A Raisin in the Sun Sample Essay Outlines
by Lorraine Hansberry

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Sample Essay Outlines

Sample Analytical Paper Topics
These are topics on which you can write a substantial analytical paper. They are designed to test your understanding of major themes and details from the play as a whole. Following the topics are outlines you can use as a starting point for writing an analytical paper.

Topic #1
In thinking of the Langston Hughes poem from which the title of this play was taken, the key concept of dreams deferred comes to mind. Choose three characters in the play and state what their dreams are, including symbolism related to their dreams.

I. Thesis Statement: Mrs. Younger, Walter Lee, and Beneatha have cherished dreams. These dreams reveal a great deal about the nature of the characters’ longings which unjust societal expectations cannot destroy.

II. Mrs. Lena Younger’s dreams
A.Maintaining her family with dignity
1. Preserving the memory of the elder Mr. Younger
2. Enjoying a stable and secure family life
B. Having her own garden to tend to
1. The garden as representing aspirations held dear

2. The persistence of that which is valuable in the long run sprouting forth into the world also symbolized by this central metaphor

III. Walter Lee’s dreams
A. Material success
1. Prosperity for himself and his family, to be able to provide for them well
2. Not to be one of the “tooken” in life
B. Liquor business
1. Oblivion through alcohol, a defeatist dream, headed toward despair
2. An inversion of the “American Dream”

IV. Beneatha’s dreams
A. Medical school
1. Dedication to humanity’s ills symbolized
2. Hatred, prejudice, and violence cast as the world’s ailments
B. True love in marriage
1. Choosing not to marry rather than marry someone she does not feel understood by
2. Rejecting a conventional marriage based on wealth

V. Conclusion: The dreams of the Younger family show the power of positive aspirations in the face of overwhelming odds.

Topic #2
The references to Mr. Walter Younger, Sr. in the play make his presence felt to us, even though he is deceased when the play begins. Thinking of the personalities and character development of his grown children, what do you think Mr. Younger would have been proud of or would have disapproved of, if he had lived?

I. Thesis Statement: The elder Mr. Younger shared values and a vision with Mrs. Younger which would have been reflected in his pride or disappointment in his grown children.

II. Shared life with Mrs. Lena Younger
A. Desire for stable family life
B. Grief over lost baby
C. Commitment to providing for his family in the face of the world’s hostility to their survival

III. Walter Lee
A. Pride in fine family Walter heads
B. Pride in Walter’s steady employment
C. Disappointment and disapproval of Walter’s drinking
D. Disapproval of Walter’s liquor store schemes

IV. Beneatha
A. Approval of her plans for medical school
B. Approval of her college education
C. Disapproval of her bickering with her brother
D. Disapproval of her low tolerance for other people’s opinions if they don’t correspond with her own
1. Rudeness to Mrs. Johnson
2. Calling George Murchison an “assimilationist”

V. Conclusion: The grown children of the Younger family have developed along lines the elder Mr. Younger would have both been proud of and have disagreed with, according to the values and hopes for his family he and Mrs. Younger shared.

Topic #3
The image of a garden to tend to is reminiscent of Voltaire’s Candide and supplies a central metaphor of the play. In the Voltaire work, it symbolizes finding one’s own areas of peace and nurturing in a tormented world. What gardens do the members of the Younger family have to tend to, metaphorically speaking?

I. Thesis Statement: The members of the Younger family all have “gardens to tend to,” areas of tranquillity and well-being in otherwise difficult lives.

II. Voltaire’s Candide
A. Voltaire, French writer of Candide 200 years ago
1. Well-versed in the philosophy of his day
2.Wrote scathing attacks on hypocrisy and misguided societal trends in his works

(The entire section is 1,274 words.)