What is the significance of the plant in A Raisin in the Sun? What does it symbolize?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun  is so layered and nuanced that something so simple as a plant becomes something so much more, so deeply symbolic. On a more obvious level, the plant can represent the dreams of a disenfranchised African-American family, and by extension, all African-Americans in...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun is so layered and nuanced that something so simple as a plant becomes something so much more, so deeply symbolic. On a more obvious level, the plant can represent the dreams of a disenfranchised African-American family, and by extension, all African-Americans in the late 50s. 

Tucked in a corner, struggling to survive, this plant needs more than the love and attention Mama provides in order to survive. It needs light, away from the confines of the Southside ghetto to truly thrive. Through the course of the play, it functions primarily as an afterthought for Mama, something she turns her attention to after she has worked through some struggle. Yet, at the play's conclusion, her little plant takes center stage as it is almost the last to leave the apartment. Mama comes back for it, not because she has forgotten, but because it cannot be left behind, just like her family. It comes to represent this family's success, and again by extension, other African-American families', as well.

From a different perspective, the plant could also serve as a symbol for Lena's children.  The plant is certainly something she tends to and fusses over, much the same way she does with her children. She knows the plant needs more than she is currently able to provide in order to survive, again like her children, specifically Walter Lee. This metaphor of plant to child comes into focus when Lena buys the house in Clybourne Park. Lena can lift her children out of the ghetto and can lift the plant out of the dark corner in which it struggles to survive. Both family and plant are given some space and some freedom and we can assume, will thrive.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team