A Raisin in The Sun
Regents English Prep Online
The Author- Lorraine
• (May 19, 1930– January 12, 1965) Note: She
died young of pancreatic cancer at just 34 yrs
• She grew up in Southside Chicago as the
youngest of four children.
• Her parents were activists.
• She moved to New York to pursue writing
• Wrote the first drama written by an African
American woman and produced on
Broadway, age 29.
• Raisin in the Sun is by far her best known
HANSBERRY V. LEE
• In 1937, businessman Carl Hansberry, Lorraine's
father, defied the local property association by purchasing a
home in a white neighborhood.
• After losing in state court, the case was brought to the US
• In a crucial decision in segregation, the US Supreme
Court, on November 13, 1940, ruled in Hansberry v.
Lee that whites cannot bar African Americans from white
• The decision focused on the legal technicalities, instead of
the segregation issue.
• Though victors in the Supreme Court, Hansberry's family
was subjected to what Hansberry would later describe as a
"hellishly hostile white neighborhood."
A Raisin in the Sun
• Debuted in 1959, prior to the Civil Rights
• Received the New York Drama Critics’
Circle Award for Best Play of the Year
(Hansberry was the youngest, 5th woman
and only black playwright at the time to
win the reward.)
• According to James Baldwin (African
American writer/phiolsopher), the play
received such acclaim from the African
American community because "'never
before in American theater history has so
much of the truth of black people's lives
been seen on stage'"
Overview of the Play
• The play is essentially about
dreams, taking it’s title from the
Langston Hughes poem “ Harlem”
• Each member of the household has a
• As the play develops, tensions rise as
each family member comes in to
conflict with each other as the limited
resources of the family cannot
support all of the family members
• Southside Chicago -1950’s
• Housing was a constant issue, as the
growing African American population
was crammed in to a small part of the
city known as the “black belt” of the
• Landlords took advantage by chopping
up apartment buildings and cramming
more people in to each building.
• Crime rates increased, quarrels over
shared kitchens and bathrooms caused
• African-Americans had traditionally been
“last to be hired, first to be fired” after
World War II resulting in unstable
incomes and more poverty.
The character of Mr. Lindner is a reminder of the kind cruelty of
segregation. He represents the homeowners association of the
predominantly white neighborhood where the Younger’s are planning
The Value and Purpose of Dreams
Each character consistently is struggling against the very limited
financial resources of the family to achieve their dreams. Although
their ambition drives them. It is also a source of anxiety and
depression as it becomes apparent each family member may not
achieve their dream.
Although the different members are in conflict with each other
throughout the play, they also express love for each other throughout
• Walter is both the major protagonist of the play, but also acts
as an antagonist at times as he is often angry and quick to
• Walter (and his frustrations) represents the struggle of the
common African-American man to provide financially for his
family with limited opportunities.
• Initially he struggles to see the value of other family members
ability to contribute to the advancement of the family.
• His dream is to own a liquor store.
• Walter and Beneatha’s mother and head of the
• She demands each member to respect themselves
and to take pride in their dreams.
• Represents some Christian and traditional ideals.
• Her dream is to own a house with a garden.
• Beneatha challenges both racial and gender stereotypes and
• She is dating two men who seem to represent the split
identity of African-Americans. She is most cheerful with her
Nigerian boyfriend Joseph Asagai. George seems more
interested in assimilating in to American culture, while
Joseph allows and encourages Beneatha to rediscover her
• Her dream of becoming a doctor signals her ambition and
her desire to be independent.
• Ruth, married to Walter, is a housewife and represents some
of the stereotypical images of 1950’s women.
• She works in more wealthy white homes to help deal with the
financial difficulties of the family.
• Ruth supports her husband but is up to countering him when
he gets out of the line.
• Her pregnancy illustrates the financial stress of the family as
she considers an abortion.
• By Langston Hughes 1902–1967 Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?