Discuss how racism is depicted in both Fences and A Raisin in the Sun.

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

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Racism and socio- economic marginalization is present in both dramas.  Hansberry presents this as a condition that plagues the Younger family.  The fact that the opening scene is centered around "the check" is representative of this.  The Younger family is experiencing racial discrimination and economic marginalization and struggles with how both seek to silence their voices.  The Maxson family experiences much the same.  Troy's condition as a working man is challenged on both racial grounds as well as a socio- economic experience that prevents him from fully embracing a sense of autonomy about his own state of being in the world.  Both families are pressured by their places in the world and the conditions that surround them both.  I think that the difference between both is that Hansberry's work presents a note of redemption as to how families can overcome such a state of being.  In Walter rejecting Lindner's offer and presenting himself as being willing and embracing the challenge of living in a neighborhood where there is a chance for success, Hansberry is suggesting that redemption is possible.  This is not to say that Wilson's drama is condemning, but rather that his drama is the "anti- Hansberry."  Troy's character is one that cannot transcend the social, economic, and emotional condition that weighs down on him.  Whereas Walter's ending reflects that he "will not be spiritually defeated," Troy's ending is one where he has become a victim to the world and setting that he despises with so much intensity.  In the end, I think that racism and social reality is depicted in both dramas with a sense of brutal honesty.  The playwrights do not create an artificial resolution to such a condition.  Rather, they argue that individuals must make a conscious choice if they are going to become victimized by such a condition, or embrace the fight or struggle that is involved in trying to offset the inertia of racism and social inequality.  In this light, racism is depicted as a condition of the social order that must be changed.  Yet, until that structural reconfiguration can take place, individuals must determine how they are going to be agents of change within this setting.  Through Troy and Walter as well as their families' reaction to racism, a potential blueprint for what shall be done and how individuals shall live is offered.

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