A Raisin In The Sun is a rich story about a poor family’s struggle on Chicago’s South Side.
Mama is the matriarch focused on keeping the Younger family together by sharing her wisdom in moments of despair. Her son, Walther, is a chauffeur for a white family who is searching for an opportunity to get ahead and provide a better life for his family. His sister, Beneatha, is a college student with plans to attend medical school.
The absence of hope’s effects on the human psyche is central to the play’s theme reflected mainly through Walther’s character. He has lost faith in the notion of hard work producing benefits and suddenly believes his salvation lies in a risk-taking enterprise. After his ambition suffers a blow that nearly breaks him, it’s the strength of the women around him that help him to recover.
There’s an interesting series of exchanges between Mama and Beneatha, which pit educated against uneducated to show Mama offering life’s lessons that aren’t part of an academic curriculum in what would be considered wisdom passing from one generation to another.
In one scene Beneatha cuts her hair and wears it in a natural state as she tries to project pride in her identity. The back-and-forth that ensues between her, Mama, and Ruth, her sister-in-law serve to express a feeling of liberation that results from forswearing the denial of one’s identity.
A Raisin In The Sun is an important story, but it reflects a handful of the archetypes used to portray the black community and something Chimamanda Adichie referred to in a TED talk as the danger of the single story to represent a group of people. There are strong parallels between the Younger family and the Joad’s of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, but in addition to Tom Joad, Holden Caulfield and Bridget Jones are also representative of white characters. A Raisin In The Sun needs to be told; however, stories other than struggle need to be told, too, in order to avoid the marginalization depicted in the play.