Classics: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

Hi, friends. This classic post varies from others because the work is a drama. The version of the story I read was the official screenplay (which wasn’t actually used in the film adaptations) so the text included spoken lines with unspoken directions as expected, but directions for camera angles were written throughout the scenes. I’ve never read a screenplay, and I was delighted that the camera directions aided greatly in visualizing the play on a screen. Thanks for reading!

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

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A Raisin in the Sun, which appeared on Broadway in 1959, is the story of a black family that explores racial tensions of the mid-twentieth century and various conflicts like following the heart versus rationality, self versus family, and pride versus money. The Younger family includes debonair but underwhelmed Walter, his loving, sensible wife Ruth, his whimsical but ambitious sister Beneatha, his sweet son Travis, and his God-fearing, courageous, admirable mother Lena, the rock of the family. The Younger family has lived in a small, dilapidated apartment in Chicago for decades, but in the beginning, we learn that Lena’s husband (Walter and Beneatha’s father) has died, and a large life insurance check is arriving soon. Lena wants to save some money for Beneatha, a college student, and buy a nice house for the family. Walter drives limousines for a living and envies the rich men he serves. Seemingly approaching a mid-life crisis, he wants to use the money for a business start-up–a liquor store. Lena continuously rejects Walter’s pleas and buys the family a house in a nice neighborhood that turns out to be all white, as Walter deteriorates into a mean, bitter man. A lawyer visits the Youngers and offers to buy their house back for more than its original price because the neighborhood wishes to remain all white. Meanwhile, Lena has relented to Walter and given him part of the life insurance check for his business. The results of these trials determine the Younger family’s fate. The story is tear-jerky, heart-warming, anger-inducing–everything you could want from a moving drama.

Additional Background

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Lena & Walter

The title of the play is a line from Langston Hughes’ poem A Dream Deferred, which seems to allude to the characters’ different aspirations; Walter dreams of wealth, while his mother dreams of a real home; Beneatha dreams of a brighter future, and Ruth dreams of a break. A Raisin in the Sun was the first play performed on Broadway written by a black woman. Hansberry grew up in Chicago, also. Her family moved to an all white neighborhood, but she attended an all black school. The Hansberrys faced discrimination from their neighbors, and Mr. Hansberry eventually won a case in the Supreme Court over it. Clearly, this work reflects Hansberry’s childhood experiences. A Raisin in the Sun is hailed for its portrayal of the African-American family in the 1950’s, both on a social level and an individual level.

Most information came from here.

9 comments

  1. Sounds wonderful. I grew up in California. An African-American family moved into a house on our all-white block. A neighbor came to our door with a petition asking the new family to leave. This was 1966. My parents said no, they wouldn’t sign it. I don’t know what else was said, but my parents hated bigotry of any kind. The new neighbor turned out to be a brain surgeon and was still living in that home when I left to move to Canada.

    Liked by 1 person

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