Abstract illustration of the houses of Clybourne Park

A Raisin in the Sun

by Lorraine Hansberry

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In what ways does A Raisin in the Sun express both optimism and pessimism about the moral strength of human beings? Discuss three scenes closely in your response.

A Raisin in the Sun expresses optimism through the Younger family members’s determination to achieve their goals and pessimism through the Clybourne Park residents’s racist actions and Willy’s theft. One scene that affirms this optimisim is when Walter takes a moral stance in standing up to Karl Lindner. Two scenes that show a pessimistic view are those where Bobo admits that Willy has stolen their money, and where Lindner first appears to buy off the Youngers.

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Overall, Lorraine Hansberry expresses an optimistic vision of late 1950’s US society, but she casts a harsh light on the negative aspects such as racism and dishonesty. The upbeat ending, in which Walter stands up for his family and black people in general, conveys this optimism.

Walter has been thinking primarily of achieving his own dream. He believes that establishing himself as a business owner will help him provide for his family and make him a good role model for his and Ruth’s son, Travis. He has belittled his mother’s decision to buy a home. When Karl Lindner returns to their apartment, believing that the Youngers will accept the community association’s buy-off, Walter stands up to him. He decides both to support his mother and to oppose the racist attitudes that Lindner represents. His integrity will leave a lasting impression on his son, and may influence the boy’s future decisions.

This turnaround in Walter’s attitude at the end of the play provides a welcome contrast to the pessimistic mood that Bobo’s news and Lindner’s first visit created. When Bobo, Walter’s friend and partner in the liquor store, comes to the Younger apartment, Walter expects to hear that he and their other friend, Willy, have succeeded in obtaining the liquor license. Instead, Willy has stolen their money. Even worse, Walter did not have his mother’s permission to use the insurance money for the liquor store. He must admit this moral lapse to everyone; he behaved selfishly and lied to his mother, who trusted him to put the money in the bank.

This seems like the low point in the Youngers’s lives and Walter’s self esteem, but an even bleaker tone is set when Karl Lindner comes to the apartment. He represents some white homeowners in the Youngers’s new neighborhood, Clybourne Park. They want to buy off the Youngers by paying them not to move in. Lindner Using the cliché that “our Negro families” are happier living in separate communities, Lindner denies the racism of his intent. The idea that the white families do not want any black families to live near them, even though they know nothing about them, provides a pessimistic outlook on American society.

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