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In Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun, there is an early and extended description of the interior of the Younger family's apartment. This description is where, if I remember correctly, we encounter the statement that the apartment is well-order but full of weariness. These two, somewhat conflicting moods -- ordered and weary -- can be seen in details in that same description. The whole space is cramped but organized. The couch and other furniture are heavily worn and almost entirely covered by materials to conceal the wear. The wallpaper also shows the wear (again, if I remember correctly); when the pictures come down off the walls in one of the final scenes of the play, we're told that dark spots remain where the pictures had kept the wallpaper from fading. A related set of moods or themes -- e.g. hope and oppression -- are also expressed in part through the details of the apartment, such as the small kitchen window.
A Raisin in the Sun is a great play, and the reader (or viewer) certainly gets more out of it when looking carefully not just at the story but also at the setting.
I think that this description of the apartment shows the challenges faced by the Younger family. Part of the critical element in Hansberry's work is to show that strain and stress that is placed upon the members of the family. A component of this is based on race. Namely, that people of color experienced challenges in America of the 1960's and 1970s. Another element that places stress on the Younger family is the narrative of class or economic reality. The Youngers face challenges dictated by race/ ethnicity and class. Both of these components provide a large sense of strain on their hopes and dreams. Within both of these dynamics, exist the personal struggles of the characters. Beneatha's desire to have her voice heard, attempting to overcome the barrier of gender discrimination, as well. Walter seeks to emerge as the man of the family, rising from his deceased father's shadow and trying to reclaim the joy and happiness that was once his. Ruth struggles to keep the family together, while Mama has to try her best to guide the family in the right direction. Travis, like the rat that is cornered, struggles to identify some aspect of childhood in a setting where such innocence disappears quickly. The reality is that while the apartment is well- ordered, the strain of consciousness each experiences has a culminating effect in the look and feel of the room.
I'd like to add to the discussion.
The apartment, like Mama Younger, the family matriarch, is worn. She is an elderly widower ready for her son, Walter, to step up to the plate, so to speak, and be the man his father raised him to be. In the well-ordered scheme of life, he is long overdue to.
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