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A Raisin in the Sun

by Lorraine Hansberry

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

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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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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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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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