In A Raisin in the Sun, the Younger family is given an opportunity to actualize its various dreams, hopes, and plans when a $10,000 check comes in the mail. The play explores the complications inherent in turning dreams into reality. In particular, A Raisin in the Sun creates a situation where the Younger family is asked to put its dreams on hold in exchange for money, setting up the play’s central conflict.
At its core, A Raisin in the Sun is a family drama about the importance of sharing a collective dream.
In A Raisin in the Sun, dreams are kept alive for the benefit of the younger generation.
A Raisin in the Sun depicts ordinary Americans who happen to be black – and explores how the fact of their race inhibits them from accomplishing their dreams. In other words, A Raisin in the Sun demonstrates how race can complicate the American Dream. For the most part, however, race is a latent backdrop in the play; this enables Hansberry to craft a universally appealing tale and allows us to understand the precise influence of race in one family’s life.
Lorraine Hansberry contrasts Beneatha Younger with George Murchison to suggest that gender and class differences are as complex as racial differences.
Pride is portrayed in an extremely positive light in A Raisin in the Sun. Since the play is depicting people who have little else to their name, pride is a means for them to hold on to their dignity and affirm their worth as human beings. When a neighborhood representative shows up and offers to buy out their house, the family doesn’t hesitate to kick him out. The novel frames this decision as pride versus money, and although money does win out for a little bit, the Younger family maintains its pride in the end.
Throughout Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Walter yearns to find self-worth through a business endeavor but ultimately finds his self-worth in feeling proud of his family.
Family is portrayed in A Raisin in the Sun as an incredibly discrete unit that must project a certain image in the world. Within the family, relatives may quarrel, nag, and insult each other, but when guests come over, certain proprieties must be observed. A Raisin in the Sun explores these complex family dynamics. Furthermore, this theme intersects with Dreams, Hopes, and Plans as children in a family inspire dreams and keep them alive.
In A Raisin in the Sun, familial unity is mistaken for familial obligation, causing Walter to resent his family for holding him back from his dreams.
Although Walter yearns to attain the American Dream through capitalism, the characters in A Raisin in the Sun ultimately find hope for their future not in money, but in solidarity as a family.
Socio-economically, the Youngers are at the bottom of the ladder. This not-so-great position affects Walter Younger the most. While his wife and mother are reasonably accepting of their situation, and Beneatha is more concerned with socio-political issues, Walter has an obsession with money and views it as a transformative power. Due to his poverty, money has a particularly strong hold on Walter’s psyche.
Their family’s financial situation is the only reason Ruth Younger is willing to terminate her pregnancy.
The Younger family is cooped up inside a small apartment in the slums, barely making ends meet with Walter, Ruth, and Lena all working menial jobs. Throughout their sufferings, they keep dreams and pride alive. Their suffering makes it much harder to turn down Karl Lindner’s offer to buy out their home. Suffering imbues the play via the set design and the actors’ portrayals of their characters – rather than being a blatant statement, suffering is treated as a fact of the Younger family’s life.
Beneatha and Walter suffer for selfish reasons whereas Ruth and Lena suffer because the people they love are dissatisfied.
The mother figures of Ruth and Lena suffer the most of the characters because they worry about the entire family’s pain, not just their own.
What will all the suffering and sacrifice going on, it’s not difficult to predict that the characters in A Raisin the Sun are, for the most part, dissatisfied. This dissatisfaction affects Walter Younger the most, however, because it prompts him to undertake foolhardy actions. The rest of his family, in contrast, has learned to deal with their dissatisfactions in a more controlled manner.
Beneatha is the most dissatisfied character in A Raisin in the Sun because she is trying to transgress the stereotypes of blacks and of women.
A Raisin in the Sun takes places entirely in the Younger family’s cramped apartment. Although it’s technically their home, Mama dreams of shifting their home to a bigger house because she believes owning their own, larger space will create a better home.
In A Raisin in the Sun, problems arise in the Younger household when solutions to problems are sought outside of the house.
Notions of masculinity and femininity are woven throughout the play. Walter, in particular, feels his socio-economic situation much more strongly given that he’s supposed to be the "man" of the family. He uses manhood as an argument for why his wife should support him, why his mother should give him money, and why he needs a better career. The play also represents various women: the traditional Mama, the supportive Ruth, and the progressive Beneatha, who are alternately praised or demeaned for their adherence or disobedience to traditional feminine standards.
Socially-enforced norms and expectations regarding masculinity cause Walter to feel inferior.
Individuals in A Raisin in the Sun frequently assert their right to make choices without consulting other family members. Ruth decides to put a down payment on the abortion of unborn new child without telling anyone. Lena decides to spend $3500 on a house for her family in a white neighborhood, also without consulting anyone. Walter decides to invest in a liquor store over the objections of his family, and Beneatha faces a choice between marrying for financial stability or marrying for socio-political reasons. All of these choices ultimately follow a money-versus-principle paradigm, which culminates in the play’s final scene, where principle wins.
For the characters in A Raisin in the Sun, money is the most important factor in determining a decision.
For the characters in A Raisin in the Sun, pride overrules money when making a decision.
In A Raisin in the Sun, incredible sacrifices are made for the benefit of the family. Some family members are more willing to shoulder sacrifice than others, however, which leads to conflict. Accepting sacrifice for the benefit of the family is a recurring theme throughout the play, culminating in its final scene.
Ruth and Lena are willing to sacrifice anything except their dignity.
Beneatha does not sacrifice anything for her family, and in fact takes her family’s sacrifices for granted.