Lorraine Hansberry was the first black female writer to have a play performed on Broadway. A Raisin in the Sun is one of the best-known works of Lorraine Hansberry. Through the African-American black family, the Youngers, she speaks about vital issues such as gender, poverty, and racial discrimination. Her play mainly focuses on the dreams of the main characters, which motivates them. Through the play “A Raisin in the Sun” Hansberry portrays the three generations of black women Mama, Beneatha, and Ruth who, despite their double fronted subordination, continue to dream of a better tomorrow. Although the aspirations of these women vary in subject, they all engage the furthering their roles as women, to acquire their dreams.
In the 1950s African Americans faced a lot of racial discrimination. The African American dream was close to acquisitiveness. The play is an aggravating reflection of racial attitudes of the 1950s and of today. The Younger’s family has just received a $10,000 dollar cheque for their dead father’s life insurance policy. They live in a two-bedroom apartment on the black side of town in Chicago. Racial prejudices against blacks in that era and a low income are the roots of conflict in the family.
The conception of the American Dream can be seen in so many works in literature. Many playwrights tried to reflect this concept in their works in order to give an obvious representation of American society. A raisin in the sun reflects the life of the Youngers, a typical African-American family lived during the II-world war and it clearly portrays the dilemma of an African American family accurately and realistically in which each member had a deferred dream. Their dreams turn into dried up resembling a raisin in the sun. Their fight for cheerfulness dried up because they had to concentrate all of their energies on surviving.
Mama, Ruth, and Beneatha all have very dissimilar perceptions of what it means to be a woman, resulting from their generation gap and personal experiences.
Mama is otherwise called Lena Younger, the ruler of the family takes a conservative view of the roles of women. A Christian woman who values moral accountability, she tries to keep her family from sacrificing their ethics in order to achieve. It is Mama who has the authority of deciding how her husband’s ten thousand dollar life insurance cheque that the members of the family have been anticipating will be spent. Her dream is to buy a house with a garden so that her family can live in more space and peace. Despite the dilemma, she struggles with Mr. Linder, who asks them not to move to his neighborhood where only the white people live, and with the members of her family, but she is able to accomplish her dreams at the end of the play.
Ruth is a woman who is fairly neutral when it comes to the way she perceives her role as a woman. She carries out the traditional domestic work of a woman. She shares Mama’s interest in using the insurance money in order to secure a house of their own where she can spend as much time in the bathtub relaxing as she wants. Ruth comes very close to giving up her dreams. Walter hardly acknowledged her. He even husband is falling fast and the only conversation between them is about money. Walter, the new baby, and the lack of money limited her dreams greatly. She was close to leaving him and calling it quits, but held on and kept her dream alive.
Beneatha, Mama’s daughter, hopes to find her identity through looking towards true African heritage. She is a clever college student who wants to be a doctor, but only if she gets the money for tuition. It is very difficult for her to get her dream because of the time period she is in. She wants to be different from the woman of her generation. She expects to achieve her dream by a determined woman with the ambition on achieving her American dream.
Walter, Mama’s son, wishes to become rich one day. Walter wants to invest money in the liquor business with a few of his friends. But he loses all the money he has invested in the liquor store. At that time the women in the family must try and keep the family together. Ultimately, losing everything they have unites them because at the last moment Walter changes his mind about taking money from Mr. Lindner. Walter tells him that they have moved into the house because their father earned it for them. At this moment the entire family’s spirits are lifted and they are proud of the decision Walter has made. This act of standing by your family to achieve the American dream of succeeding no matter who you are and where you come from unites them. They learn to support each other and put their families before their own. By owning a house, having high morale, and the support of their family, each of them is on their way to fulfill their American dream.
The Youngers had a complexity of dreams that came from true living and working hard for a better future of a family. One can understand the lesson out of this play that every person must be optimistic about the outcome of their dreams. The fulfilled dreams were meaningful and the deferred ones were also meaningful, but not as much as the dreams that did not bring unity within a family. Through the women in this play, we are able to vicariously live a day in the life of black women and catch a glimpse of both the hardships and triumphs of their existence. Hansberry’s portrayal of these lives challenges the traditional views of womanhood by demonstrating that women are just as strong as men in hard situations and can continue to dream and challenge themselves despite the obstacles they encounter along the pathway of life.