A Raisin in the Sun

May 20, 2008
By malcolm symonette, Valdosta, GA

A Raisin in the Sun
Authors that have written American classics tend to incorporate the prevalent social and economic issues of the 20th century. Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun is a marvelous example of literary classics written based on one of the famous American struggles in society that African Americans faced during the Civil Rights era. How does Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun use the Younger family as a symbol in order to represent the various mindsets of African American families during the Civil Rights era? In Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, the Younger family is used as an effulgent form of symbolism to represent the different mindsets of other African American families throughout America during the Civil Rights era. Hansberry's supreme incorporation of conflicting personalities and various age ranges was vital to the execution of the symbolic use of the Younger family, to represent other African American families.

In A Raisin in the Sun Hansberry uses Walter Lee Younger in a spectacular exclusive manner to represent the ambitious but, unknowledgeable African American family. Walter's main purpose in a Raisin in the Sun is to symbolize the African American families that make numerous amounts of unreasonable gambles, which lead to failure. Walter is blinded by ignorance and fails to achieve success because American society safeguards the inner wealth that they want the white male to obtain. Walter Lee Younger states, "Check coming today." (Hansberry 26). Walter's arrogance and lack of wisdom allows him to portray ultimate American success as an accomplishment that he will achieve as a black man in an extremely quick period of time. Walter Younger states, "THAT MONEY IS MADE OUT OF MY FATHER'S FLESH." (Hansberry 128). Walter is physically and emotionally drained and this is his breaking point, he finally realizes that society triumphs over one individual when society is being invaded by a new set of influential figures that try to step to the forefront and become one of their leaders.

Initially, Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun uses Walter to portray how the ambitious African American male allows money and success to lead to the deterioration of his family bonds. Walter's poor judgment allows him to lose touch with his family and start to become a major burden on his Mrs. Lena Younger, Ruth, and Beneatha. Walter states, "We one group of men tied to a race of women with small minds." (Hansberry 34). Walter believes that African American women have an illegitimate chance in surviving in the larger business realms of society, which is ironic because Walter himself fails to grasp a threshold on the business realms in society. Walter fails to realize that his wife has a greater interest in the well being of the family, which is what Walter should be considering since he is supposed to be the dominate male of the house. Perhaps, one major problem that Walter seems to run into is that he fails to walk in his father's shoes and become the strong and wise man his family needs him to become. The thought of failing to fill his father's shoes is perhaps what makes him so gullible and prone to failure. (Literary Critic) "The importance of intelligence and wisdom is extremely prevalent in various sections of the play write." (Johnson pg.2). Walter Younger says, "No thanks to the colored women." (Hansberry 35). Walter fails to understand that his wife gives him unconditional support, which ties into his fatal flaw which is his poor decision making. Ruth is very supportive of Walter and she is trying to prevent him from becoming broken hearted over losing his unrealistic dreams. Walter's fatal downfall comes when he makes one of the most enormous mistakes of his life, because he tries to fight American society as a whole and gets consumed into the poverty stricken American Bubble.

In addition, Hansberry uses Beneatha Younger to represent the intelligent African American who frowns upon other African Americans because of their lack of wisdom, intelligence, and success. Beneatha makes a statement about Walter which is very degrading and she insults Walter on a elevated intellectual level. Beneatha Younger states, "I dissected something that looked just like you yesterday." (Hansberry 36). Beneatha understands that Walter fails to relay higher level messages that she is sending because his lack of superior intelligence. Beneatha is a very strong minded African American female who expresses at times which reveals her dominant ego. Beneatha's ego places a huge amount of emphasis on the fact that she is an educated African American woman that insults her fellow peers by exploiting their ignorance. Beneatha's struggle to find her identity is apparent in the beginning of the play and as the play progresses she starts to understand her visions in life. Beneatha Younger states, "Well, do me a favor and don't ask him a whole bunch of ignorant questions about Africans. I mean, they do wear clothes and all that-" (Hansberry 57). Beneatha's discovery of her true identity allows her to realize that she is very pro black and starts to express her true African beauty. Beneatha is exemplifying the symbolic role that she is supposed to represent which is the intelligent, pro black, sophisticated African American. Beneatha's intelligence and strong mind are prevalent throughout this point of the play because Beneatha realizes that intelligence will be triumphed over if a wise person seems to be trapped into a dehumanized state of mind.

Furthermore, Hansberry uses Beneatha and Walter Younger in an allegorical message to display the feuds that they have as a symbol of the economic and social clashes that African American families engage in amongst each other. Hansberry uses Beneatha and Walter in an individualistic manner in order to create the prevalent diversity in the mind sets that certain African American family’s posses. Beneatha's superior intelligence level over Walter is also symbolic of the high class African Americans casting a drastically dark shadow over the struggling lower economic African American class. Hansberry understands that the Civil Rights era was more than a battle for equality for African Americans, but it was also a period of harmony for all African Americans to come together as one and unite for natural rights. A Raisin in the Sun is an extravagant symbol of the inner social feuds that African Americans proceeded in amongst one another. Many politicians, historians, etc. fail to realize that African Americans were trapped in an inner struggle amongst themselves and needed to do away with their slight differences in order to make progress into the larger realms of American society.

In retrospect, Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun intertwined a superb glamorous message in the play which addresses the various mental views that African American families had during the Civil Rights era. Hansberry's flawless execution use of the effulgent symbolism was prevalent throughout the play. Hansberry's use of each individual member of the Younger family was vital to the execution of the social and moral message of A Raisin in the Sun. Walter's protagonist role of being the poor decision making African American was important because Walter was the center of all the controversy and economic problems for the Younger family. Big Walter, Walter's father was one of the reasons that Walter ran into so many struggles, because Walter was trying too hard to take his father's place. Walter failed to realize that he needed to gain wisdom before he could become the influential man his father once was. Lorraine Hansberry was able to successfully display how the higher economic African American classes clashed with the lower economic classes by emphatically stressing the importance of knowledge and wisdom throughout A Raisin in the Sun.

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This article has 2 comments.

kate189 said...
on Sep. 5 2010 at 7:49 pm

this is good but i dont understand what the authors message was

i read the book

seancombs said...
on Sep. 11 2008 at 6:00 pm
This essay was amazing.

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