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A Raisin in the Sun is notable for being the first Broadway play authored by an African-American woman, Lorraine Hansberry, and the first directed by an African-American. The play involves a family who has received a life-insurance payment, and are divided on how to spend it.
Although the surface of the play has all the members of the Younger family arguing about the material wealth of the payment, and what items they want to use it for, the underlying themes are of upward mobility and the betterment of their family situation. As poor members of society, the Youngers have not had good luck in their life, and they all see their poverty as being a major factor in keeping them from improving their lives. Mama, the leader of the family, wants to purchase a house in a white neighborhood, raising both their standard of living and their societal standing. Walter, her son, wants to invest in a liquor store, thinking that this will increase their financial standing with less risk; Beneatha, her daughter, wants to go to medical school, but does not want to involve herself in the white community, instead seeking her roots in Africa.
All the members have specific material desires, but they all want to better the family as a whole. Walter wants financial security for the family, Mama wants to move them to a better neighborhood, and Beneatha wants them all to stop looking for acceptance in a culture that is not their own. Their immediate needs are shown to be more altruistic than selfish, as they look ultimately for the benefit of the family more than for their own desires.
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