TheRaisin In the Sun is a Broadway play by Lorraine Hansberry thatdebuted in 1959. The play tells the story of a black family’sattempt to improve their lifestyle based on an insurance policyfollowing the death of the family patriarch. Itcan be stated that the characters in a play are an integral elementin propagating the themes that a writer wishes to display. In theRaising In the sun, Lorraine Hansberry uses the main characters todemonstrate the dreams of the African community such as economicempowerment, independence and a comfortable family life. Some ofthese dreams were actually not attained, while others were achievedto some level. Thispaper seeks to describe how Hansberry uses the three main charactersin her play Walter, Beneatha, and Mama to display the dreams of theAfrican community after a history of deprivation.
WalterYounger is struggling chauffeur who hopes to get into the liquorbusiness. After the death of his father, he feels entitled to the$10,000 insurance money his mother is due to earn. He is an ambitiousbut money hungry man who hopes to make it in the business along withpartners Willy and Bobo. Through this, he believes that he canfinally be able to provide his young family with the life they sodesire. He however shows that he does not have the appropriate skillsneeded (Hansberry, p 449- 519). One of the dreams of the Africancommunity is economic empowerment. Walter shows the aggressivenessand ambition with which he feels can put to good use in order toresolve his financial difficulty. His dream however is not achieveddue to lack of education and business skills as his entrusts hisfriend the money who in turn mishandles it.
Beneathais Walter Younger’s younger sister. She nurses big dreams of beinga doctor though her brother doesn’t seem to agree with thisbelieving that being a doctor is a man’s job (Hansberry, p 496). She portrays an African community dream of ambition and independence.She shows great knowledge of the African continent even though shecomes off as opinionated. (Hansberry,p 506). Beneatha is unable tofulfil her long term ambition of being a doctor since Walter’sfriend Willy disappears with the money originally budgeted for herfees. Though her dreams are shattered, she is able to see life from adifferent perspective thanks to her friend Joseph.
Mama(Lena Younger) is a loving woman, who despite living in povertycarries herself with dignity. She is portrayed as having Africancharacteristics” has the noble bearing of the noble women of theHeroes of South West Africa” (Hansberry, p499). With the $10,000she hopes to receive as insurance after her husband’s death. Sheplans to buy a proper home for her family in a betterneighbourhood.The African community dream she exhibits is that ofproviding alternative and comfortable shelter for both herself andextended family. She is lucky enough to put down a payment for a homein a white community before giving the balance to Walter (Hansberry,p 535). Despite the effort she makes, a white representative tries toscuttle their plan by offering to buy them out which she tactfullyavoids on the basis that they are all equal though in need of money.She also portrays the air of stability very present in the Africancommunity today.
Inconclusion it is safe to say that all the characters in the play hadbig dreams but ignorance, selfishness and lack of exposure played apart in them not being fulfilled. If the burning ambition to succeedwas properly incorporated, there probably would be different results.
Hansberry,Lorraine. TheRaisin in the Sun. Random House, 1959.