Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry [...] elements of drama and literary qualities of the play. This play was anything but conventional when it debuted on Broadway in 1959. It explored issues of racism, prejudice, and the dreams of others that made playgoers stop and think about what they were seeing acted out on stage, including themes Broadway theatergoers did not expect and it made many firsts on the Broadway stage.

"A Raisin in the Sun" became Lorraine Hansberry's first play, and it made a lot of history in the American theater. One literary critic notes, "The first play by a black woman to win the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, the first play by a black woman to be performed on Broadway, the longest-running play by a black writer on Broadway for a quarter of a century and a production which launched the career of a number of major black actors, it marked the beginning of a new direction in the American theatre" (Bigsby 277). Made into two films, the play's themes include dreams, prejudice, and poverty -- themes Black Americans still face every day.

One of the historic themes of the plays appears in the attitudes of the Younger family. Each member of the family nurtures their own dreams of the future, dreams including a real home, financial security, and a decent career. Walter says, "WALTER (Quietly): Sometimes it's like I can see the future ... stretched out in front of me -- just plain as day. The future, Mama. Hanging over there at the edge of my days. Just waiting for me -- a big, looming blank space -- full of nothing. Just waiting for me. But it don't have to be" (Act 1, Scene 2, 226-228). Mama's dream is to own a home with a yard, while Ruth wants financial security and the best for her son. Literary critic Domina continues, "Each of the major characters (and some of the minor ones) has a dream, and these dreams urge the plot forward" (Domina 2). However, the play clearly shows the difficulty of attaining those dreams. Big Walter, Mama's late husband never got his dreams to come true, as Mama remembers. She says, "Yes, a fine man -- just couldn't never catch up with his dreams, that's all" (Act 1, Scene1, 208). The family worry they may never find their dreams, especially after Walter gives away the insurance money, and the topic resonates today, with the financial crisis so prevalent in the news and on people's minds.

Another theme the work in the work -- courage -- comes up when the family decides to stand up to the whites who want them to keep away from their neighborhood. Even though they experience poverty and bigotry, they stand up to these racists and refuse to back down. Another critic notes, "Without addressing the important complexities and ambivalence of those decisions, they represent the courage and moral resourcefulness that were both instrumental in, and essential to, the successes of the following decade's Civil Rights struggles" (Emerson 61). This play takes place before the Civil Rights movement won rights in 1964, but it represents the hopes and dreams of an entire race in…

Sources Used in Document:


Bigsby, C.W.E. Modern American Drama, 1945-2000. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Domina, Lynn. Understanding a Raisin in the Sun: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Ed. Johnson, Claudia Durst. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. "Hansberry's a Raisin in the Sun." Explicator 52.1 (1993): 59-61.

Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. New York: Signet, 1988.

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