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A Raisin in the Sun Essay Analysis

Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun is one of the best portrayals of life in a black family in the 1950s. It explores a variety of themes including aspiration, nostalgia, racial identity and family conflict. If you're planning to write an analysis essay on the play there's a lot of material to work with. To start you off, here are some of the issues explored in the play.

  • At the beginning of the play the Younger family are about to receive a $10,000 payment from the deceased Mr Younger's life insurance. The family consists of Mama, Mr Younger's widow; Walter Lee, her son; Beneatha, her daughter; Ruth, Walter's wife; and Travis, Walter and Ruth's son. All have different ideas on what to do with the money; Mama wants to buy a better house and is supported by Ruth, Beneatha wants to use it to pay her way through medical school and Walter wants to invest it in a liquor store with his off-screen friend Willy.
  • Most of the family have aspirations of integrating with white society. Beneatha, on the other hand, rejects that and looks to Africa for her identity. Late in the play she rejects a potential partner because she thinks he is blind to racial issues. She is then proposed to by a Nigerian, who wants her to become a doctor them move to Africa with him.
  • Another source of conflict emerges when Ruth discovers that she is pregnant. Worried that having the baby will increase the pressure on the family she considers an abortion; Mama, a devout Catholic, believes that a better home will help matters and puts down a deposit on a house in a white neighborhood. Despite some protests from their new neighbors, and an offer to pay them to live elsewhere (all adding racial conflict to the mix) they move in.
  • Walter has aspirations of a different kind; he believes that he can make the family wealthy by going into business with Willie. In fact what happens is that he loses the money left over from the deposit when Willie runs off with it, despite having promised Mama to keep $3,000 for Beneatha.

At the end of the play, as they get ready to move to their new home, most of the conflicts seem to have been resolved. Walter has learned his lesson about dubious business schemes and, despite having lost the money Beneatha needed for medical school, redeems himself by being the one to refuse the buyout offer. The family face their future together and with a sense of optimism.