A Raisin in the Sun is a drama that chronologically details the life experiences of the Younger family as they struggle with self identity, poverty, and segregation. Now, to fully understand the meaning behind the story, some background will be provided on the author, Lorraine Hansberry. At a young age, Lorraine Hansberry and her family were approached by a mob at their home.
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They were being told that they were no longer welcome in that neighborhood, as the white neighborhood improvement association did not see them fit. They were then told that if they did not leave, they would remain in violation of the race restrictive covenant. The Hansberry family later took this matter to the Supreme Court in 1940 where the court ruled in their favor. However, the issue of the covenants being unconstitutional was not resolved until a later case of Shelly v. Kramer in 1948. The unraveling of these events were what sparked Hansberry to begin writing A Raisin in the Sun.
The storyline of A Raisin in the Sun brought about many debatably sensitive topics. The most prevalent topic throughout the story would be the overarching theme of segregation. The play was set in the 1950’s, a time during which there was a fight between assimilation and integration. The setting of Chicago did not have official segregation as the South did, but rather a social and economic division between whites and African-Americans. At the time, segregation was very prevalent in the South. Another controversial topic that arises within the story is that of abortion. The character Ruth in the story discusses possibly having an abortion, which at the time, was illegal in the United States and brought upon very rampant debates. When the play was first talked about being performed, many people had doubts about it doing well due to the fact that it was written, directed, and casted African-Americans. During the time, the primary demographics of those who went to see plays were among the caucasion descent. However, those people were proven wrong. The play had such an uproar in public appreciation that it was soon performed on Broadway. The play was also nominated for four Tony awards, one of which was for the best play and another which was for best director, which was Lloyd Richards, the first African American director.
The film version was also nominated for numerous Golden Globe awards as well. There was also a musical version of the play called simply Raisin, which claimed a Tony award for the best musical in 1974. Though the play was thought to be one which would die off due to its controversial topics, the way in which each character can be empathized with is what set it apart. The audience was able to connect with the characters on a personal level. As we can conclude from the above information, Lorraine Hansberry’s writing of A Raisin in the Sun was nothing short of predetermined. She went through the horrors of the mob, court cases, and segregation as she was growing up, which shaped her thought process revealed in A Raisin in the Sun. If she had not been exposed to those things, then her writing of the story may not have ever or occurred, or if it did, it may not have been as meaningful. She beautifully articulates the struggles of being an African-American in the 1950s, while portraying it tenderly through characters that everyone can relate to. The title encapsulates the entire theme, once spoken by Langston Hughes, a dream that awaits too long withers away like a raisin drying up in the sun. Hansberry had a vision of bringing awareness to her unfortunate circumstances, and to ensure that they did not go unnoticed, she wrote A Raisin in the Sun.
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