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Juxtaposition in Lorraine Hansberry's ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ and Oscar Wilde's ‘A Woman of No Importance’

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This paper is going to be about the aspects of juxtaposition in two stories named ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ and ‘A Woman of No Importance’ which have several issues that are both similar and different. The aspect of juxtaposition will show the parallelism in the actions or events in both the plays through the dialogues and the behaviors that the characters show at different circumstances in the story and how these dialogues bring out the symbolism of good and bad, modernity and traditionalism, shallowness and depth as well as change and stagnancy. This paper will explore the parallels that are shown through juxtaposition by the different characters in the plays.

‘A Raisin in the Sun’ which was written by Lorraine Hansberry, is the tale of the days in the life of the Youngers who were a family of African American origin, living in the south Side of Chicago in the year of 1950s. It is a play that opens and shows the Youngers receiving a check of ten thousand dollars. This amount has arrived from the Mr. Younger’s life insurance policy after his demise. Each and every adult in the family has a goal of what they want to do with their share of money. The head of the family Mama, wants to buy a house to finally fulfil her desire that she had shared with her husband and she says: “[God] did give us children to make them dreams seem worthwhile” (Hansberry, 49). Mama also knows the importance of money which is proved from the quote “So now it’s life. Money is life. Once upon a time freedom used to be life – now it’s money” (Hansberry, 76). Mama’s son named Walter Lee wants to use that money to invest in a liquor store along with his friends. His notion is that the investment would curb the family’s financial troubles and he says: “You wouldn’t understand yet, son, but your daddy’s gonna make a transaction . . . a business transaction that’s going to change our lives” (Hansberry, 109). Walter’s wife, Ruth agrees with Mama and she also wishes that she could provide a better life for her and Walter’s son Travis. Beneatha who is Walter’s sister and mama’s daughter, wants to use the money for the fees of her medical school and she also does not want her family to join the world of the white people and she tries to find her roots back in Africa rather than going forward with something that is not her identity. As the play commences and progresses, there is a lot of clashes between the Youngers over their own dream. Ruth also realizes that she is pregnant and she is scared that if she decides to have the child, she would put more financial strain over her family. In the end after several hardships, the family decides to move out of their old home and go together in the future with several hardships but also hope.

‘A Woman of No Importance’, written by Oscar Wilde, indicates from its very title that the person without importance is a woman Mrs. Arbuthnot. The important person, Lord Illingworth, upon the recognition of the handwriting of Mrs. Arbuthnot says that it reminds him of a woman of no importance. The Lord has money, social recognition and has a wit that outshines everybody else in a conversation. Mrs. Arbuthnot has dedicated her whole life to her son named Gereard without knowing the fact that Lord Illingworth is the father and the son is tempted by the rich life of the lord and his offer, but in the end, he has the realization that the person who is important to him is his mother who sacrificed everything for him. Thus, in the end, the person who is not important is the Lord because he has lost his son and his respect. The true significance and meaning of importance are evaluated in the play.

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There is a very prominent literary device that is used in both the plays of ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ and ‘A Woman of No Importance’ and that is juxtaposition. Beneatha is perceived in a romantic relationship with Asagai who was her first man of choosing in the second scene. The two had quarrels but it was still evident that they cared for one another and had learnt a lot from each other through the course of their relationship. When she first saw him, she said, “Asagai, I’m very glad you are back”. Asagai brought her presents and although he was a bit harsh, he had attempted to teach her to be herself and not lose her roots or her identity (Hansberry, 65). The relationship between Beneatha and George is completely different aspect of the story. The readers already know that she is not fond of George, she says he’s so ‘shallow’, and she states this when Mama and Ruth ask her the reason why George and his money and status are not enough for her. The first scene with them together shows her with her hair short and George does not approve of it. “What have you done to your head – I mean your hair! And he calls the look ‘eccentric’ (Hansberry, 82). These two scenes and characters show the idea of assimilation to describe how the two men are opposites. Asagai strives for the radical aspects in the modern world of the 20th century while George is still clinging to the past traditional values that he shares with the Youngers. The contrast and the juxtaposition of their personality in the scenes symbolizes the restrictions and the clash between tradition and new progress, dynamic and static, dangerous and safe as also highlights the hurdles of generation also shows that the aristocratic and traditional character is shallow but the person who does not have riches and works hard and has seen the hardships of life has far more depth of character than their counterpart. Walter is such a hard-working person and that is evident when he says, “Do you know what this money means to me? Do you know what this money can do for us?” (Hansberry, 75). There are several literary devices which are used to describe the characters in the play such as the portmanteau word ‘slubborn’ which is used on Travis by Ruth and means sluggish and stubborn. Irony is also used here when Walter believes that corruption dominates all the successful businesses and he gives the graft beforehand but his friend runs off with it rather than the collector. There is also use of dramatic irony in the play such as when Walter asks Bobo if everything is fine.

