A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

A Raisin in the Sun book cover
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What happens in A Raisin in the Sun?

The Youngers are a poor African American family living on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s. Lena Younger, the matriarch of the family, receives a $10,000 insurance check when her husband dies. She wants to use the money to buy a house, but her son Walter has other ideas.

  • Walter wants to invest the $10,000 in a liquor store. His sister, meanwhile, wants to use the money for medical school. Lena uses some of the money as a down payment on a new house, then entrusts the rest to Walter, reminding him of his sister’s right to some of the insurance money. 

  • Walter loses the money entrusted to him. He makes a deal with the Clybourne Park Improvement Association, which intends to buy back Lena's new house in order to keep their neighborhood white. In the end, Walter refuses to sell the house, and the Youngers prepare to move to their new home.

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Summary

Summary of the Play
The play begins with a typical early weekday morning in the life of the Younger family. The household prepares for work and for school. Some of the talk is about a check which they expect to receive the next day. It is from the insurance policy of Mr. Walter Younger, Sr., who has died. Each member of the family has his or her own ideas about how to use the money.

Two gentleman friends of Beneatha visit her: Joseph Asagai, and George Murchison. Ruth is pregnant and may want an abortion. Walter drinks heavily and argues with Murchison about the latter’s pretensions, in Walter’s opinion, as well as with Beneatha about her plans for medical school and with his wife and mother about his desire to open a liquor store with some of the money Mrs. Younger will receive.

Mama places a down payment on a house. She has always wanted her own home, with a garden in the back. Ruth is happy and decides not to have the abortion, but Walter is upset because he wants money for his liquor enterprise.

A few weeks later, Beneatha stops seeing George Murchison because he does not understand her ideals, hopes, or dreams. Walter is in danger of losing his job because when drunk, he does not show up for work. The Youngers’ neighbor, Mrs. Johnson, visits to tell them that more black families’ homes have recently been bombed in white neighborhoods. The neighborhood the Youngers plan to move to is all-white.

Walter, constantly drunk, gets Mama worried, and she agrees to give him money for his liquor store.

A week later, the family gets an unexpected visit. A white man representing a neighborhood organization from the area the Youngers plan to move to has come to talk to them. His name is Karl Lindner. He tells them that the residents of the area, Clybourne Park, want to pay them not to move in. Walter throws the man out of the house.

Bobo, Walter’s friend visits. He tells them that the money Walter gave him for the liquor store, as well as more money meant for Beneatha’s education, is gone because the man Bobo gave it to hold has disappeared with it. The family is thrown into an uproar at hearing this bad news.

Asagai visits Beneatha and reminds her that her future does not depend solely on her mother paying for medical school; he asks her to go to Africa with him when she becomes a doctor. Mrs. Younger prepares to forget about the move. Walter says he will accept the offer of money not to move from Mr. Lindner.

Mr. Lindner comes to enact the deal. But in the process of talking to Mr. Lindner, there is a transformation in Walter, and remembering what his father had to go through to provide for his family, and how the rest of the family struggles to survive and to fulfill their aspirations, he changes his mind and tells Mr. Lindner they will not accept his offer.

The play ends as the family starts the move to Clybourne Park. It will not be easy for them to live there because of the prejudice they will face, but they decide to move forward in spite of it.

Robert Nemiroff’s critique of the pertinence of Ms. Hansberry’s writing to the universals indicative of all great...

(The entire section is 2,970 words.)