Describe two or three instances in A Raisin in the Sun where Hansberry effectively uses stage direction to help communicate important themes in the play. Quote specific moments from the play and be sure to explain what themes are being suggested.

Hansberry’s stage directions early in act I about Lena and the plant relate to the interrelated themes of nurturing and resilience. Later in the act, stage directions about Beneatha and the Nigerian dress relate to the theme of African heritage.

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Throughout A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry provides ample stage directions that would help the reader understand the play’s setting, characters, and events. In act I, two instances of stage that connect well with the play’s themes are concerned with Lena’s and Beneatha’s respective roles. Early in the act, as the character of Lena or Mama is introduced, she tends to her plant. This interaction, which is repeated throughout the play, relates to the theme of nurturing and the closely related theme of resilience. Near the end of that act, Beneatha considers the Nigerian outfit that she just received as a gift. The gift itself as well as Beneatha’s careful regard for it stand for the theme of African heritage.

In the morning, Lena emerges from her bedroom later after the rest of the family has already gotten up. She goes to the kitchen to see to her plant. This interaction symbolizes her role as a nurturer, which is one of her key functions in the play. The “feeble little plant” also represents the theme of resilience. It takes advantage of the tiny bit of sunlight and keeps “growing doggedly” like the Youngers do:

She crosses through the room, goes to the window, opens it, and brings in a feeble little plant growing doggedly in a small pot on the windowsill. She feels the dirt and puts it back out.

Throughout the play, Beneatha becomes increasingly interested in her African heritage, as many others were in the post-war era. This interest is stimulated by her friendship with a Nigerian student, Joseph Asagai. When he visits her at the family apartment, he brings her a gift of a traditional Nigerian outfit. After Joseph leaves, Beneatha is alone on stage. As she thoughtfully regards each element of the ensemble, she thinks about how she looks now and even pretends to move in what she imagines is a Nigerian way.

She picks up the Nigerian dress and holds it up to her in front of the mirror again. She sets the headdress on haphazardly and then notices her hair again and clutches at it and then replaces the headdress and frowns at herself. Then she starts to wriggle in front of the mirror as she thinks a Nigerian woman might.

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