A Raisin in the Sun, written by Lorraine Hansberry, was written perhaps with some personal experience. When Lorraine was younger, a mob surrounded her home in a white middle class neighborhood and threw a brick in her window (Literature and Language, 913). However, racial prejudice is just one of the themes discussed in the play. The play takes place during the Civil Rights Movement, and the obstacles overcome are obstacles we still face today. Racial prejudice, family strength, and a sell out are the several strong thematic elements in the play.
When the Younger family is introduced, they are introduced together. Despite the hardships endured throughout the play, the family stays together even through quarrels. Mama is almost like a Buddha of the Younger family by acting as the backbone of the family; Mama is the strong one (A Raisin in the Sun, 854). When Walter explains to Mama how he wants to start a liquor store with the money she tells him she doesn’t want to go into the liquor business. She decides then to tell him he needs to sit down and talk to his wife, which is more important, because she’s family (A Raisin in the Sun, 869).
Mama notices also how Walter and Ruth’s relationship is uncertain (A Raisin in the Sun, 855) which is why she wants him to talk to Ruth about her pregnancy (A Raisin in the, 869). If the baby isn’t kept, Ruth and Walter might separate and Travis will have to go back and forth, and Mama won’t have another grandchild. If that had happened, the family would be broken up, and it seems to be a constant fear in Mama that the family might someday divide. Another sign of family strength is when Beneatha denies Walter as her brother (A Raisin in the Sun, 907).
When Mama hears Beneatha shun her brother, she reminds her that her brother is just the same as her when she says: ” You feeling like you better than he is today? ” They are both strong-willed, live in the same apartment, and have the same economic situation. Mama scolds her for acting like the rest of the world. Looking down on him as a colored man doing low pay jobs to support them, and no one wants to claim that they know that poor sod. Mama tells Bennie not to write his epitaph like the outside world because she doesn’t have the privilege, because she’s just like him.
Mama isn’t trying to remind Bennie that she suffers the same ordeals, but perhaps if she was the man of the family she might do the same. Bennie herself would try to provide for them, and Walter’s actions were meant out of kindness, and the least Bennie could do is to be with him in his time of need. Maybe Bennie’s attempts at being a doctor were partly out of love for her family to help provide for them, not out of pity or personal honor, but for unity. It’s not the characters that make the family struggle but mostly the conditions their forced to endure.
Socially, they are shunned for being Negroes. When Mr. Lindner bribes the family to move out, the idea threatens to tear the family apart. The idea is at first easily denied because of the money they have to support themselves (A Raisin in the Sun, 892). However, when Walter loses the money, Mr. Lindner’s offer appeals to him (A Raisin in the Sun, 909). The family becomes shocked and tries to support him in his decision, but Walter realizes the importance of family and he turns Lindner away. However, the climactic theme of the story is Walter’s selling out point.
A typical reader would want to hate Walter for using the money to start up a liquor store, but then it’s realized that he was only doing it for his family (A Raisin in the Sun, 896-897). When Walter gave the money away, he gave away the family’s future too. Beneatha wasn’t securely in school anymore, Travis would have to keep sleeping in the living room, and there isn’t money for Ruth’s baby. Not only did that affect their futures, but it hurt Mama as well. In a way, Walter gave away their memories and values.
When Walter finds out the money is lost, he says that the money was made out of his fathers flesh, because it was his father who helped them to receive that money. Walter gave it away anyway though because he thought it would help the family (A Raisin in the Sun, 897). He gave away the family’s values by deceiving them into thinking that he did the responsible thing with the money, what the family wanted done with money. He fooled Mama into believing he was grown up and could become the head of the family.
When the family learned of his mistake, the family became away of what he had done. Furthermore, it insulted them for how he had went about it. Bennie felt like low class, and didn’t feel she could be a doctor anymore (Raisin in the Sun, 901). Ruth felt insulted because she can’t believe her husband is going to take the bribe from Lindner (Raisin in the Sun, 905). Mama took it even harder because her husband’s blood, sweat, and tears went into it; and their dreams were lost because of it.
They wanted their children to live out their dreams but instead Walter gave them away in a day (Raisin in the Sun, 856, 897). Perhaps the biggest struggle in the play is the racial prejudice the family endures together. Only because of their color, they end up working in a low pay job in a poorly attended apartment (A Raisin in the Sun, 897). Mr. Lindner is the main symbol in representing racial prejudice. Symbolically, Mr. Lindner could show that stereotypes even come in nice packages.
On the outside, Mr. Lindner was a polite man, but on the inside, he was racist and not accepting, like when he left their apartment the first time he visited and told Walter that you can’t change what’s in peoples hearts (A Raisin in the Sun, 891). Despite the simplicity of the message, it’s perhaps the most powerful of the themes. Although an entire neighborhood, an entire race, wants the Youngers to move out, they stand together and defend themselves and fight back, even when they feel like they have nothing left.
However, Walter realizes that he does have something, which is family, and his pride, which he almost lost in taking the bribe (A Raisin in the Sun, 909). The Youngers, when standing together, show that with strength and defiance, they can pull through anything together. Together, the Youngers battled racism from a middle class white neighborhood. Together, the Youngers fought a loss of a dream when Walter sold out. Together the Youngers remained united by giving up their personal dreams for the one family dream of staying together.
Courtney from Study Moose
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