Dreams and Racism in A Raisin In The Sun
At most times, the American Dream resembles an ideological puzzle more than a fully realizable image. Within the confines of her fantastical, theatrical world Lorraine Hansberry attempts to fit a few of these pieces together and, in the process, ends up showing exactly how everything doesn’t just snap-together all nicely. The problems in her play, A Raisin In The Sun, deal primarily with the basic nature of humans and their respected struggle’s to “make it” in America.
The story, for the most part, centers upon an African-American family, their dreams for the future and an insurance check coming in for death of the eldest man. Stirring into the mix later is the hugely oppressive, segregationist aspect of mid-twentieth century America. With highly oppressive external pressures, combined with conflicting ideas of happiness, the story centers on the ideological conflicts between characters.
The largest conflicts result between Mama Younger and her son, Walter. Walter represents, apparently, all the things America instills in men; the desire to work hard and make a better life for his family than he had, the inability to be compassionate towards his family, an almost ignorant refusal to vary from his dream for the dreams of others. Hansberry centers here, it would seem, on the most negative aspects of “manhood”. In fact, overridingly, men in this play are horrible creatures: George is uppity, aristocratic and a braggart (mentioning the curtain time in New York to a women who obviously has no idea about that type of thing simply places him, in his eyes, that much higher than her); Walter’s friends are loud-mouth-know-it-all’s (one of whom takes off with all the money th…
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…r but, until the day he dies she will be his sister, and therefore he will always be somewhat proud of her. To me, this is an intricate human detail and evidence of Hansberry’s supreme ability of crafting characters right out of real life.
In the end I believe she is making the statement that the so-called American Dream is different for everyone; sort of a spiritual fingerprint of utopia. Being an African-American woman in the 40’s and 50’s probably had a large influence on the tone of this piece; as did being a severely closeted lesbian. Even though our respective upbringings couldn’t be much more different, I fully agree with the stance she’s taken. The table of America isn’t level, thus causing the puzzle to shift and tilt uncontrollably. The pieces don’t always fit and it is sad that so many people spend their entire lives trying to force them to work.