Abstract illustration of the houses of Clybourne Park

A Raisin in the Sun

by Lorraine Hansberry
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What would be a good thesis statement for A Raisin in the Sun?

A good thesis statement for A Raisin in the Sun might argue that Walter matures more from losing his share of the insurance money than from inheriting it, as the loss forces him to face reality.

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Choosing a good thesis statement for A Raisin in the Sun will depend on the reader’s interpretation. Lorraine Hansberry’s play is primarily a family drama, so the thesis should be concerned with family. It also addresses broader social issues of the 1950s, when it was written. Through its allusion to Langston Hughes’ poem, the play’s title indicates the long-term effects of deferring dreams. Over the course of the play, the audience sees the different characters realizing, adjusting, or abandoning their dreams. Each viewer or reader will conclude if Hansberry’s message is ultimately optimistic or pessimistic in regard to achieving one’s dreams.

In some ways, all members of the family will benefit from Mama’s decision to buy a house where they can all live together. Walter learns a valuable lesson about the relationship between ambition and trust through losing a large sum of money. The fighting between siblings is a source of constant friction, as he derides Beneatha’s ambitions.

Lena or Mama is shown as the primary source of strength and guidance and proves capable of making an important decision that will support everyone. Ultimately, her action shows Walter and the other Youngers the importance of sticking together. Therefore, an appropriate thesis statement could indicate the author’s message that strong family bonds are essential for overcoming social obstacles.

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A good thesis statement is arguable or debatable, specific, and able to be supported by the text in question.

Saying that the family came into a $10,000 insurance policy would not be a good thesis statement, because it is not arguable: it is a fact, not an opinion. So you would need to think about opinions you have about the play.

One matter of opinion that comes to mind is whether or not Walter's being cheated of his and his sister's share of the inheritance is ultimately a good or bad occurrence. On the surface, it seems a terrible blow, one that Walter hardly needs. However, it might be argued that losing the money has the positive effect of blowing Walter into reality. Money alone is not going to guarantee smooth sailing or success. Even with money, life is a struggle. It could be argued that as he realizes this, Walter becomes inclined to engage in that struggle and, for this reason, does not allow the family to back out of the contract for the house in the white neighborhood.

If that seems like a reasonable opinion, you might frame a thesis statement that says something like the following: "Walter grows into maturity not through the windfall of an insurance policy but through being forced to face reality through the misfortune of losing his share of the money."

This is a strong thesis because it is both arguable and specific. However to make this work, you will need to go back to the play and find quotes that show Walter maturing—you might want to contrast some of his earlier quotes as he daydreams of success with quotes at the end of the play show him willing to more realistically face struggle and adversity. You might also take this same idea and apply it Beneatha's loss of the money and her own struggles.

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A good thesis statement would relate to one of the key thematic aspects of this play, which is dreams and their importance to the characters. It is very obvious from the early scenes in the play that each of the main characters has their own dream of how they can rise above the circumstances that threaten to keep them pressed down in society. Beneatha, for example, dreams of being a doctor, Walter of having her own business and Mama of having a house for all of them where they can thrive. The dream of Walter is something he refers to when talking proudly to Travis about his future life when he has achieved that dream:

You wouldn’t understand yet, son, but your daddy’s gonna make a transaction... a business transaction that’s going to change our lives... That’s how come one day when you ‘bout seventeen years old I’ll come home... I’ll pull the car up on the driveway... just a plain black Chrysler, I think, with white walls—no—black tires... the gardener will be clipping away at the hedges and he’ll say, “Good evening, Mr. Younger.” And I’ll say, “Hello, Jefferson, how are you this evening?”

It is clear from the details of this dream that Walter's dream is made up of a combination of the conversations he would have heard working as a chauffeur and also his own impression of the kind of houses such people live in and the cars they own. However, the quote does continue to talk about him having a better relationship with Ruth and Travis being able to study at any university, which indicates his dream is not entirely materialistic.

What happens during the course of the play, however, is that each character realises that the most important dream for them as a family is to own their own house, as it unites them as a family. Each one of them is therefore willing to put aside--temporarily perhaps--their own personal dream in order for them to pursue this dream. A good thesis statement would therefore be:

The characters in A Raisin in the Sun each pursue their own individual dream, but by the end put their individual dreams aside to pursue a collective dream that they recognise is vital for their unity and survival as a family.

This allows for an exploration of dreams whilst also ensuring that the one dream of having a house is focused on with sufficient importance.

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