Abstract illustration of the houses of Clybourne Park

A Raisin in the Sun

by Lorraine Hansberry

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Student Question

What is the significance of setting in A Raisin in the Sun, and how might a modern staging reflect today's society?

Quick answer:

In A Raisin in the Sun, the setting is important because it highlights the family’s struggles and perseverance. The play is in a cramped apartment in Chicago in the 1950s. There is not a lot of space, but the family keeps their home clean. If it were running today, it would likely reference some modern aspects of urban culture, such as the role of hip-hop, as well as relevant social issues like police brutality.

Expert Answers

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Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun takes place in a cramped apartment in Chicago. The family members have to share a bathroom with other residents in the building, and there is not a lot of sunlight. Perhaps most concerning for the family is that the home is so small that Ruth does not know how they can fit the child she is pregnant with. The apartment’s condition is important, because it highlights the family’s social struggles and how those struggles have worn the family out.

However, it is important to note that although there is not a lot of space in the apartment, the family keeps it clean. This detail shows that the family is still strong and holds on to some hope about the future.

The year that the play is set in is also important. Hansberry wrote the play in 1957, and it takes place in the 1950s. The 1950s was a time when racial segregation was legal in the South. By setting the play in her own era, Hansberry brought attention to the struggles that Black people in America were facing at the time. Unfortunately, the plight of the Younger family is still relevant and relatable to many today.

A play running today might look similar in terms of how it portrays socioeconomic struggles, but it may incorporate more contemporary culture. For example, the rise of hip-hop music has played a significant role in shaping culture in urban communities of color since this play. A contemporary play would likely also address the tension between the police and Black communities in America, an issue that has finally come to the forefront of the country’s attention. For instance, consider how movies like Straight Outta Compton touch on both of these concepts.

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