Abstract illustration of the houses of Clybourne Park

A Raisin in the Sun

by Lorraine Hansberry

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How would A Raisin in the Sun change if it took place today?

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While A Raisin in the Sun is mainly based on the struggles of African Americans in the 1960s, many of the themes and ideas could be recreated with issues felt today. The play tells the story of the Younger family. The family is waiting for the life insurance check for their father, Walter Sr. Everyone in the family has hopes and dreams about what the check might mean. Ruth and Mama see a new house in the check, Walter Lee sees himself as a business owner, and Beneatha sees it paying for medical school.

While some of the central conflicts of the play would not be as poignant in a modern context—housing segregation, female physicians being strange, or abortion—others would be perfectly workable.

The housing segregation crisis could be changed or recreated by the idea that the family is seeking to buy a house in a community run by a HOA—they can purchase it legally, but the neighborhood harasses them through threats, police calls, etc. The ire of the neighbors might not be as coordinated in the present, as racism is less acceptable today, but there could still be issues of segregation today.

As far as Beneatha’s dreams, it might make sense to have her face discrimination based on being a woman who seeks to get into medical school. Others, not necessarily her family, could tell her that the only reason she is qualifying is that she is an affirmative action recipient. This would diminish her stature while showing the adverse effects of racism and sexism in the current STEM field.

Ruth might not be ostracized for seeking an abortion unless the Youngers are made hyper-religious. Perhaps though, she could meet protesters outsides of a Planned Parenthood clinic and face their harassment—something that would make her feel ashamed of her actions.

Walter Lee’s bad business decision is perfectly workable in a modern context, except that it might make it better to have him be deceived by a contract he didn’t read the right way. That would make the current legal system, something that could track his friend much better than in the ’60s, more about how he is cheated and disenfranchised legitimately.

Something that could be added as a part of the issues we face in society today could be violence against Travis at the hands of a police officer. The Black Lives Matter movement is current, and having Travis face violence based on their living in a white neighborhood would make a statement about the current issues African Americans face in the United States.

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Since racism is still around, the basic premise of an African-American family trying to find its place in a predominately white community would be similar to that expressed in the play. However, the laws have changed, giving those who would want to keep out the Youngers little legal justification. The white residents’ fears would not be as widespread as in the play, since more neighborhoods are integrated. But because of recent racial conflicts, their fear would be based on the threat of violence, rather than just a black family in a white community. The Youngers might encounter racial profiling with a few police officers in some communities. Walter Lee would have more opportunities for self-improvement. Ruth would also have more job opportunities than just doing someone’s laundry. The problem with the head of the family not making the best choices and risking the family financial situation for the sake of an untrustworthy friend unfortunately is prevalent in any generation. Families, especially African-American families, still struggle to make their dreams come true.

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