Book Review: A Raisin in the Sun

By: Izabella Zhang


A Raisin in the Sun takes place during the 1950s in Southside Chicago where the Youngers family, an African American family, lives in a small apartment. The story begins with Walter talking about his dreams and finding the meaning in his life, but no one chooses to listen to him and thinks that he is crazy. The family then receives a check of $100,000 from Walter’s father, Mr.Younger, who passed away. The check causes conflict between the family because each member has a different plan on how and where to use the money. Walter wants to use it to invest in a liquor store, Mama (Walter’s mother) wants to buy a house to fulfill her husband Mr.Younger’s dream, and Beneatha (Walter’s sister) wants to use this money to pay for her medical tuition supporting her dream to become a doctor. Finally, Mama makes a decision and buys a house in a white neighborhood. She gives the rest of the money to Walter for his liquor store and tells him to save some for Beneatha’s tuition. However, because it is a white neighborhood, the neighbors are unhappy about the Youngers moving in, so they choose Mr. Lindner to represent them and negotiate with the Youngers about moving in. They offered a great amount of money for them to stay out. To add on to the pressure, Bobo, Walter’s buddy that also invested in the liquor store, came to tell the family some bad news. Walter got scammed, and the partner that promised them financial hope took the money and ran away. This devastated the family, and to add on to that, the family found out that Walter did not save any money for Beneatha’s medical tuition. Now, Walter is leaning towards the deal with Mr.Lindner, hoping to fix everything. Beneatha, on the other hand, seems to have new hope. Her friend Asaigai gives her an opportunity to become a doctor in Africa. After pondering what is at stake, Walter decides to refuse Mr.Lindner’s offer because he realizes that his pride and dignity are more important than money. The family decides to move in with a hopeful mood. Although life may be hard and dangerous, it is a new life and a new start for them.

The dialogue in this play is well written and flows naturally. Hansberry uses diction, syntax accents, and pauses to make the play realistic and creates an image in the reader’s mind. For example, words like “ain’t” show the accent and tell the reader about the character’s characteristics. Diction and syntax in this play show the reader the character’s personality as well. For example, adding religious words like “Lord, some people I could name sure is tight-fisted!” and arranging the words shows the reader the personality of this character. Pauses in between lines show the humanity in the characters and bring them to life. “Far as I could make out—to Egypt.” Bringing the characters to life provides a more interesting reading experience and attracts the reader to the play.

Although this play provides the reader with a glimpse of what an African American family struggles with in the 1950s, it lacks a dynamic plotline. The plotline in this play seems flat and does not have a lot of fluctuations. The play depicts real-life problems: economic hardship and racial injustice. Each event that happens in this play surrounds these two main problems. But these problems do not hold enough tension to make a reader feel moved. The set design and the way characters react to things show the readers the conflict that they are facing and how they are solving it. Having a static plotline can not move a reader and the readers can easily be distracted from the play.

Walter Lee Younger is the protagonist of the play. Through indirect characterization, he is thought to be an impatient and irresponsible person at the beginning of the play. As the play goes on, he experiences more and he ends up in a different place from where he started. In the beginning, he talks about his dreams. He is impatient and anxious because no one is listening to him. “DAMN MY EGGS—DAMN ALL THE EGGS THAT EVER WAS!” This is not what a mature person would say. His attitude towards his family sometimes is immature which makes the reader dislike him. He shows his irresponsibility when it is revealed that he didn’t save any money for Beneatha. “Mama … I never … went to the bank at all …” He was in his head too much and was blindsided by his dream when he put all the money in his liquor store. He believed in the liquor store so much that he didn't think it through enough and just took action. But at the end of the play, it is clear he changed into a more likable character. He shows his maturity and wisdom when he declines Mr. Lindner’s offer. “We are plain people… we come from people who had a lot of pride” He decides that although he doesn’t have much money left if his pride and dignity is lost, it is harder to regain than money. Having a dynamic character takes the reader on the journey with the character and allows the reader to engage with the play.

A Raisin in the Sun is possibly worth reading. The play gives an insight into an African American family facing struggles with money and race, expanding the reader’s knowledge. But the plot does not hold enough tension to strongly move the reader. And although the plot is not dynamic, the characters are. The readers go on a journey with the characters to see how they grow and develop and how they conquer problems. Hansberry strings this all together with a well-written dialogue that brings the character to life and makes the flow of the play natural and not dramatized. A Raisin in the Sun is a heartwarming play to read in bed before sleep, but it’s probably not the one if you want to go on an emotional roller coaster.



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