A Raisin in the Sun A Raisin in the Sun
by Lorraine Hansberry

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A Raisin in the Sun

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The Youngers are desperate, in varying degrees, for change and are presented with the means necessary for change in the form of a $10,000 life insurance payment which they are to receive following the death of the head of the family. Disagreements about what to do with the money, however, threaten to alienate them from one another.

Walter Lee Younger, a chauffeur with a wife and son, wants to buy a liquor store. Beneatha, his younger sister, wants to go to medical school. Lena, their mother, wants to buy a decent house in an all-white neighborhood. Lena decides to compromise and split the money between them, but Walter is robbed by a business partner. After Walter makes the conflict worse by accepting money from a representative of the white neighborhood for not moving there, he changes his mind, realizing he would be sacrificing his manhood.

The problems which might have destroyed the Youngers have unified them, made them stronger as individuals and as a family because they have gained self-knowledge and learned to love one another more.

The first of the two full-length works which Hansberry lived to complete, the play is one of the most widely known literary creations by a black American. She makes the Youngers more than typical American blacks; they are members of the universal family of those who strive to realize their dreams.


Abramson, Doris. Negro Playwrights in the American Theater: 1925–1959. New York: Columbia University Press, 1969. The definitive work in African American drama. Treats the origin and development of the black drama—its structure, themes, innovations, and impact—from its nineteenth century beginnings through Hansberry.

Bennett, Lerone, Jr., and Margaret G. Burroughs. “A Lorraine Hansberry Rap.” Freedomways 19, no. 4 (1979): 226–233. A discussion between Bennett, a historian and editor of Ebony magazine, and Burroughs, an artist and teacher. The article focuses on Hansberry’s career, with much of the discussion devoted to an assessment of the themes and characters in A Raisin in the Sun and the reasons for its popularity with both black and white audiences.

Bigsby, C. W. E., ed. Poetry and Drama. Vol. 2 in The Black American Writer. Deland, Fla.: Everett/Edwards, 1969. Provides a historical development of African American drama, with a full chapter devoted to Hansberry’s plays.

Carter, Steven R. Hansberry’s Drama: Commitment amid Complexity. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991. A detailed study of Hansberry’s entire canon. Chapter 2 focuses on the stage version of A Raisin in the Sun, and the following chapter discusses the two film versions as well as the hit musical, titled Raisin, that appeared in 1973.

Cheney, Anne. Lorraine Hansberry. Boston: Twayne, 1984. In this generally complimentary biography, Cheney cites both Paul Robeson (as political radical) and Langston Hughes (as poet of his people) as major influences on Hansberry. She also defends Hansberry’s assimilationist views, which some African Americans criticized harshly.

Chinoy, Helen Krich, and Linda Walsh Jenkins, eds. Women and American Theatre. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1987. In “Lorraine Hansberry: Artist, Activist, Feminist,” Margaret Wilkerson stresses Hansberry’s early awareness of the connection that exists between racism and sexism. She also makes the point that Hansberry understood and tried to dramatize the difference between Lena’s notion of material advance for the family and Walter Lee’s crass materialism. Furthermore, she asserts that the playwright had come to terms with her lesbianism, but she gives no concrete evidence for this assumption.

Cruse, Harold. The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual. London: W. H. Allen, 1969. Ignoring completely the feminist value of A Raisin in the Sun and the fact that Hansberry was the youngest dramatist to win the Best Play award, Cruse is vehement in his criticism of the dramatist simply because she represents assimilation and integration as a solution for racial...

(The entire section is 1,106 words.)