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A Raisin in the Sun: Summary, Characters, Themes & Analysis

A Raisin in the Sun: Summary, Characters, Themes & Analysis
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  • 0:00 Plot Summary
  • 0:41 Character Summary
  • 3:23 Themes and Analysis
  • 4:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Vanessa Holmes

Dr. Holmes has taught college English and has a doctoral degree in higher education.

This lesson explores ''A Raisin in the Sun''. Through a discussion of the plot, characters, and themes you will learn about a family's struggle to improve their lives while being challenged by others who seek to deny this basic human right.

Plot Summary

A Raisin in the Sun, a play by Lorraine Hansberry, is the story of a lower-class African American family living on the Southside of Chicago during the 1950s. The family seeks to move into a home in a White middle-class neighborhood. Although a portion of a $10,000 insurance check has been used as a down payment on the house, the remainder of the money has been given to the son of the family. In an effort to quadruple the money, the son invests the money and ends up losing all of it. Despite the fact that the family has lost the remainder of the insurance money and was told that they would not be welcome in the White neighborhood by one of the neighbors, the family decides to move forward with their plans to move into the neighborhood.

Character Summary

Lena Younger (Mama) is a 60-year-old matriarch, meaning she's a woman who rules or dominates her family. Mama heavily relies on her unyielding faith in God and always puts her family first in all decisions. Ultimately, Mama believes that a man should run the household and is she is eager to demonstrate her confidence in her son's ability to lead the family. Because of this, after using a portion of the $10,000 insurance check for the down payment on a house in a middle-class neighborhood, mama gives the remainder of the money to her son to keep for their future.

Walter Lee Younger (Mama's Son) is a 35-year-old chauffeur, who sometimes drinks too much, and becomes obsessed with using the insurance money on a business venture that he believes will provide financial independence and improve both his life and his view of himself. For example, because Walter was so desperate to fulfill his dream of improving his life, he secretly invested the remainder of the insurance money in a liquor store venture with his friends, even though his mother clearly stated that she opposed this plan.

Ruth Younger (Walter's wife) is a thirtyish, very laidback woman. Ruth spends much of her time acting as peacemaker during family disagreements. However, she becomes more emotional when faced with the likelihood of moving to a new neighborhood. For example, when mama and Walter disagree over moving into the White neighborhood, Ruth agrees with Mama and hopes the move will provide more room and opportunities for their son Travis.

Travis Younger (Walter and Ruth's son) is a 10-year-old boy who is a little spoiled, but is a good-natured child. For example, even though Mama makes up for Travis when he gets into trouble with his parents, Travis earns money for carrying grocery bags and does not complain about sleeping on the living room sofa because he has no bedroom.

Beneatha Younger (Mama's daughter) is a twentyish college student who demonstrates a feminist and independent perspective. Beneatha has hopes of going to medical school. As the only member of the household with the opportunity to go to college, she sometimes flaunts her intellect. For example, Beneatha believes that she is entitled to a college education and to participate in extracurricular activities, even though the money would be better spent in the household.

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