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A Raisin in the Sun

by Lorraine Hansberry

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An analysis of the plot, themes, characters, characterization, irony, conflict, and family dynamics in "A Raisin in the Sun"

Summary:

In "A Raisin in the Sun," the plot centers on the Younger family's struggle to improve their financial situation and achieve their dreams. Themes include racial discrimination, dreams, and family unity. Key characters like Walter, Mama, and Beneatha exhibit complex characterizations. Irony is present in their aspirations versus reality. Conflicts arise from internal family tensions and external societal pressures, highlighting the intricate family dynamics.

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What is the play "A Raisin in the Sun" about?

A Raisin in the Sun details a period of time in the lives of an African-American family, the  Youngers, who live on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s. As the play opens, the family is to receive a large insurance check as the result of  the deceased Mr. Younger’s life insurance policy. Each adult family member has a different idea as to a use for the money. Mama, wants to buy a house to fulfill a dream she shared with her husband. The son, Walter Lee, wants to invest in a liquor store with his friends, while his wife, Ruth, agrees with Mama, but hopes that they can provide more space and opportunity for their son, Travis. Beneatha, Walter’s sister and Mama’s daughter, wants to use the money for her medical school tuition, but is bothered by her family’s interest in joining the white world. She tries to find her identity by looking back to the past and to Africa.  Competing dreams cause the Youngers to clash providing the action for the remainder of the play, but as mentioned above you may read a one-page summary at the link below.

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What is the play "A Raisin in the Sun" about?

Raisin is based upon a Langston Hughe's poem called "Dream Deferred," which essentially asks the question, "what happens to our dreams if we do not chase them, but rather ignore them?" Hughes uses several images and metaphors to answer this question; among them, he states that a dream might shrivel up like a raisin in the sun if unpursued.

That being said, the play is about the conflict confronting the Younger family as it decides how to spend a $10,000 life insurance check from the passing of the family patriarch.  Mama Younger, the widow, wants to move into a nice home in a white neighborhood; Beneatha wants to use the money for medical school; Walter wants to use the money to open a liquor store.  To complicate matters, Ruth (Walter's wife) finds out that she is expecting a baby, yet she and Walter can hardly afford to take care of their son Travis.  She considers having an abortion, which runs as a subplot to the drama.

The conflict about spending the money raises questions and concerns about family, traditions, and Walter's "being a man" in his family.  This gives you a sense of what the play is about without giving everything away.... 

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What is the play "A Raisin in the Sun" about?

Briefly, Lorraine Hansberry's play is about an African-American family dealing with the loss of the father, poverty, and racial prejudice.  They live in the South Side of Chicago in the late 1950s.

You can read a one-page summary of play by visiting the link below. 

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What is the plot of A Raisin in the Sun?

This play, by black, female playwright Lorraine Hansberry, tells the story of the Younger family who are all trying to achieve their individual dreams, and in the process find out what is really important to each one of them.

The play opens on a the only setting of the play -- the Younger family apartment where Mama Younger, her son Walter and his wife and son live, along with Walter's sister Beneatha.  Mama has just received the life insurance check after Big Walter's death, and she tells that family that it is her dream to own a real house for the family.  Along with that dream, she also intends to pay for Beneatha's college education.  Walter has other dreams though.  The play focuses on Walter and his maturation through he experiences in the play.  He begs his mother for a portion of the money so that he can start his own business and have something to call his own.  He wants to start of liquor store, which Mama doesn't approve of.  Mama eventually relents and gives a portion of the money to Walter, but he ends up making a bad decision which jeopardizes all of the family's dreams.  The play is about ultimately about Walter coming to a clear understanding of what being a man is truly about.  The play uses Beneatha as a foil to Walter.  She is someone who wants to embrace her Black heritage and better discover that aspect of where she comes from, while also taking advantage of the opportunities for self-improvement through education that are available to her.  The play looks at all sides of the metaphorical question:  What happens to a raisin in the sun? -- which is an allusion to a poem by the same name, written by Langston Hughes.

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What is the plot, characterization, irony, and conflict in "A Raisin in the Sun"?

I'd like to add a bit more about the characters.

Lena (Mama) Younger is the strength and soul of the family who must hold them together when it seems they are falling apart. Her dream is to have a house for her family.

Walter Younger is Mama's son and Ruth's husband. He feels he's treated as a child, and his mother and wife don't understand his dream to have his own business, especially when he wants to buy a liquor store.

Ruth Younger, Walter's wife, loves her family, but she is tired from the stresses caused by living in poverty. When she discovers she's pregnant, she considers having an abortion.

Beneatha Younger, Mama's daughter, is searching for her identity as an African American young woman in a white world. She dates one black man whose family is wealthy and has assimilated into society, and then she dates another man from Nigeria who encourages her to discover her African heritage.

