What are some of the social ideas that come out of A Raisin in the Sun?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Hansberry's work touches on some rather complex and profound social ideas in her play.  I think that one of the most interesting ideas to arise from the play is the presence of converging social constructions that help to limit an individual's voice.  At a time when race or gender were seen as the primary distinction from a social constructivist point of view, Hansberry hits on several realities. She brings out the idea that people can have their voice silenced on different levels.  Race, class, and gender can all interact with one another and converge.  There is no aspect of "choice," in that all of these forces serve to impact the pursuit and attainment of dreams.  This is a very intersting social idea to come out of the work, and one that is highly relevant today.

I think that another element of the work that provides a very interesting social idea is the issue of envy and resentment amongst one's own.  The Youngers face opposition from the white community toward their move into Clybourne Park.  While it is not right, to a certain extent, it is understood as part of the terrain.  Yet, to face resistance from one's own is a social idea that Hansberry is not afraid to raise.  Mrs. Johnson's nosiness and her sense of resentment, in wanting to cause fear in the Youngers helps to convey that the belief that social solidarity is all encompassing is simply not true.  This becomes one of the most interesting ideas to come out of Hansberry's work.  One must struggle against all forms of adversaries and there should not be a blind belief that solidarity will mask all forms of envy and deceit.  This is also seen in how Bobo's money and Walter's money is stolen by one of their own.  In the end, one has to be willing to accept that individuals' resentment and sense of malevolence is not limited to race, class, or gender.

I think that one of the last ideas that is so meaningful about the play is that it makes a universal statement from the subjective experience of one family.  The idea of "makin' it" and being successful is a tough one for Hansberry to make as a universal statement.  Rather, she depicts the condition of one family and their struggle.  In the end, we don't know how they fare with the move to Clybourne Park.  We believe they will be successful, but we simply don't know.  It is in this social idea that Hansberry makes her drama so meaningful.  In the end, there can be no guarantees.  There can be no absolutes.  Through the story of one family, we, as the reader/ audience, seek to better understand the difficulties in looking out for one's family and pursuing one's dream so that it does not become "a raisin in the sun."  Hansberry leaves us with a faint image of hope, which is the only absolute in such a narrative.

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