A Raisin in the Sun (Integrative Reflective Essay)
A Raisin in the Sun (Integrative Reflective Essay) February 12, 2010 Lorraine Vivian Hansberry (May 19, 1930 – January 12, 1965) was an innovative pioneer who broke down many barriers in her short life. The youngest of four children, she was born in Chicago, IL to Carl and Nannie Perry Hansberry. Her parents were well educated social and political activists who exposed their children to Afro centric ideology throughout their lives. Her father, a successful real estate developer and entrepreneur; is credited with introducing the kitchenette and studio apartment concepts.
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As a result, Lorraine grew up in an upper middle class atmosphere even so she identified strongly with the poor children she observed. When Lorraine was eight years old her father purchased a home in an exclusive “whites only” Chicago neighborhood and moved his family in. They were greeted with intense hostility from their neighbors; Lorraine was almost killed when someone threw a brick through a window just narrowly missing her. The local courts evicted the Hansberrys citing restrictive covenant violations.
They fought back challenging the local court’s ruling all the way to the Supreme Court ending with a landmark decision which eventually led to the restrictive covenants being repealed (Hansberry v Lee, 1940). Carl Augustus Hansberry died at the age of 51 of a cerebral hemorrhage. A Raisin in the Sun focuses on a poor black family living in a Southside Chicago ghetto over several weeks in the 1950s. The Younger family consists of Mama (the matriarch); her son Walter; Ruth Walter’s wife; their son Travis and Beneatha (Mama’s daughter and Walter’s sister).
The storyline involves a $10,000 life insurance check from the death of Mr. Younger (Mama’s husband). Everyone has their own thoughts as to how the money should be disbursed resulting in several dramatic clashes over competing ideas. Mama wants to buy a house and get her family out of the ghetto; Walter wants to use the money to invest in a liquor store with some of his friends; and Beneatha wants to the money to pay her medical school tuition. There are several subplots involving family issues and self discovery. Walter is preoccupied with trying to become rich as a business man thinking that will solve his family’s problems.
Beneatha struggles with her identity as an educated black woman, her dream to be a doctor and embracing her African roots. Ruth discovers she’s pregnant and contemplates abortion out of fear that another child would further tax the family’s resources. Mama puts a down payment on a house believing that a bigger brighter home will help them all. All she could afford was a house in Clybourne Park an all white neighborhood. When word gets out that they are moving in, the neighbor association sends a representative to buy them out to keep them from moving in. Mr. Lindner is turned away by the Youngers rejection of his offer.
Shortly thereafter, Walter learns that the man he had invested the remaining $6,500 with has run off with his money. Upon learning that Walter had not deposited $3,000 in the bank for Beneatha’s tuition, his family turned against him. Faced with the humiliating realization that he had squandered his family’s future, he calls Mr. Lindner to come back. Beneatha’s African boyfriend comes over to help them pack and finds Beneatha doubting herself and her future as a doctor. He admonishes her for her lack of idealism and attachment to the money from her father’s death.
He tells her of his dream to return to Africa with her as a doctor to help him bring positive changes in his country. His proposal renews her faith in becoming a doctor and resurrects her courage and pride. Walter tells the family that he has asked Mr. Lindner to return to the apartment to negotiate a large settlement. They don’t agree with his decision and let him know they don’t want anyone dictating where they can live. When Mr. Lindner arrives Walter tells Travis to go outside to play. Mama tells him to stay so that he can listen and learn from his father. Faced with the prospect of losing his son’s respect by kowtowing to Mr.
Lindner, Walter announces that the family has decided to move into the house because his father earned it for them. They will try to be good neighbors and don’t want to make any trouble or fight any causes. As Mr. Lindner leaves displeased with the turn of events, the movers arrive and start carrying boxes to the truck. Lorraine Hansberry was ahead of her times in many ways. A Raisin in the Sun discussed issues such as: the black family values; African American identity and beauty; the relationships of married couples; generational conflicts; black men and women; outspoken feminism.
In creating the Younger family Hansberry relied on her memories growing up and experiencing the traumatic brutality her family suffered when they moved into South Park. Lorraine sought to create real characters not the stereotypes that were prevalent at the time. She created characters that anyone could relate to regardless of race. The Younger family was like any other American family they just wanted a chance to be like other people.