A Raisin in the Sun: Theme Analysis

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Divisive effects of racism
The barriers between generations and the sexes are referred to several times in this domestic drama and are reviled as weakening the bonds between the family members. Mama points out that something has come between her and her children and Walter notes the same is happening between him and Ruth. These divisions are only seen to be overcome at the end of the play when they finally, and jointly, agree to move to Clybourne Park with pride. Their unity is seen to transcend the barriers and this becomes a weapon to challenge the divisive effects of poverty and inherent racism.

Poverty
As the stage directions for Act One, Scene One reveal, the Younger family live in cramped conditions and as they talk it becomes all the more evident that their lives are dominated by the combined traps of poverty and racism. As Walter points, it has always been about money and this telling remark represents how this play tries to demonstrate that poverty both justifies and creates inequalities.

Segregation
As an African-American family that has its roots in the South, Mama and her offspring are of the later generations that have supposedly benefited by the economic migration North to Chicago. A Raisin in the Sun questions this simplistic view of the North/South divide and uses the Younger family’s predicament as a means to depict the ongoing social segregation that may be found in the North at the time of writing (and is still evident today). Hansberry’s use of the format of drama to critique the social and racial divide in American society, and the ridiculous figure of Lindner reinforces the criticism of white domination.

Money rather than violence is the obvious lever that Lindner uses when he visits the family to ask them to stay away from his neighborhood, but the threat of violence is apparent in his speech and in the newspaper reports. The enforcement of segregation may appear to be less threatening on the surface when compared to what Mama has escaped from, but the menace is described as still being in place. Thinking big/Having aspirations
It is only with the help of aspiring dreams that these various members of the Younger family are seen to battle on in a society bent on deferring or quashing them. By thinking big, they refuse to be the raisins in the sun of Langston Hughes’ poem (‘Montage of a Dream Deferred’).

The hope to escape poverty is only given concrete assistance by the death of the father, but when most of this money is stolen the family comes together in a show of unity. It is as though the play argues finally that just by having the dream one will become a success as hope has triumphed over adversity.

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