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Realism in “A Raisin in the Sun” by Hansberry Report

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Updated: Sep 6th, 2022

“A Raisin in the Sun” is a play in three acts whose action unfolds sometime between the end of World War II and the 1950s. The play takes place in an urban ghetto and depicts a struggling African-American family stricken with poverty and racism permeating American society. The family anticipates a life insurance check that they are entitled to after the death of the husband Walter’s father. The central conflict revolves around the disposition of a large amount of money.

Walter dreams of opening his own liquor store: to him, running a successful small business might become his lucky ticket out of the impoverished neighborhood. Ruth, the wife, has other, more down-to-earth plans: she plans to use the money as a downpayment for a new house and to cover her sister’s medical school tuition fees. After many rows and quarrels, the spouses split the money and leave the ghetto in search of a better life. Right from the premise, it becomes clear that “A Raisin in the Sun” bears some of the critical characteristics of the realism genre.

The author approaches the narrative without romanticizing, subjectivizing, or idealizing it. “A Raisin in the Sun” is developed around commonplace characters that do not have any outstanding qualities or superpowers. In a way, Walter and Ruth are typical African-Americans of the Jim Crow era: they struggle with inequality, poverty, and the lack of opportunity like many other Black people did back then. The author Lorraine Hansberry uses clear, simple language that reflects the everyday talk characteristic for the depicted demographic. The conflict itself is presented in a realistic way as well: one can readily imagine the indecisiveness and agitation of a poor, underprivileged family over receiving a considerable sum of money.

Of special note is the level of detail in the story: for example, the description of the family’s dwelling (“tired furnishing,” “once loved couch upholstery “) makes up for a convincing setting (Hansberry 207). Lastly, “A Raisin in the Sun” provides a social critique: it shows the realities of the lower class and disdains racism. Social critique unfolds in such plot arcs as Ruth’s unplanned pregnancy: the woman realizes that a child would be an economic burden and considers abortion. Another vital element is Walter’s hesitance about accepting a bribe from his white neighbors that want the family to leave for good.

The messages embedded in “A Raisin in the Sun” are still relevant today. Firstly, the play teaches the reader the importance of the family. At the beginning of the play, the life insurance payment puts a distance between the spouses and causes arguments. Neither Walter nor Ruth wants to let go of their individual dreams and take the other person’s interests into account. Undoubtedly, the husband’s plan to open a liquor store may not work out in the long run.

However, the man sought acceptance and understanding in his wife, and when she took charge of the money, he felt emasculated. In the end, the spouses reached a compromise: perhaps, they realized that they are only able to survive if they support each other. Another valuable idea hidden in the play is the insidious nature of racism. The family’s neighbors were not openly abusive or violent, and some may even think that the bribe they offered was a “nice” gesture. However, they put Walter in an embarrassing situation that he, however, successfully escaped. Today, the reader can learn that racism is not only about open aggression: it is also about the prejudice and elusive public sentiment that covertly hurts the minorities.

Work Cited

Hansberry, Lorraine. Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. Samuel French, Inc., 1984.

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IvyPanda. "Realism in “A Raisin in the Sun” by Hansberry." September 6, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/realism-in-a-raisin-in-the-sun-by-hansberry/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Realism in “A Raisin in the Sun” by Hansberry." September 6, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/realism-in-a-raisin-in-the-sun-by-hansberry/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'Realism in “A Raisin in the Sun” by Hansberry'. 6 September.

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