A Raisin in the Sun Summary

Lorraine Hansberry

A Raisin in the Sun

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A Raisin in the Sun Summary

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A Raisin in the Sun is a play by Lorraine Hansberry published in the 1950s. The play focuses on a black family that resides in an apartment on the South Side of Chicago. The play is famous for its realistic portrayal of a black family’s experience during the racially tense time of 1950s America. The play focuses on themes of family and the need to fight against racial discrimination. The plot of the play shows a family’s struggle through indecision over what to do with a life insurance payout.

The play focuses on the Younger family. The play introduces Ruth and Walter Younger, a married couple, who have a son named Travis. Ruth and Walter also live with Walter’s mother Lena (referred to as Mama) and Walter’s sister Beneatha, who is studying medicine. Ruth and Walter begin discussing a check, the $10,000 life insurance check Mama is about to receive after her husband’s death. Walter would like to use the check to invest in a liquor store with his friends, as he currently barely makes ends meet as a chauffeur. Ruth supports him, but Mama morally opposes investing in a liquor store. Mama’s dream is to live in a large house with a lawn, so that Travis can play.

Beneatha is teased by Ruth and Mama about the man she is currently dating, George. Beneatha scoffs at them, as she knows there is no future with him. She believes him to be shallow. Mama and Ruth believe she should continue dating George because he is rich, but Ruth disagrees.

The next day, everyone is waiting for the check to arrive. Beneatha is preparing for a visitor, Joseph Asagai, a person from Africa whom she met at school. Asagai arrives and gives Beneatha Nigerian clothing and music as gifts. He inquires why she straightens her hair, as he believes it’s stifling her identity. He also wonders why she does not have romantic feelings for him, as he does for her. She is more focused on being independent, which Asagai scoffs at.

The check finally arrives and Ruth reveals she is two months pregnant. Mama is concerned, since Ruth saw a different doctor, a woman. Walter is uninterested in talking about the pregnancy, and wants to discuss his liquor store plans, which upsets Ruth. He reveals he is ashamed of being a chauffeur. Mama tells Walter that she is nervous Ruth is going to get an abortion. Ruth confirms that she has already paid for part of the abortion.

Later that day, George arrives to pick up Beneatha. Beneatha has cut off most of her hair, and George and Beneatha debate regarding the importance of their African heritage. Ruth and Walter also argue regarding Walter hanging around the wrong crowd. The argument soon ends, with the two of them agreeing there is a great distance between them. Mama comes home and reveals she has put a down payment on a house. Ruth is happy, but Walter feels betrayed—and tells Mama she has crushed his dreams. Everyone is worried since the house Mama has decided to purchase is in an all-white neighborhood, but it was cheap and affordable.

A few weeks later, George and Beneatha are at odds. George would like to kiss Beneatha, and Beneatha would rather speak of the African American plight. She dismisses him. Mama comes in and asks about George, but Beneatha disparages him and calls him a fool. Mama agrees that if he is a fool then Beneatha should forget him, and Mama’s support delights Beneatha. Walter’s boss calls and tells Ruth he has not been to work in three days. When Ruth asks Walter why he has not gone to work, he explains that he feels useless and almost like a slave at his job. He wants to be the provider for the family, but feels that he is incapable. Mama decides to give Walter the remaining $6,500, with the provision that he put $3,000 away for Beneatha’s education. Walter is excited to receive the money, and begins to make plans.

Everyone is excited regarding the move to the new house and Walter’s new business endeavors. Then Mr. Lindner, who is on the board of the new neighborhood, arrives at the Youngers’ front door. He urges the family not to move there, since they are “different” from the rest of the neighborhood, and he offers to buy them out. Mama is not home, but the rest of the family, angered, refuses and tells him to leave. When Mama returns and the rest of the family informs her about Mr. Lindner, she agrees they should have not accepted the buyout. They become happy about the move again, and give Mama new gardening tools and a gardening hat. Unfortunately, one of Walter’s business associates arrives and informs them that Walter’s business partner has run off with all of Walter’s money—including the money for Beneatha’s education. Mama is livid and hits Walter’s face.

Asagai comes over to help Beneatha pack. She has begun to question everything about her life, including becoming a doctor. Asagai disparages her for being so tied to money. Asagai tells her of his dreams to move back to Africa, so he can make a difference there, and asks Beneatha if she will join him. He leaves Beneatha so she can make her decision. Mama announces that they’re no longer going to move. Walter has called Mr. Lindner to accept his offer. Everyone else rebels against this decision. Walter, agitated, acts like the caricature of a black male servant and storms out.

Despite Walter’s behavior, he ultimately changes his mind and denies Mr. Lindner’s offer and gives a powerful speech, declaring that his family members are both proud and hard workers, and that they deserve to live in the new neighborhood as much as anyone else. Mama is proud of him, as is Ruth. The play ends with the Youngers leaving their apartment, with Mama looking back on the place, holding her plant.