What specific elements of imagery helped the audience "see" the family's circumstances in A Raisin in the Sun?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Look at some of the longer passages for visual imagery.  Look at Walter's soliloquy when he's drunk in particular.  Like a shaman, he conjures Africa (IMAGERY in bold):

Listen, my black brothers... Do you hear the waters rushing against the shores of the coastlands...Do you hear the screeching of the cocks in yonder hills beyond where the chiefs meet in council for the coming of the mighty war... ...Do you hear the beating of the wings of the birds flying low over the mountains and the low places of our land ....Do you hear the singing of the women, singing the war songs of our fathers to the babies in the great houses? Singing the sweet war songs! OH, DO YOU HEAR, MY BLACK BROTHERS!


  • Prison/captivity imagery: "dungeon"
  • Nationalism imagery (America vs. Africa): "flag" and "spear"; "marching songs"
  • Slave imagery: "five generations of people who was slaves"
  • Home / food imagery: "I spec you better come 'round here from time to time to get yourself some decent home-cooked meals . . ."
  • Garden imagery: "I always wanted me a garden like I used to see sometimes at the back of the houses down home."
  • Work / job / driving imagery: "A job. (Looks at her) Mama, a job? I open and close car doors all day long. I drive a man around in his limousine and I say, "Yes, sir; no, sir; very good, sir; shall I take the Drive, sir?" Mama, that ain't no kind of job . . . that ain't nothing at all."
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The physical configuration of the set at the start of the play helps to bring the imagery of economic challenge in the life of the Younger family.  The fact that all of the family sleep in one room helps to bring this out.  Ruth ironing throughout the first scene is done for her employing family, not her own.  Travis' need for fifty cents and this causing so much arguing between Walter and Ruth helps to also create the picture of economic challenge.  The constant dialogue between most of the characters about "the check" also illuminates this idea.  In being able to "see" the family's circumstances, the audience clearly grasps how finances play a strong role in the day to day consciousness of the Youngers.

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A Raisin in the Sun

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