Analysis: ‘a Raisin In The Sun’1

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Analysis: ‘A Raisin in the Sun’


‘A Raisin in the Sun’, Lorraine Hansberry’s play, tells the story of an African-American family’s pool of encounters at the Washington Park, a subdivision of the Woodlawn neighborhood in Chicago. The lower-class family is in the process of improving their living standards through an insurance payout after the death of their breadwinner- the father. Correspondingly, they use the money for such endeavors as moving into a White Middle-Class neighborhood. A part of the money is given to a son of the family who attempts to quadruple the money so that it can support their ambitions. Unfortunately, the son loses all the money in his investments leaving the family in a state of despondency, but determined to succeed nonetheless. Despite the misfortune, the family proceed with their plans to relocate to the neighborhood. The family of five (Ruth and Walter Younger, Walter’s mother Lena, Beneatha (Walter’s sister), and Travis (Walter and Ruth’s son)), abandon their former dilapidated apartment for the relatively posh neighborhood.  The play ends with the family leaving in their new home but distraught, despondent, and with an uncertain future. The author applies various literary techniques to develop and convey the message.

Setting and Characterization

With regards to time, the play is set in the 1950s, a period rife with discrimination and racial injustices towards the African-American race (Rose 1). Hansberry has lucidly illustrated the living conditions of the African-American families during this period. The former apartment of this younger family, where the play takes place, is a dilapidated and cramped two-bedroom with the five members of this family barely getting sufficient space to move around. The kitchen is so small (de Oliveira & Michelle 2) compares it to a closet. The living room serves two other functions: dining space as well as a bedroom for Travis. The bathroom, which is out in the hall, is shared with the Johnsons, their next-door neighbor. It is on the backdrop of such living conditions that this family is fighting harder to get a new house which happens to be in a relatively ‘lavish’ White neighborhood. The author’s characterization works to reinforce his supposed message and highlight of the high-spirits and resilience of the African-Americans during the tough period. Beneatha, for instance, despite living under deplorable conditions yet having two wealthy and educated boyfriends (Joseph Asagai and George Murchison), she faces her ups and downs alone with hopes that things will get better. Besides, she sticks to her culture and refuses to assimilate herself into the ways of their White counterparts, which is implied when she straightens her hair (a signifier of mutilation) (McNeil & Christopher 7). Most of the African-American characters in this play are determined and resolute in their quest to attain and achieve their goals. They work against the strong social tides to make their dreams a reality as portrayed by the author through judicious characterization.

Symbolism, Allegory and Imagery

Lena’s (Mama’s) plant by the window is on the verge of withering due to dearth of sufficient nourishment. Symbolically, the plant represents the life of the family that is currently living in destitution and barely survives through another day. Yet Mama’s relentless efforts to keep the plant alive relives the almost dying hopes that the plant will eventually flourish one day. This also symbolizes her behavior to members of the family as well as everyone else. The plant metaphorically represents the family (de Oliveira & Michelle 2). Lorraine Hansberry also talks of sunlight that is so scarce in the old apartment. Ruth, for instance, is deeply concerned whether their new apartment will have enough sunlight. Given the prevailing state and status of this family, it suffices to say that the sun symbolizes life and hope-the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The old apartment is infested with cockroaches and rats among other creatures. These creatures serve to reinforce the deplorable living conditions of the Youngers.


The author reinforces the other aspects of this play through a wide spectrum of themes that are interwoven throughout the play. The most dominant themes include those of plans, dreams and hopes, race, poverty and gender. Concerning the first collection of items, the play illustrates the life of a young family that loses a large portion of the insurance money while still reeling from the shock of the death of the father. The author explores the characteristic challenges often associated with making dreams a reality. The theme of race rears its head in the sense that an African-American family unit is the primary subject of the play. McNeil and Cristopher (4-5) projects that the play attempts to illustrate how race bars the family from realizing their dreams of a better life. That is, how race stands in the way of achieving the American Dream. Concerning poverty, the Youngers are at the lowest level of socio-economically, which affects the entire family. In particular, Walter is affected the most- psychologically. Money is etched in his psyche as a result of the poverty. The theme of gender is clearly illustrated through the level of effect that the loss of money has had on Walter. Given that he is supposed to be the ‘man’ of this family after the demise of the father, he strongly feels their socio-economic situation.


Conclusively, Lorraine Hansberry, has employed a wide variety of literary devices and themes to develop the play. The play, in comparison with history, portrays the typical life of an African-American in the 1950s during the Jim Crow epoch and the civil rights movement era. All these literary terms combine and compound into a play that is both riveting, insightful and historically accurate and relevant.












Works Cited

De Oliveira, Natália Fontes, and Michelle Medeiros. "Is It All About Money? Women Characters and Family Bonds in Lorraine Hansberry’s ‘a Raisin in the Sun’ and Toni Morrison’s ‘Song Of Solomon’." Scripta Uniandrade 13.2 (2016). Print.

McNeil, Celethia Keith, and Christopher Fairley Jr. "Developing Sociopolitical Consciousness through Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun: An Interdisciplinary Project." Special Issue Mathematics Education: Through the Lens of Social Justice (2016). Print.

Rose, Tricia. "Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and the “Illegible” Politics of (Inter) personal Justice." Kalfou 1.1 (2014). Print.





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Essays Stock (2024). Analysis: ‘A Raisin in the Sun’1. Essays Stock.

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