A Raisin in the Sun Study Guide

Lorraine Hansberry, in an August 1959 Town Voice article, wrote:

In a nearly paradoxical fashion, it disrupts the soul of man to genuinely comprehend what he usually senses: that nobody really discovers injustice and/or hardship tolerable. If we ever damage the image of the black individuals who allegedly do discover those things bearable in America, then that much-touted “guilt” which presumably haunts most middle-class white Americans with regard to the Negro question would truly end up being unendurable.

Combating the misconception of complacency is the main concept that drives Hansberry’s play. Throughout a time when African-Americans were depicted in musicals as jovial resistant characters who were content with their status, A Raisin in the Sun became the first drama composed and produced by an African-American that challenged this myth of satisfaction. On March 11, 1959, Lorraine Vivian Hansberry had her captive audience. That night was not just another evening at the theatre, but rather marked the beginning of a discussion about several essential concerns that concerned not simply blacks, but the American people as a whole. In this play, Hansberry vividly depicts the stress of poverty. On phase, she produces a real life where five humans are squeezed into a one-bedroom house, where a young boy needs to rush for a measly fifty cents, and where a male needs to crave the household to have any expect the future.

On the surface area, Broadway appeared prepared to welcome a play like A Raisin in the Sun. At the age of 29, Lorraine Hansberry was the very first and youngest African-American to get the New york city Drama Critics Circle Award (for 1958-1959). However, A Raisin in the Sun won the Drama Circle’s Critics Award by just one vote. Although it is now considered an American classic, Raisin did not accomplish such crucial acclaim without controversy. At the very same time, Tennessee William’s Sweet Bird of Youth, Eugene O’ Neill’s A Touch of the Poet and Archibald MacLeish’s J.B. were playing on Broadway. Hansberry’s straightforward social realism stood out in the middle of the psychological dramas of the time. Surprisingly, the play was likewise not well received by African-Americans with more militant political views. Critic Harold Cruse stated of the play,

A Raisin in the Sun expressed through the medium of theatrical art that existing, forced symbiosis in American interracial affairs where the Negro working class has been trapped and connected to the chariot of racial integration driven by the Negro middle class. In this drive for combination the Negro working class is being informed in a thousand ways that it must give up its ethnicity and end up being human, universal full-fledged American.

Cruse, an anti-integrationist, feared that integration’s objective of approval into the bulk culture would come at the cost of African-Americans’ ethnic background. Another critic, fellow playwright Amiri Baraka, who at first dismissed the play’s significance, recanted years later on and recognized its value. Baraka stated in 1987, “The Younger family is part of the black bulk, and the concerns I as soon as dismissed as “middle class”- buying a house and moving into “white folks’ communities”-are really reflective of the essence of black people’s aiming to defeat segregation, discrimination, and nationwide oppression.” Paradoxically, the words of this previous critic best capture the Youngers’ contribution to American theatre.

When A Raisin in the Sun opened in 1959 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 3 significant adjustments from the original script had actually been made. In order to cut costs, the scene with Mrs. Johnson, the Youngers’ meddlesome and pompous next-door neighbor, was cut. The scene previously served to strengthen the different types of opposition that the Youngers may face. Technical issues also caused the crucial “natural hair” scene to be cut from the production. Initially Beneatha is supposed to cut her hair into a natural style that Asagai appreciates. Nevertheless, just before the opening, starlet Diana Sands, who played Beneatha, got a haircut that was so bad that the cast felt it would negate the positive attitude towards natural hair that Hansberry was trying to convey. The last omission from the initial work was the scene where Travis and his good friends go after a rat through the area. In 1960, a film variation of A Raisin in the Sun was released with many more variances from the initial. Walter does not just discuss the local bar, the Green Hat; he is in fact revealed in it. Likewise, the Younger household is really shown moving into the new house. In 1973, Robert Nemiroff modified the play as a musical that operated on Broadway for two years, winning both a Tony and a Grammy.

This div height required for enabling the sticky sidebar