In 1959, “A Raisin in the Sun” premiered on Broadway and was written by Lorraine Hansberry. The play depicts an African American family, the Youngers, in the 1950s that inherit a $10,000 check. Each family member plans to use the money in a different way. Each member bets their happiness on the fulfillment of these dreams. The Youngers strive for their dreams to come true, but their dreams get put on hold after Walter Younger makes a mistake and loses the money. The family puts aside their dreams and differences to make the dream that best helps the household come true. While dreams are important, the theme of family is prominent throughout the story and is essential in their newfound pride and dignity. The Youngers succeed because when they stand up for what they believe in, unite through selflessness, and realize money is not everything they finally come together as a family.
“A Raisin in the Sun” is the first play written by an African American that premiered on Broadway. Lorraine Hansberry wrote the play in Chicago in 1957 and it premiered on Broadway in 1959. The play reflects Chicago in the fifties when racial tension was prominent. Two months after Lorraine Hansberry wrote her play, she became the youngest American playwright, the fifth woman, and the only black writer to win the New York Drama Critics Circle award for “The Best Play of the Year” (Nemiroff &Hansberry, 1970). Six years later, Lorraine Hansberry died of cancer at the age of 34. Hansberry claims that “A Raisin in the Sun” reflects her life at one point. She used members of her family as inspiration for her characters in “A Raisin in the Sun.” Hansberry used people from her childhood as characters. For example, Nannie Hansberry as Mama Younger, and Carl Hansberry as Big Walter. In an interview, Hansberry laughingly said: “Beneatha is me 8 years ago!” (Chicago Public Library). When Hansberry was a young girl, her family was forced to move from an all-white neighborhood. Her family took the issue to the Supreme Court, and they won in the landmark case, Hansberry vs Lee. Although the judge ruled in favor of the Hansberry’s, they were still subject to racial discrimination in Chicago. The family was always entertaining prominent members of the African American community (Chicago Public Library). W.E.B. DuBois and Langston Hughes were frequent visitors of the Hansberry household. Hansbury used the poem “Harlem,” written by Hughes, to create the title for “A Raisin in the Sun.”
When the Youngers stand up for themselves, the family finally succeeds. Mama takes a chance and buys a house in a white neighborhood. When Mama tells Walter some of the money is going to Beneatha, he is upset. Walter appears upset because he feels he never got a chance to prove himself. Walter wants to be rich and successful, so he can prove to his family he is a man. Mama does not want him to go into the liquor business because of her values, but never says he cannot go into another business venture. Walter loses the rest of the money when he gives it to Willy for the liquor store. Walter still feels he is not a man and must prove himself to the others as a provider. When Mr. Linder comes to their home and says they are not wanted in the white neighborhood, Walter decides that the family will move anyway. This act boosts their pride and dignity as a family. The family took a chance and stood up for what they believed in by challenging the racial standard in Chicago, which gave them the power to change their lives.
When the Youngers come together and put their selfishness aside, they become more tightly knitted together. The Youngers have dreams about what they want to do with the money. Beneatha wants her medical bills paid, Mama wants to buy a house, and Walter would like to use the money to invest in a liquor store. All of their choices claim to help the family in a certain way, but only Mama’s dream is selfless. Beneatha and Walter get into an argument about how the family has done so much for her, but she is not grateful. She is childish and falls onto the floor on her knees, and cries thank you very sarcastically. Walter tells Beneatha this because he is bitter. He insults Beneatha\’s dream, in order to facilitate his own. Walter then shuts out his family for not supporting his dream. Walter is further upset with his mom about buying the house, but Mama’s dream benefits everyone in the family. The Youngers buy a new house that does not need extensive repairs or has an insect infestation. Despite its location, the house helps the family improve their life. Walter finally realizes that his dream was selfish, and Mama was right to convince him that they should not sell the house. Walter tells Mr. Linder they will move to Clybourne Park, and Walter fulfills his dream of becoming a man who can support his family.
When the family realizes money is not everything, they become closer. In the play and the movie, Asagai, a Nigerian professor and one of Beneatha’s suitors, criticizes Beneatha about the money. Asagai exclaims, “There is something very wrong when all the dreams in the house depend on a man dying.” The family is in the same place they were in before Walter lost the money. Asagai’s speech makes Beneatha realize that there is more to life than money. When Walter is at his lowest, he thinks the check will solve his problems. He wants to become a businessman, and he makes a poor judgment and loses the money. His ego becomes worse as the play progresses, and Walter does not feel like a man. Walter decides he should sell his pride for money. Mama becomes upset with Walter and tells him to look his son in the eye and explain that he was going to sell the house. After talking to his mother when Mr. Linder came by again, Walter decides he will make his family proud. He realizes that having pride in yourself and for your family is more important than being rich and he sticks up for his family against racism. Walter’s ego is boosted, and he finally understands that money does not make him a man. Walter stands up for his family against the residents of Clybourne Park to become the man of the family.
“A Raisin in the Sun” is about a family that lives paycheck to paycheck. They become wealthy only to lose that money and become impoverished once again. The Youngers inherit a $10,000 check from their deceased father, which Walter Lee soon loses and wreaks havoc on the family. Ten thousand dollars in the 1950s is equivalent to about $100,000 today. When the Youngers unite as a family, they eventually understand that money does not mean happiness, Over the course of the play they become closer, more successful, and ultimately a better family. Many lessons can be learned from “A Raisin in the Sun”, but the most important is that family should always come first. Standing up against racism and forgiving each other help the Younger’s become better people as well. Using \”A Raisin in the Sun” as an example, humanity can become better in the future for all.