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It becomes obvious to the reader that the racial tension Hansberry experienced growing up reflected on the way her literature is written. Moss and Wilson state that, “Lorraine Hansberry’s South Side childhood, particularly her father’s battle to move into a white neighborhood, provided the background for the events in the play” (314). Hansberry experienced many of the situations she placed the Younger family at first hand. Hansberry’s father, Carl Hansberry, was put in a similar circumstance when he moved his family into a predominately white community at the opposition of the white neighbors. He eventually won a civil rights case on discrimination. Speaking of the United States, Adler states, “A Raisin in the Sun is a moving drama about securing one’s dignity within a system that discriminates against, even enslaves, its racial minorities” (824).
Hansberry overcame many racial barriers to become one of the best authors in the world.
Walter Lee Younger is an intense man in his middle thirties who works as a chauffeur, but his dream is to one day open up a liquor store. Walter has a very bad temper and tends to say things he doesn’t mean. Walter and his wife have been getting into many fights in which he will show off his bad temper. Many times when Walter gets upset he goes out and gets drunk. Gerald Weales explains, “Of the four chief characters in the play, Walter Lee is the most complicated and the most impressive.
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Ruth Younger is Walter Lee’s wife who is about thirty years old. Ruth attempts everything possible to make her family happy. When it appears that the love between her and Walter has come to a crossroad, Ruth considers aborting the child of which she is pregnant with. She just wants the best for the Younger family. Ruth wishes to continue working as a cook to the dismay of Walter.
Beneatha Younger is Walter’s smart, younger sister who is about twenty years old. Beneatha wants to become a doctor when she gets older. She says everything that is on her mind and nothing seems to make her happy. Beneatha finds most everything people say to be offensive to her some how. As Thomas Adler says, “Beneatha, a mild self-parody of the artist herself when she was ten years younger, seeks identity as an adult by rebelling against the traditional religion of her mother…” (825). The character of Beneatha has been created by Hansberry to portray herself as a young, African-American striving for success.
Lena Younger, known as Mama, is in her early sixties. “She is one of those women of a certain grace and beauty who wear it so unobtrusively that it takes a while to notice. She has wit and faith of a kind that keeps her eyes lit and full of interest and expectancy. Mama is, in a word, a beautiful woman. Thomas Adler asserts, “Her speech is as careless as her carriage is precise-she is inclined to slur everything-but her voice is perhaps not so much quiet as simply soft”(826). Her husband died a before the beginning of the play leaving the Younger family a ten thousand dollar life insurance check. Mama works very hard to try and help her family have the best, especially for Travis.
Karl Lindner is a member of the Clybourne Park Improvement Association, aimed at improving the living conditions for the people of Clybourne Park. Lindner comes to the Younger apartment with concerns about the new house they have just purchased. Lindner tells Walter that the people of Clybourne Park believe that “people get along better... when they share a common background”(Hansberry 117). Mr. Lindner offers Walter money not to move into the new house, which he turns down. Joyce Moss states, “The racism faced by the play’s characters is rarely of the overt kind. Lindner is pleasant, and claims not to be prejudice”(314). This quote is not true because there are no forms of pleasant racism. Racism can never be considered pleasant for racism represents hatred and there is no form of pleasant hatred.
Walter believed that Ruth and Mama should not have work since it makes him seem cowardly. Ruth and Mama want to support the family by cooking and cleaning the houses of people in the neighborhood. Walter’s discrimination toward Mama and Ruth is a sign of the times. Women did not commonly work in the 1950s and 60s. The women were generally in charge of taking care of the children and the house or apartment.
The community of Clybourne Park places a stigmatism on the Youngers’ simply because they are of African-American descent. Previous African-American families who lived in Clybourne Park were bombed and had other disturbing thing done to their house and family. This can be related to the time of the play’s publication due to the civil rights movement by the African-American race. The late 1950s to the early 60s were a time of various hate crimes. African-American churches were burnt down by white supremacy fighters as well as thousands of homes occupied by African-Americans.
Walter Lee has many internal problems, which hurt his character. Walter Lee tends to drink too much when he goes to a bar and come home intoxicated. He started relying on the bar after getting in a fight at home or if he was down. Walter Lee possesses a temper got him into trouble by causing him to say things that he did not mean.
Ruth faces a major decision of whether or not to keep the baby she was pregnant with. Her marriage with Walter is in a downward spiral and forced her to consider the inconsiderable, abortion. Ruth still has thoughts of abortion until they moved into the new house in Clybourne Park. After moving into the new house, the family has enough room so that they would not be at each others throat the whole time unlike the old apartment. When the play ends, Ruth is planning to keep her baby.
Walter Lee experiences a severe control problem over his family. After his father‘s death, Walter becomes the man of the house and is not acting like he should be. Walter pressures himself to provide luxury to Ruth and anything less does not satisfy him. After Walter lost part of the life insurance to Willy Johnson who ran off with it, he leaves all the other financial responsibilities to Mama.
Mama’s external conflict is what to do with the ten thousand dollars left to the family from “Big Walter’s” life insurance. Mama wants the best for the family and is not sure whether to buy a new house, pay for Beneatha’s medical school, or help Walter start up a liquor business. Mama decides to spend seven thousand dollars on a down payment for the house and put the other three thousand dollars in the bank. When Mama gives the three thousand dollars to Walter to deposit in the bank, Walter gives part of it to his business partner Willy who then runs away with it. Mama is faced with another decision about whether to take Mr. Lindner’s offer to buy the house back or not. After consideration, Mama decides that the family will move into their new house.
A Raisin in the Sun relates to the events Lorraine Hansberry experienced growing up as well as the events happening at the time of which the book was written in 1959. Arthur France notes, “If serious can be taken to mean earnest, deep, grave, sober, solemn, not joking or trifling, then we might say that the setting of A Raisin in the Sun is indeed appropriate to tragedy. The condition out of which the action of this play arises is very serious in terms of the moral behavior of men”(185). In the closing stages of the story, the Younger family overcame the racism that they were fronted with to become a stronger family.