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How does  "Living for the City" relate to the theme of A Raisin in the Sun?

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babsp24 | Student, College Freshman | Honors

Posted April 16, 2013 at 11:39 PM via web

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How does  "Living for the City" relate to the theme of A Raisin in the Sun?

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 17, 2013 at 9:44 AM (Answer #1)

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The original question had to be edited.  In many respects, Stevie Wonder's song is the embodiment of what the Younger family seeks to avoid.  The song and the drama depict the reality of race and racism in America.  Both works feature protagonists that must navigate through these realities in order to realize their dreams.  The various dreams of the Younger family are no different than the aspirations of the boy from "hard time Mississippi."  The struggles and challenges that both protagonists face are a result of the racism that exists in American society.

The fundamental difference is in how both narratives speak to the consequences of this reality.  The strength of the Younger family to face the challenges of racism together, as a unit, is what helps them to succeed.  Mama Younger realizes that her family is withering away.  It is for this reason that she buys the house.  Walter realizes that the lessons that Travis and his unborn child learn and the dignity of being his own man will only come from the strength of standing up for his family.  The Younger family face down racism, prejudice, and the socially ostracizing conditions of race as a unit.  In their collective solidarity, there is hope in being able to draw the strength and courage that can challenge the condition of race in American society.

When the protagonist in the song remarks about coming to New York with "skyscrapers and everything," it is an individualistic quest. The protagonist has left his family and his unit of support from the South.  His coming to the North is filled with challenges and he faces them alone.  Such an isolating narrative is complete with poor decisions such as "running this across the street right quick" and the pleas of "I didn't know."  The racism embedded in the institutional structures that sentence him to jail time and release him into a society where he is alone and fragmented:

His hair is long, his feet are hard and gritty 
He spends his love walking the streets of New York City 
He's almost dead from breathing on air pollution 
He tried to vote but to him there's no solution.

The condition of the protagonist in the song fundamentally differs from the Younger family because he is alone.  Hansberry's approach to being able to effectively confront the issue of racism in American society is through solidarity. When people are able to ackowledge the bonds that exist between them and act in honor of them, there is a greater chance of being able to face a situation in which there very well might be "no solution."  I think that this is where the thematic element of both works offer different approach on the same and intricate theme.

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