Themes in A Raisin in the Sun

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  • 0:04 Themes
  • 0:32 Dreams
  • 1:45 Pride
  • 2:28 Money
  • 3:25 Race
  • 4:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Washington

Danielle is a certified English Language Arts educator with 8 years of classroom experience, and has an education specialist degree in curriculum and instruction.

Dream big! Have pride! Fight for money! While these might sound like lines from a campaign speech, they actually describe some of the themes in Lorraine Hansberry's play, 'A Raisin in the Sun'. In this lesson, you will learn about these and other themes in the play.


Theme is the big idea in a story or piece of literature. It's an important point that the writer expresses over and over again throughout a story. To figure out the theme, it's important to pay attention to the various story elements such as the conflict and setting, including the characters' thoughts, actions, words, feelings, and relationships. These show us what big messages the author wants us to walk away with. Let's take a look at some themes in Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun.


Dreams are one of the most important themes in A Raisin in the Sun. In fact, the title of the play actually comes from a poem written by famous author Langston Hughes called ''Harlem (Dream Deferred).'' In the poem, Hughes questions whether a dream that is put on hold will eventually dry up like a raisin that's left out in the sun, or if it will explode. This seems to be exactly what's happening to the Younger family, the play's main characters.

The Younger family consists of five members: Lena Younger (also known as Mama), her son Walter and daughter Beneatha, and Walter's wife Ruth and son Travis. Each member of the family has a dream that they are desperate to fulfill. Mama and Ruth want to leave their tiny apartment in the poor, black section of Southside Chicago and move into a bigger house in a white neighborhood. Walter wants to open a liquor store so that he can be his own boss and not have to work for white people. Beneatha wants to attend medical school.

For the longest time, each of these dreams have been deferred, or put on hold, causing each family member to be frustrated, but the death of Lena's husband and the resulting $10,000 insurance check create an opportunity for members of the family to have their dreams come true. By the end of the play, only Mama and Ruth's dream is fulfilled as the family prepares to move into a new home.


One of the Younger family's most important values is pride. Throughout the play, it's evident that Mama has worked hard to raise the family with a sense of pride, dignity, and respect for their ancestors. This unshakable sense of pride comes in handy when Karl Lindner, a white man from the neighborhood where the Youngers plan to move, tries to pay them to stay in their apartment and away from the white neighborhood. Even though their new white neighbors don't want them there, the Youngers are too proud to accept money to stay away.

Actors Ruby Dee as Ruth Younger, Claudia McNeil as Lena Younger, Glynn Turman as Travis Younger, Sidney Poitier as Walter Younger, and John Fielder as Karl Lindner in the stage play A Raisin in the Sun.
The Younger Family

This sense of pride is also what makes life so difficult for Walter. Walter works as a chauffeur for a rich white man, a job that he absolutely hates. He feels he is too good to be anyone's servant, and this is what makes him so desperate to open a liquor store of his own.

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