The Ambition that Almost Broke the Family in a Raisin in the Sun

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The idea of Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun is focused on the family and how different they were from each other. It was the first play by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway. The whole play takes place in the apartment where the Younger family lives. The apartment was very tiny for five people, the kitchen was the size of a closet and they shared the bathroom with the other neighbors which were more stressful for them because they were constantly fighting and taking the turn on who was going to use the bathroom in the morning. This being the first play being produced on Broadway by a black woman in history made it better and exiting for the black community. So, at the same time, this is a story every person of color at that time could identify with. The play is about this African American family who are a pretty normal family; however, they struggled with one thing. 

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The Younger family struggled to achieve happiness due to Walter’s ambition and family poverty. It is interesting how each of the characters is so different and changes throughout the play. The Youngers had their own issues; however, Mama Lena was the one who always tried to unite the family depicts their problems. Mama Lena is Walter and Beneatha’s mother. She is around her early sixties with a ‘full-bodied and strong “black woman (Hansberry 948). Her hair is white, a face is full of strength and her voice is soft, with patience and grace. Ruth, another one who plays a big role in the play is Walter’s wife and Travis’ mom. She has about thirty and she is a pretty woman, but life has hit her with expectancy and disappointment. She can be classified as a settled woman for the way she has dealt with Walter’s attitude and way of treating her. Then we have Walter Lee, a tall black man who is in his middle thirties is an intense and lean man. His speech and movement are very intense and erratic. His ambition with money has driven him crazy and soon affects the family. Walter and Ruth had a little boy together named Travis. He is ten or eleven a very sturdy, handsome little boy. 

Lastly, there is Beneatha who is about twenty years old and is as slim and intense as her brother Walter. She is a pretty lady, but not as pretty as Ruth, her sister-in-law. Her speech during the play is different from the rest, she is a very strong woman wanted to be an independent black woman. Even though Beneatha’s goal was to be a successful and an independent woman Walter’s goal and ambition was totally different. He wanted to take the $10,000 dollars Big Walter gave Mama Lena after his death to open a liquor store. But not only that his friend Harris was the one with the idea and they were planning to open the store together. Mama Lena wanted to use that money as a down payment to buy a beautiful comfortable house for the family, so they can move out of their ‘crowded, shabby apartment’ and be happy for once (Tackach). 

However, for Walter Lee that money was his dream, his getaway ticket of making it, but for Mama that was not a good idea nor adequate. Therefore, she takes $3,500 as a down payment for the house and gives the rest to Walter. She tells him to put $3,000 in the bank for Beneatha’s medical school tuition and the rest for his use. Walter then gave the money Lena gave him to his friend Harris to open the store. He then realizes his friend had stolen his money and they end up with no money for the house. Beneatha gets angry at him and Mama Lena looks disappointed for the way Walter manage irresponsibly the money she gave to him. However, he tries to fix it and man up, so he talks to Mr. Linder and talks movingly of his father ‘hard work and his family’s pride’ explaining to him that he and his family decide to stay with their new home (Tackach). Hansberry’s final scene in the play shows dignity and ethical in an embarrassing situation. The way Mama Lena solved that situation ‘not in terms of social justice’ just in terms of a prideful family that has ‘ethical standards’ (Atkinson, 1959, pg.X1). Lena then tells Ruth full of contentment that his son, Walter has ‘finally come into his manhood today’ and the says ‘like a rainbow after the rain’ (Tackach). 

The point of Hansberry is to tell the audience that Walter has become a man and is both meaningful and permanent. He has come to his senses and learned from his mistake, so he tries to be better and change it. After all that Beneatha and Walter move past the fight and problems, they had in the past and they all unite again as a happy and proud family. Basically, the plot of the play revolves around the money that Mama Lena receives from the insurance of her husband and how Walter Lee becomes obsessed with it and almost broke the family apart. The family’s dream was to get out of poverty and enjoy life to the full as a normal American should. It took a lot to get there, but after all the problems and downs they finally did it. Lorraine Hansberry presented the play A Raisin in the Sun so realistic talking about society’s problem that people go through nowadays and could identify with. She gives young adult readers an insight into what is like being an African American leaving in a white society in those days. She connected with her roots and wanted the character in the play to express themselves and find their identity. But also staying prideful at the same time no matter the limitations they had. 

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The Ambition that Almost Broke the Family in A Raisin in the Sun. (2021, Dec 28). Retrieved June 7, 2023 , from

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