Similarly, juxtaposition has also been used in ‘A Woman of No Importance’. The characters in the play have been drawn from different genres of drama and society comedy to the level that two different plays seem to be going on simultaneously. The happy and light characters of Hunstanton do not know how to react to the melodramatic aspects of Hester and Mrs. Arbuthnot. This juxtaposition of the two different worlds with each other seems to shock Illingworth out of his superior character and his impervious behavior and reduces him into a vulgar speech of common melodramatic speech while he insults during his parting. There is also the juxtaposition of speech styles and the textures as well as tones that reflect the ambivalence of modes. The language used by the dandy characters is filled with wit, polish, refinement which clashes with the melodramatic exaggerations of the speeches of the Puritans. Their styles also differ in the functional manner because the witty speeches are amusing, but are not significant to the action while the melodramatic speeches advance the action. There is also the juxtaposition of good and bad through these uses of language of the morally dubious characters and Wilde establishes equilibrium in the lexical opposites in the aim to confirm the presence of moral hierarchies in the Victorian society. It is evident from dialogues such as by Lady Carline in the first act: “In my young days, Miss Worsley, one never met anyone in society who worked for their living. It was not considered the thing” (Wilde, 8). “And for me, the world is shriveled to a palm’s breath, and where I walk there are thorns”. Which is said by Mrs. Arbuthnot? The literary devices such as dramatic irony and parallelism are used. Parallelism is depicted through the dialogue between Mrs. Allonby and Lord Illingworth, “LORD ILLINGWORTH. I never intend to grow old. The soul is born old but grows young. That is the comedy of life. MRS. ALLONBY. And the body is born young and grows old. That is life’s tragedy” (Wilde, 20). The dramatic irony is depicted through the fact that Gerard is the son of Lord Illingworth but he does not know that and the audience does. Gerard sees life materialistically and he says “GERALD. Of course, I am. It means everything to me things that were out of the reach of hope before may be within hope’s reach now. HESTER. Nothing should be out of the reach of hope. Life is a hope” (Wilde, 8). The literary device of dramatic irony gives a glimpse to the audience of the situations that the characters are facing without their own knowledge and how it changes the course of their lives.

Therefore, both the plays use juxtaposition in a parallel manner to show two different as well as similar aspects. The first aspect is the difference between the tradition and the modernity and the second aspect is of the aristocracy and the simple life of the working class. The difference between the aristocracy and the working class in ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ is shown by Asagai and George where they show the dichotomy of aristocracy and middle class as well as tradition and modernity. In the case of ‘A Woman of No Importance’, the dichotomy of shallowness and depth has been shown by the use of language between the characters as well as their aristocracy and simple life is also shown through the use of language. This proves that the juxtaposition of language and the expressions of the characters with their lifestyle and what they represented were used in both the plays to show different aspects of the class difference and the differences between culture and gender. The use of juxtaposition makes the stories more impactful and makes the readers realize that the dialogues and the characters are not flat, but they are complex and round characters.


  1. Hansberry, Lorraine. Khdzamlit., 1994,
  2. Wilde, Oscar. A Woman of No Importance. J. Lane, 1894.

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Juxtaposition in Lorraine Hansberry’s ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ and Oscar Wilde’s ‘A Woman of No Importance’. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 24, 2023, from
“Juxtaposition in Lorraine Hansberry’s ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ and Oscar Wilde’s ‘A Woman of No Importance’.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022,
Juxtaposition in Lorraine Hansberry’s ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ and Oscar Wilde’s ‘A Woman of No Importance’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 24 May 2023].
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