Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun made her the first African-American to achieve the Best American Play award from theNew York Drama Critics Circle, as well as the fifth women and the youngest American to do so (Morrin 1). The plot revolves around fulfilling dreams and desires through the $10,000 insurance check the Youngers receive from the life Insurance policy of Mr. Younger. Each member of the family wanted things to do with it: Lena, or “Mama,” wants to use the money to buy a house to fulfill this shared dream with her husband; Walter wants to invest in a liquor store to solve the family’s financial problems; Walter’s wife, Ruth, favors Mama’s choice; and Beneatha, daughter of Mama and sister of Walter, wants to use the money for medical school. The Youngers were persistent to move into a new neighborhood, even if its members did not want them there and tried to bribe them. The characters experience various troubles but they continue to be optimistic for a new life.
Walter Younger is presented as the dreamer in the story, and wants to free his family from various dilemmas. Being the man in the plot, he makes decisions but hurts the family in the process, although his character evolves as the plot progresses. In the pains of racism, Walter struggles to uplift the family economically, believing that money can solve everything. Mama values taking pride in their dreams and stands up for her beliefs (Sparknotes Editors). She is depicted to be conservative, moral, and religious, expressing distaste in several things her family involve themselves in because of money and disgust in un-Christian practices. Beneatha is characterized as an intelligent woman with great ambition in search of her identity. However, she is not conservative like Mama, and detests mixing into the white culture. In the plot she dates two very different men, Joseph and George. Ruth participates in the family’s endeavors, characterized to be an emotionally strong woman. Travis is the son of Walter and Ruth, who finds ways to earn money. Joseph Asagai is the Nigerian boyfriend of Beneatha who helps her trace her African roots, while George Murchison is her suitor who wants to mix with the whites.
The plot most probably gained huge attention because it presents a realistic struggle of the African-Americans in the 1950’s. It tackles on social and economic issues that were prominent during those times. The plot progresses dramatically, presenting one problem after the other, but ending with optimism. The plot is admired because of its presentation on the value of the family and its unity despite troubles. It also encourages readers in pursuing dreams, even in the presence of inequality and unfairness in society. Hansberry gives importance in surpassing trials that come one’s way, and keeping a positive view in life. This play is cited by several writers and critics in different generations who have been influenced by Hansberry, dubbed as an eye-opener to its readers and audience for social awareness and change.
Morrin, Maxine, ed. Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. New Jersey: Research & Education Association, 1994. Print.