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Themes of A Raisin in the Sun

There are a number of elements connected to Lorraine Hansberry's drama A Raisin in the Sun that made it a groundbreaking piece of drama when it first played to theater audiences in the 1950s. It was certainly groundbreaking in that it was the first play ever produced on Broadway written by a black woman. The play revolves around the conflicts within the Younger family, but also external to the African American family living in racist America. The play was groundbreaking because it showed details of black family life to white audiences on a level never before seen in popular entertainment. The play was also groundbreaking during this era because of its primarily black cast, but also because of its themes that imply whites have cheated African Americans out of their piece of the American Dream. From candid expressions of hostility toward whites to criticizing run-down tenement conditions, this analysis will discuss some of the groundbreaking elements in A Raisin in the Sun.

In the play, a central theme appears to be that of deferred dreams. As Ardolino (181) notes, "The title comes from Langston Hughes' poem, which compares a dream deferred too long to a raisin rotting in the sun." The Younger family has waited too long to realize their dreams. Living in a harsh and hostile society of racism, Mama Lena nurtures her troubled children as surely as she nurses her prize possession, a spindly plant that gets only fits of light from the apartment's one window. Moving into their own home and seeing her son mature are two of Mama's main goals. The play was groundbreaking because it shows the desperation of people trying to survive in harsh social and economic conditions, which exiles African Americans from mainstream (i.e. white) society. However, where Mama's son Walter is concerned, he has exiled himself from his family and even his own manhood. If Walter accepts an offer of money by a racist homeowner associati...

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