Karl Lindner is a white man from the Neighborhood Welcoming Committee of Clybourne Park who visits the Youngers and offers them money not to move into their all-white neighborhood. When they don't take his money, he suggests that even though he isn't violent, violence could occur if the Youngers move.

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What is the plot, characterization, irony, and conflict in "A Raisin in the Sun"?

You can find the answers to all of your questions here by visiting the link below to the pages here at eNotes. Just go to the "Navigation" bar on the right, and click any catagory that you are interested in. But here is a brief overview:

The plot revolves around the lives of the Younger family who are about to recieve a large check ($10,000) in life insurance money. The family's patriarch has just died. Each member of the family has ideas about how the money should be spent. The characters argue about the right way to do this, each believing their idea is the best.

The major conflict of Hansberry's play is the struggles of the African-American Younger family, who must battle against poverty and prejudice in mid-20th century South Side Chicago (approx. 1950). Though each family member's story, we learn how poverty and prejudice impacts their individual lives.

An example of dramatic irony can be found as Act I concludes. The protagonist, Ruth, is singing a song called "No Ways Tired" when in fact she is exhausted. She is also experiencing the fatigue that comes in the first trimester of pregnancy, which, of course, will lead to even more conflict.

The main characters are Ruth Younger, the pregnant daughter, who worries that her unborn child will just add more financial hardships to her already burdened family; Walter, the male protagonist, who wants to invest the money in a liquor store, and Beneathea, who dreams of becoming a doctor.

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Who is the main character in A Raisin in the Sun?

This is a play which does not have any obvious central character. Rather, Hansberry chooses to focus equally on the four main characters, Beneatha, Walter, Ruth and Mama, exploring their different views and perspectives to what is happening in their lives. This means there is no clear cut answer to the question above. However, it is possible to argue that Walter is the main character. This is because it is he who undergoes most development and change in his characteristics during the play. Remember how he starts off the play immensely frustrated because of Mama's refusal to give him any of the money to start up a liquor store. However, after he has been given the money and has seen it taken away he is still able to exert himself and show his strength of character to Mr. Lindner in the following quote:

[We] have decided to move into our house because my father—my father—he earned it for us brick by brick. We don’t want to make no trouble for nobody or fight no causes, and we will try to be good neighbors. And that’s all we got to say about that. We don’t want your money.

He therefore could be argued to be the main character in the way that he shows growth, maturity and development and is able to not be dominated by his own failures. Hansberry allows him to speak these words with tremendous dignity as he remembers his father and how hard he worked for the entire family.

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Who is the main character in A Raisin in the Sun?

Each of the adult characters in A Raisin in the Sun is burdened with a significant decision. These decisions constitute the drama of the play, in large part, and for this reason we cannot say that there is a single main character in the play. 

Walter and Mama are the most likely characters to be considered as the main figures of the play because the decisions that they make can be argued to be the most central to the main conflict of the the play. Walter and Mama are the ones who decide if the family will stay or move into a new house. 

Outside of deciding the family's geographical future, Ruth has the power to decide whether or not to keep her baby and Beneatha is engaged in a subtle and importance process in deciding how she will identity herself going forward. Her identity is crucial to the family as well, because in choosing who to be she is also choosing to keep or reject both the love and the values with which her mother has raised her.

This is a play about a family and it's struggles. No family member narrates or receives more than a balanced share of stage-time (or page-time). For this reason, making the argument that there is no single main character is easier and more accurate than making an argument that either Mama or Walter should be viewed as the central figure of the play. 

However, again, Mama and Walter are perhaps most significant in their roles in the family with Walter being, formally, the head of the household and with Mama standing as "the source of the family's strength as well as its soul".

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Who is the main character in A Raisin in the Sun?

The main characters in A Raisin in the Sun are as follows:

Lena Younger (Mama) - 60s; she is expecting a $10,000 insurance check after the death of her late husband (Big Walter)

Walter - Mama's oldest child (mid-30s); he is a chauffeur, but he wants to be the head of the household by investing in a liquor store with two others

Ruth - Walter's wife (30); she is pregnant with her second child

Beneatha - Mama's daughter (20s); she wants to be a doctor

Travis - son of Walter and Ruth (10)

*Each of these characters lives under one roof in a crowded apartment

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What is the theme of the play "A Raisin in the Sun"?

Lorraine Hansberry explores several significant themes throughout her classic play A Raisin in the Sun. Individual dreams are a prominent theme that Hansberry examines throughout the play, which is depicted by the various aspirations of the members of the Younger family. Each family member has their own personal dreams and ideas of how to spend the $10,000 insurance check. Their different dreams conflict and each member is forced to compromise in order to achieve what is best for the family.

