In Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, when characters quote from or reference the Bible do they tend to allude to a consistent theme?

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Lorraine Hansberry weaves religious allusions throughout the play A Raisin in the Sun because religion would have been a part of the characters every day lives. Beneatha , who tends to challenge societal norms, often uses sarcasm to challenge her parents’ beliefs. In act one, scene one, she is slapped...

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Lorraine Hansberry weaves religious allusions throughout the play A Raisin in the Sun because religion would have been a part of the characters every day lives. Beneatha, who tends to challenge societal norms, often uses sarcasm to challenge her parents’ beliefs. In act one, scene one, she is slapped for telling her mother that there is no God. Lena will not let her daughter move until she acknowledges "In my mother's house there is still God." For Lena Younger, God and religion are an important part of her life. While she’ll allow Beneatha to question many things, she will not let her question the existence of God. Later in the play, Beneatha alludes to the story of Adam and Eve as she scoffs at the possibility of marrying George Murchison: “George Murchison! I wouldn’t marry him if he was Adam and I was Eve!” (133)

When needed, the Younger family comes together as one. As the family unites to react to Karl Linder’s offer in act three, Beneatha supports their argument with a religious allusion to Judas, "thirty pieces and not a coin less." The reference is to the thirty pieces of silver Judas was paid for betraying Jesus. Just as Judas could not be trusted, Beneatha instantly realizes the man has not come with a true offer for them and that his kind words just hide true motives.

Throughout the play, the characters often sing spirituals. These songs are characteristic of the time but also give the reader insight into many of their struggles. Both Mama and Ruth sing “No Ways Tired,” a song where the singer laments all they’ve done to get to where they are. The family has worked, struggled, saved, and fought to be able to move to the new neighborhood, but they realize their fight is not over. In act two, Walter, feeling as though everything is going his way for once, sings the spiritual “Heaven.” The spiritual was once a song sung by slaves to mock their Christian slave masters who didn’t really practice true Christian values.

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Characters do tend to allude to the themes of betrayal and ultimatum when referencing or directly quoting the Bible. Each of the bulleted examples above features these themes:

  • Ruth quotes the Bible, insinuating that Walter, like fraudulent prophets of the past, would lead them to a worse place than where they are now.
  • Beneatha would not marry George if he were Adam and she were Eve.
  • Beneatha asks for 30 pieces of silver for the home, the same amount paid to Judas for betraying Jesus.

Be sure that when you answer your teacher, you don't just say "Yes, the theme is [x]". The numbered steps I gave you below are a helpful tip on how to format your response.

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I think one thing that you need to consider is the specificity of your question. When you say "The Bible", do you specifically mean the religious text, or do you generally mean the Christian religion and God? 

Some general themes that are present through biblical allusions are ultimatums and betrayals. I would encourage you to find evidence for these big ideas and to explain how/why quotations from the text actually feature them. Some suggested areas for you to look: 

  • Walter and Ruth's first conversation in I.ii, when Ruth disparages Walter's dreams
  • Beneatha's comments about George Murchinson and whether or not she would marry him in III
  • Beneatha's demanded price of Mr. Lindner when he offers to buy the house from Mama in II.iii

To be able to fully answer this question, here is my suggested format for you: 

  1. Find evidence in A Raisin in the Sun, either the quotations I suggested or others. 
  2. Do some research on Biblical quotations whose words or ideas match those referenced by Hansberry. 
  3. Explain how, through this connection to the Bible, the line from ARITS displays the theme of betrayal or of ultimatum. When I say explain, I don't just mean identify the fact that it is "there". Actually prove that the idea's presence in ARITS is made stronger or better by the biblical allusion. 
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