A Raisin in the Sun is a critically acclaimed play by Lorraine Hansberry, it won awards and was turned into movies later on. Hansberry picked the title from a line in Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem”.
The play is about a working-class African-American family in Chicago and their struggles to realize their American dream. Following the death of their father, the family is waiting on an insurance payout of $10,000, a sum large enough to make each member of the family excited about their future. The Younger family consists of the eldest son Walter and his wife Ruth, their son Travis, Walter’s mother Lena, and Walter’s sister Beneatha. They all live in a two-bedroom apartment in southside Chicago.
Walter is a limousine driver who hates working for “the man” and struggles to make ends meet. His wife Ruth is satisfied with their lives and has more sympathy for her mother-in-law Lena and her dream. Walter’s mother Lena dreams of owning their own house, so as not to pay rent anymore. Walter’s sister Beneatha aspires to become a doctor. But Walter plans on using the insurance money to invest in a liquor store with his shady friends.
In its essence, the play is about the black experience of the American dream. However, it has so many more dimensions to it, from concepts of class, identity, mother-child relationships, husband-wife relationships, to feminism, and pan-Africanism.
Hansberry’s style is quite raw and beautiful. She doesn’t shy away from discussing the real issues that face black Americans. Her language is easy and even hilarious at times.
I highly recommend reading this play, for the sheer brilliance of it. The issues and ideas discussed are still very much relevant today. And the ending is perhaps the best, most realistic ending I’ve ever read.