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A Raisin In The Sun by Jane G.A Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 24th, 2021

Racial discrimination is the main theme of the book, strongly reflecting the situation that prevailed during the 1950s in the United States, a time when the story’s Younger family lived in Chicago’s South Side ghetto. Racial discrimination led to the city being carved into two distinct parts – the first housing whites only, and the other housing blacks. A majority of blacks did not accept the idea of assimilating into the dominant white culture on the grounds that by doing so, they would fit into white perceptions about their behavior and actions and thereby would be demeaning themselves. Blacks were searching for separate self-identities based on a celebration of their culture and heritage. They wanted to be treated as equally (like whites) contributing members of society in pursuit of the American Dream. All the minor characters in the book indulge in actions that reflect the racial discrimination prevailing at that time.

Lena Younger is the family matriarch who desires that her family move into the all-white Clybourne Park area because it would not only provide them more comfort and prestige (Jane) but would overcome all constraints associated with racial discrimination and gain equality with whites in society. All through the novel, she goads and pushes her family members towards this dream. The greatest challenge comes in the form of Karl Lindner who tries to dissuade them from moving into the all-white Clybourne community (Hansberry, 143). Her dream is achieved to a great extent at the end of the novel when her son Walter rejects money in favor of the ideals inculcated in him by his mother.

Walter Younger captures the central meaning of an African American’s intense desire for the American Dream {“Seems like God didn’t see fit to give the black man nothing but dreams” (Hansberry, 29)}. The power of his dream is to be financially well-off, educate his son Travis and provide for his future. Disillusioned with his job as a chauffeur, his endless preoccupation with finding quick riches and dominating his household makes him engage in arguments with his mother, wife, and sister; he turns wayward by constantly drinking and invests part of the insurance money rashly with his friend Willy Harris. In the end, he realizes that fighting against racial discrimination is worthier than accepting money to stay out of it.

Beneatha Younger is the stereotype of a black woman in those days who was racially discriminated by white society as well as by her own culture as not being worthy of higher education and its related status in life. Beneatha Younger uses education as the base to fight against racial discrimination. She attends college (Hansberry, 17) and is better educated than anyone else in the family.

Ruth Younger portrays a pragmatic pessimist continually battling poverty and household problems. Like Lena, Ruth also dreams of escaping from racial discrimination, getting away from their present slovenly locality, moving into a respectable house, and attain equal status with whites in society. She is fiercely protective of her power over her own body – realizing she is pregnant, she contemplates abortion . Due to his perceived pro-racist stance, George becomes increasingly repelling to other blacks .

Joseph Asagai is the exact opposite of George Murchison. He is a forceful Nigerian character, an African intellectual (Hansberry 42), who takes fierce pride in his African heritage (Hansberry 72). Having fallen in love with Beneatha, he tries to awaken the pride of her heritage in her by giving her Nigerian costumes to wear and fondly calling her ‘Alaiyo’ . He pleads with her to marry him and accompany him to his native Nigeria that he promises she would like so much, it would feel as though she had “only been away a day” (Hansberry, 130)}. While Asagai represents a powerful African model that other blacks can proudly emulate, he is guilty of supporting an important pillar of racism – the suppression of women. When Beneatha, in response to his proposal of marriage, says she is not interested in a storybook romance but wants to become an independent and liberated woman, Asagai heaps scorn on her wishes, saying: “Liberated women are not liberated at all” (Hansberry, 50).

Willy Harris, Walter Younger’s black partner in his liquor store project, cheats him and runs away with the investment money (Hansberry, 118). Instead of helping Walter try to improve his finances and position in life for himself and his family, Willy instead adds more problems to the Youngers’ already heavy financial burden. Willy’s action proves that he is a betrayer of his fellow black, and by association, a betrayer of the entire black community and the causes they were fighting for.

Mrs. Johnson, the neighbor of the Younger family, represents the typical black person too scared to assimilate with whites in a predominantly white neighborhood. She tries to scare the Younger family into not moving into the all-white Clybourne community by recalling incidents where blacks were badly intimidated in similar situations (Hansberry, 104).

Karl Lindner portrays the typical “white Aryan,” arrogantly secure in the power of his race and its belief that blacks are not fit to live in the same neighborhood as them. He is chosen by the Clybourne Park Improvement Association to dissuade the Youngers from moving into the predominantly white Clybourne Park area (Cocola and Douthat). Lindner comes very close to achieving his mission when Walter agrees to take the money and sign a binding contract (Hansberry, 141), only to be thwarted at the last moment when Walter has a change of heart.

By depicting the defiant and strong response of the Youngers to the racial discrimination being practiced against them, the author portrays that the best way to respond to such discrimination is to confront it head one and reaffirm one’s dignity directly in its face, rather than letting it go without confrontation (Cocola et al.)

“A Raisin in the Sun” is regarded among the best and most realistic plays in African American History (Jane). The events in the 1959 book correctly refer to the situation in the U.S. during the 1950s, when racial segregation was widespread. After the U.S. Supreme Court set a precedent in Plessy v. Ferguson by approving state-sponsored racial discrimination, blacks were not allowed to mingle with whites in schools and other public facilities; even graveyards were segregated. Blacks were contemptuously referred to as ‘boy’ or ‘girl.’ It was only later that resistance from blacks began to have a telling effect as incidents such as the Rosa Parks incident in December 1955 Incidents like these, contained in the Civil Rights Movement, culminating in the march of nearly 200,000 people to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C on December 28, 1963, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Congress finally passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 (Wikipedia.org).

Reference

Wikipedia.org. 2007. Web.

Cocola Jim & Douthat Ross. “Sparknote on ‘A Raisin in the Sun’.” Sparknotes.com. 2008. Web.

Hansberry, Lorraine. “A Raisin in the Sun.” USA: Vintage. 1994.

Jane, G.A. “Raisin in the Sun.” Bookstove.com. 2008. Web.

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