conditions. These led to poor health and ultimate death leaving their wives in charge of their family affairs. Mama illustrates strength and determination towards her family’s well being.

The payment of the insurance money brings discontent in the family. Each individual in the family is characterized by their own personal dreams. The family setting is in small and squeezed apartment which is hardly sufficient for the whole family. The fact that they share a communal bathroom is indicative of their social impoverished social setting. Mama is of the opinion that the insurance money should be used to buy a big house which will accommodate the whole family comfortably.

Mama acts as a stronghold for family and strives to mould them into ideal people who are capable of making the right choices for themselves and the family. Her resolve to buy a house is fulfillment of the dream she once shared with her deceased husband. The fulfillment of this dream and the fact that her family is expanding, therefore requiring more room makes her decision more profound. However, her son Walter does not agree and wishes to invest money in pursuit of his dream of becoming a successful businessman. He believes with the insurance money he will be capable of investing in the liquor business.

Walter’s relationship with his wife is estranged significantly due to their poor economic dispensation and dependence on mama. His ambition to invest in the liquor business is highly motivated by his wish to elevate his family’s living conditions and their social standing. The play illustrates the African American as a poor and lowly person who struggles against poverty, social and racial discrimination. In Walter’s opinion the money will go a long way in facilitating their transition from their poor and low social status to a wealthy and recognizable family. Walter represents a young African American man whose dream is not only to provide for his family but to gain social standing and recognition (A Raisin in the Sun).

The insurance money brings about the experiences of the struggling family whose interests are to progress though in different perspectives as illustrated by each character. Beneatha, Walter’s sister believes that the insurance money should significantly contribute to her college education. Beneatha is opinionated and sensitive to the plight of African Americans. Her observations bring about the oppression of African Americans and racial discrimination. She relates to her family as a woman who is independent in thought and pursuits in life.

Beneatha’s ambition to be a doctor contravenes with the social stereotype of women being incapable of undertaking significantly complex careers like medicine. She asserts herself in the family by being self– aware and fails to conform to the expected social norms of accepting choices made by others on her behalf. Her family expects her to marry George, a wealthy young man who she finds to be ignorant and dismissive of the African American’s plight (A raisin in the sun). His insensitivity to her belief’-s and aspirations makes him the wrong man for her and she is quick to note this fact. Beneatha significantly illustrates the emergence of women from their social and cultural restraints to explore the varied choices and opportunities of life without men’s control. .

The relationship existing between Mama and Beneatha is characterized with respect and mutual understanding. Beneatha, though she is opinionated and indulges in arguments favoring her perspective is respective to conform to her mother’s observations and moral standing. Mama understands Beneatha’s need to assert herself personally and professionally and supports her decision to pursue medicine as a profession. Her affiliation with Asagai is an attempt to understand and identify with her African origins. She attempts to understand the political and social standing of the African American individual against the white supremacists. Her observations give voice to the civil rights violations against the African American individual.

Walter’s wife on the other hand feels unsettled by her husband’s attitudes. She is of the opinion that they should get a big house which will accommodate their expanding family. She shares her sentiments with Mama who is of the same opinion. Although, she feels her relationship with Walter is facing difficulties, she believes if he was to be allocated a portion of the insurance money his demeanor would improve for the better. Ruth attempts to bring cohesion in her family and is willing to sacrifice her dreams for her husband and son, Travis. She is critical in illustrating the struggles of a young African American wife.

Ruth observes that their apartment is not big enough to accommodate the whole family and is supportive of mama’s resolve to purchase a new house. Her pregnancy is characterized with uncertainty of their future and she contemplates on abortion as means of easing their burden. Her dilemma is indicative of the difficult choices and sacrifices women had to make to ensure the survival of their families. Ruth understands given her husband’s economic dispensation, the difficulty of raising another child in those circumstances. Her husband’s lack of comment assumes he is agreeable to his wife’s choice and does not contest her decision.

The racial and social discrimination in the play are clearly brought about when Mama pays a down payment on the house in a white’s neighborhood. This fact is illustrated by the emergence of Mr. Karl Lidner in an attempt to pay off the Youngers from relocating to Clybourne Park. His argument is ostensibly to avoid disruptions and maintain peace but in reality they do not want to be neighbors with African Americans. Lena Younger refuses his proposal reiterating that her family cannot be paid off and has a right to live anywhere they pleased. The feeling of racial barriers is asserted by their neighbor, Mrs. Johnson who believes it is suicidal for a black family to move to a white’s only neighborhood. She is of the opinion that the Youngers action of moving will constitute to rebelling against their race and social peers. 

Walter’s allocation of the insurance money is lost which is inclusive of Beneatha’s college money and results in mixed feelings in the family. Despite this fact, the family remains united. Beneatha feels angry at her brother making her feel lost and hopeless. However, she is encouraged by Asagai and regains her usual demeanor. Walter feels dejected by his failure and letting down his family and resolves to recover the lost money by agreeing to Mr. Lidner’s terms. Though he believes this to be their only way out, he refuses to sign the paperwork provided by Mr. Lidner. He instead opposes the idea of selling ones rights and highlights the African American’s rights to live anywhere they can afford. He finds courage to stand up and voice his concerns against racial discrimination and oppression. This act on his part makes Mama proud of him giving her a feeling of achievement, and satisfaction in her son’s courage to stand up like a man and fight for his rights. Though the family faces challenges in the future they remain together and unified in their resolve to stand up against the racial boundaries and prejudices.