A Raisin in the Sun, 1959 - Summary
- Lorraine Hansberry used Langston Hughes' poem Montage of a Dream Deferred as a preface of her 1959 play about a family's struggle to escape from the Chicago ghetto. Mama finds a nice, clean, well-built house in a white neighborhood and uses her deceased husband's insurance money to make a down payment. Is this their dream come true? Was this the dream deferred all these years? Each family member seems to have a different dream, but each yearns to satisfy a longing of the human spirit that dwells within.
We believe this play expresses a vital and timeless message for all people to hear and feel. All human beings hope to achieve the best quality of life for their families. What is a life without hope, respect, and dignity but a mere existence, something to painfully endure? Peace, love and brotherhood are nice ideas to talk about, but we must be willing to walk the walk for any real and lasting change to occur. This play is an excellent tool to pick up along our journey --- a key to unlock the doors of "spiritual progress" effective for all mankind.
The Younger family includes Mama, Walter and Ruth, Beneatha and Travis. Mama is a strong, compassionate matriarch determined to get them out of the "rat trap" they live in. Walter, her son, feels his manhood and dreams are slipping away through a dead-end job and a restrictive family role. Ruth is Walter's wife who has resigned herself to her lot in life -- dreaming only of the house to keep her going. Beneatha is Mama's daughter who aspires to be a doctor. She is fiercely proud, assertive and ambitious, proud of her African heritage and believing it important to preserve, a new idea for African American women in 1959 society. Travis, Walter and Ruth's son, is their reason for persevering for a better life.
The Youngers are a family struggling to rise out of poverty and reach for the American Dream. It's a tragedy what sometimes happens to the human spirit when it constantly battles adversity and hardship--hope becomes hopelessness, power becomes powerlessness, and love becomes fear. A family can have the best intentions to improve their lives. They may gamble on what seems to be the only road out, and whether it is self-destructive may not be a consideration. The Youngers react to their circumstances with courage, strength, desperation, and naivety, not unlike any American family.
Tammy Barnett, head writer, Jill Owen, Hope Walters, Chad Wilson
University of Kentucky