Racial discrimination is another prominent theme explored in the play. Lena Younger's decision to buy a home in the white neighborhood of Clybourne Park presents a conflict as the white community members, who are represented by Mr. Lindner, attempt to prevent the Youngers from moving into their neighborhood.

Hansberry also explores gender relations, principally feminism, by illustrating how others react to Beneatha's dream of becoming a female doctor. Lena, Ruth, Walter Jr., and George Murchinson believe that Beneatha's dreams are unrealistic and discourage her from attempting to become a female doctor.

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What is the theme of the play "A Raisin in the Sun"?

There are a few different themes that run together.  The idea of holding onto your dreams, in the presence of racism, which is the main theme in the work.

"What happens to a person whose dreams grow more and more passionate--while his hopes of ever achieving those dreams grow dimmer each day?"

The struggle for African Americans to gain civil rights and the prejudice that existed and intolerance in society before the laws were changed in the 1960s.  

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What is the theme of the play "A Raisin in the Sun"?

There is no singular theme in A Raisin in the Sun; however, there does seem to be an overriding theme: the collusion of race and socio-economic class as barriers that impede social mobility.

The impeding of socio-economic mobility is what causes dreams to be "deferred"-- as Langston Hughes writes in his poem alluded to in Hansberry's title--to dry up like "a raisin in the sun." This idea is symbolized by the plant that Lena Younger has in the one window in the front rooms; it struggles to sustain itself on this small amount of sun.

After Mrs. Lena Younger receives the $10,000 life insurance check for her deceased husband, she dreams of moving to a house with a yard where she can have a garden. Her son Walter Lee dreams of owning a business and of being the new man of the family. Ruth, his wife, also anticipates a new home and new beginning as she has been depressed by Walter's dissatisfaction and a pregnancy they cannot afford. Beneatha is the daughter of Lena, a young woman who is uncertain of her future as she waivers in her choice of values and boyfriends.

Unfortunately, Walter's dream of owning a liquor store is shattered when a friend to whom he has given a part of the insurance money runs off with it. Also, Lena's dream of owning a home starts to fall through when objections come from the suburban homeowners' association. But, when Mr. Lindner visits the Youngers and offers more than the family has paid for the house, Walter Lee changes his mind about accepting the money. He tells Mr. Lindner,

WALTER: [W]e have decided to move into our house because my father—my father—he earned it for us brick by brick. We don’t want to make no trouble for nobody or fight no causes, and we will try to be good neighbors. And that’s all we got to say about that. We don’t want your money.

Walter has changed his priorities from becoming prosperous to the welfare of his family. Lena closes her eyes and nods as though she were in church. But Walter has been "saved" in the sense that he now is the man of the family, and Youngers will no longer have their dreams dry up like "raisins in the sun."

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What is the theme of the play "A Raisin in the Sun"?

Hansberry's work is a very provocative one and much comes out of it.  I think that one of the most powerful themes in the work is the discussion of forms of social stratification in modern society.  The play explores issues of race, class, gender, as well as age as elements that impact the barriers that individuals face in society.  Through the different characters, we can see each of these dynamics unfold.  At the same time, I think that another element that comes out is the definition of the American Dream.  The notion of upward mobility is something that is examined as a part of the American Dream and what it means to be "successful."  The Younger family is unique in that their idea of accomplishing the American Dream of moving into Clybourne Park is also concurrent with them becoming more close as a family.  The play forces us to ponder the flip side to this equation.  Hansberry is wise enough to make the reader question what would happen if a family had to choose one of the elements over the other and the difficulties that are posed in such a setting.  I think that there is another topic brought out in the play as to whether it is a work of comedy or tragedy.  In this light, one can make a case for the work to be comedic in that the Younger family's struggles are validated, and much like the plant, they will grow.  Yet, there can be a tragic condition offered in that there are many more families that do not experience the success of the Youngers.  For these families, will their dreams become "a heavy load?"  I think that this becomes another topic that arises from the drama.

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What are the family dynamics in "A Raisin in the Sun"?

When the play opens, the relationship between Ruth and Walter is definitely strained. At the time, we don't know it but Ruth is pregnant and unsure if she will be able to have the baby because there is simply not enough space in their cramped apartment. Walter and Ruth even struggle over Travis, Walter playing "the good guy" and Mama being the disciplinarian. In addition, there is a struggle for leadership of the family between Mama and Walter. Walter is already a husband and father yet he still lives with his mother and sister. He desperately wants something better and thinks this will come if he is allowed to spend his father's life insurance money on a liquor store. Mama, who is devoutly religious, simply refuses to have the money spent on what she considers to be a sinful business. In addition, Walter's sister, Beneatha, manages to be an irritant because of her haughty attitude and constant insistence that she will be a doctor. As Beneatha says, "We've all got ghetto-itis". During the play, the dynamics of the family changes as they are forced to confront racism that affects them all.

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