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November 3, 2018


#Classic: A Raisin in the Sun

by N@ncy



  1. Walter is a chauffeur who lives with his wife, son,
  2. sister and mother in their mother’s rattrap of a Chicago tenement apartment.
  3. He hopes to convince his mother to give him the $10,000
  4. from the life insurance payment after the premature death of his father.
  5. Walter Lee wants to invest that money in a liquor store.
  6. Lena, who has faced a lifetime of disappointments
  7. with an adamant religious faith
  8. doesn’t want to be in the liquor-selling business.
  9. She has other dreams for that money:
  10. …buy a house in Clybourne Park
  11. …a fictional all white neighborhood in Chicago.


Main characters:

  1. Walter Lee Younger jr.
  2.   — man with big dreams, full of masculine pride and need to be the famliy’s provider.
  3. Lena Younger
  4. —  mother and meddlesome grandmother as a source of strength.
  5. Beneatha
  6. — Lena’s daughter….also the voice of the playwright L. Hansberry
  7. as an ambitious, idealistic, intellectual college student).
  8. Ruth  — Walter’s wife
  9. Travis  — Walter’s son


Theme 1:   pride

  1. There is the most obvious theme in this play
  2. the importance of pride.
  3. A Raisin in the Sun contains one of the most moving
  4. monologues in all of American Theater.
  5. Act 3: Walter is speaking:
  6. “Me and my family…we are very plain people,”
  7. …he (father) was a laborer most of his life…
  8. …we come from people who had a lot of pride.
  9. I mean — we are a very proud people.


Theme 2:    assimilation

  1. But I think if you notice  Beneatha’ s
  2. …similar passionate monologue
  3. ….you come to the crux of the play.
  4. Beneatha:
  5. Act 2:Because I hate assimilationist Neroes!
  6. “…it means someone who is willing to give up his own
  7. …culture and submerge himself compelely in the dominant
  8. …and in this case oppressive culture.”


  1. The Younger family is moving to an all-white neighborhood.
  2. Walter:
  3. Act 3: “We don’t want to make no trouble for nobody
  4. …and we will try to be good neighbors.”
  5. Hansberry (via  Beneatha)  makes it clear
  6. ….that she has had a good look at ‘this society
  7. what makes you think she wants to be accepted?
  8. As James Baldwin said during a round table discussion
  9. March 1 1964 for Commentary magazine:
  10. It’s not a matter of acceptance or tolerance.
  11. …We’ve got to sit down and rebuild this house.


Play history:

  1. 1959 original Broadway play
  2. S. Portier nominated best actor Tony Awards 1960
  3. 2004 revival: starring Audra McDonald and Phylicia Rashad
  4. who both won Tonys for their performances.
  5. 2014 Denzel Washington…considered ‘age-blind casting’.
  6. Washington is 59 yr and looks it…but
  7. because of his ‘audience drawing power’ he is
  8. casted as 35 yr Walter Lee Younger jr.
  9. Hansberry  was  the first black female playwright
  10. whose play was produced on Broadway.
  11. A Raisin in the Sun made theater history.
  12. Never had so…much truth about  black people’s lives
  13. ….been seen on the stage.



  1. In Act III Hansberry mentions a character named Rufus.
  2. After reading Hansberry’s biography….I know that
  3. this refers to a man who became a
  4. famous Civil Rights Activist in 1960’s.
  5. Who is it?
  6. .read the biography Looking for Lorraine
  7. …by Imani Perry.



  1. Remember…Lena Younger has bought a house in
  2. fictive all-white Clybourne Park
  3. …neighborhood  with the insurance money.
  4. Clybourne Park (2010) is  also the title of Bruce Norris’s play which
  5. updates and riffs on A Raisin in the Sun.
  6. It uses some of Lorraine Hansberry’s characters.
  7. Clybourne Park won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama 2011.
  8. This award was ironically was not bestowed on Hansberry
  9. who died tragically young in 1965
  10. …at the age of 35 after a 2 year battle with cancer.
  11. PS: this play is on my TBR
  12. …so I can compare the two playwrights!


Strong point:

  1. Hansberry weaves in so many issues
  2. …from abortion to African colonial struggles
  3. …to the African-American generational shift
  4. …heritage vs economical success.
  5. But A Raisin in the Sun never feels
  6. …like  a heavy-handed political play.
  7. It is a portrait of three generations of a family.
  8. Last thought:     #MustReadClassic



Title: –  is from Langston Hughes poem:


What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?


Read more from Classic, plays

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