In "A Raisin in the Sun", why does the author go to such lengths to describe the furnishings of the Younger family's apartment?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hansberry gives a vivid, extensive description of the Youngers' apartment on the South Side of Chicago, which represents the family's struggles. The furniture in the Youngers' apartment is worn out and old, and Hansberry writes that the primary feature of the apartment is that it is too small to accommodate that many people. Hansberry uses words like "weariness" and "depressing" to describe the apartment's features, which correspond to the emotions and feelings of the Younger family.

There is also very little natural light and virtually no privacy in the cramped apartment. The Youngers' worn out apartment creates an atmosphere of restriction, tension, and stress. The family is sick of living in close quarters and is anxious to improve their living situation, which explains the attitudes and behaviors of each character. Ruth is weary, and her husband is anxious to use the $10,000 insurance check to establish his liquor business, which he hopes will improve the family's financial status. Lena also wishes for her family to live in a comfortable, accommodating home, which is why she purchases the house in Clybourne Park. Overall, Hansberry's extensive description of the Youngers' tiny apartment furthers the portrayal of their suppressed, tired emotions and of the motivation Lena has to purchase a new home.

playsthething eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The simple answer is that the apartment is a very tangible symbol of what the family is missing, and what their dreams are trying to move them out of.  The apartment lacks space, with Travis sleeping on the couch, and Mama and Beneatha sharing a bedroom.  The apartment lacks sunlight, with Mama's plant barely surviving.

The detailed description of the apartment also helps establish the time period of the play, as well as important family values.  Mama's pride in keeping the place clean and tidy, Walter Sr.'s portrait in a place of honor overlooking the family, and Beneatha's embarrassment when Asagi comes to visit are all communicated through the play's setting.

The move to the new house (hope) offers sunlight and space, to give the family room to grow and light to see their dreams come true.

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A Raisin in the Sun

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