A Raisin in the Sun: An Analysis
Dramatist: Lorraine Hansberry (1930-
Characters: Walter Lee Younger (Lena’s son)
Ruth (Walter’s wife)
Beneatha (Walter’s sister)
Asagai (African boy)
George (Rich white man)
Critically analyze the drama.
Hansberry, born in USA, is a popular dramatist of her own time. As a dramatist she has chosen the area especially from culture, society and history. She has written her plays about the current issues, events and historical references. This drama ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ (1959), involves the way the characters here refer to their racial identity usually as “coloured” Americans.
In the U.S. in 1860s there was the civil war I and during the periods of 1960s was second civil war. After the Civil War, the new constitution was amended to guarantee the freedom of the black in America. But this institution was drafted only in legally or theoretically. Blacks were given the dream of equality and justice but practically the dream was never fulfilled. Langston Hughes wrote the poem Harlem to challenge the American tendency to distribute the dreams in the words but not to fulfill them in the practice.
This drama “A Raisin in the Sun” (1959) stands for the dreams of American black people. The drama remains relevant for us because issues of family, ambition, dignity, economical survive.
Language: Throughout the whole play the dramatist has used the black English vernacular. The play is about the dreams of the black in America; the characters are also the black and the setting also the black populated area. It uses the black setting, black character and black issues. To represent the Black issues BEV has been used. To this technique of using black language for black issues we call ‘Linguistic Realism’. If the characters had used the standard American English the play would be unrealistic.
Setting: The setting of this drama is situated at the suburban Chicago. The play happens almost in the period of 30-40 years. Unity has not been maintained in the time. The events move around the single family but some of the events move beyond the other families as well. The role of the African boy named Asagai and business partner of Walter belongs to the family outside the Younger family. In this sense the play does not maintain the time, place action as the unity of drama. By not maintaining the unity of time, place and action, the dramatist has conveyed the message that the civil wars have been fought, premises (dreams) have been given but they have not been fulfilled, yet. Even in the post civil war (II) (Upto the present), American blacks are suffering from inequality and social injustice. In equality was there and is still there. It’s not the problem of single family; all the blacks have suffered from the same problems.
Plot: The structure of the plot is the structure of the conflict. And the first conflict can be seen between the generations. Mother and son (Lena Younger – Walter) represent the two different dreams of the identity and social stability which she wants to guarantee by purchasing of home. But the son (Walter) wants to have the power and possessions. He is guided by the American dreams that money brings power and happiness. And to get that happiness he wants to open the liquor shop which the mother opposes. When the mother dreams for dignity but the son dreams for property.
The generation gap can be seen even between, Lena Younger and Ruth Younger. When Ruth Younger wants to avoid the fetus, mother wants to continue it. When the mother tolerates all these adversities the daughter-in-law can not tolerate as Lena.
The conflict can be seen in terms of class. Class conflict can be seen between the black themselves too. Beneatha Younger’s response to her potential suitor shows the class conflict. She has understood that rich black are proud of ‘snoblish’. He may give her the comfort but cannot give happiness. Therefore, she decides not to marry him that is Asagai, a African boy. Economic structure has produced the gap between the black themselves.
There is also conflict between the genders. Walter dominates his sister, wife (Ruth) and though indirectly his mother (Lena). He dislikes his sisters’ desire to become a doctor. And does not want his wife to give any suggestion. He wants to be head of the family in place of his mother.
The major conflict in the play is between the races, black and white. The dream of inequality has been given an obstructed by the whites themselves. The dream of this family was to move in a new house in a new community. To fulfill that dream mother has bought a home. But in the name of the well coming association whites give a pressure to this family to sell that house with the offer of handsome payment.
The whites complain that the instruction of the black in the new community will create a problem therefore they are asked not to move in the new community. But challenging the white expectation the family has decided to move the new bought house. If Walter sold the house that would be the defeat of the black community. But by not selling the house he has conveyed the message that the black are freed to move in the community that delayed. He has established the dignity of the family and the community as a whole. He fights against the white through the peaceful means.