The main theme that dominates Lorraine Hansberrys play A Raisin in the Sun is about a search of identity which has been demonstrated through dreams that the characters have for their lives. The main characters in the play struggle to find themselves amidst a life that seems to pose oppressive circumstances that hinder their achievements. Each one of them carries with them a dream to be someone in their lives, but the circumstances keep pinning them down leading to the postponement of dreams and others not being achieved. The plays title references to a poem written by Langston Hughes about deferred dreams. In the poem, he wonders what happens to dreams that are postponed. Do they dry up like a raisin in the sun or fester like a sore; whether they stink like bad meat or crusty and sugary all over like a syrupy sweet? Finally, he claims that deferred dreams just sag like a heavy load or explode. This is seen in the play through the circumstances of the different characters. This analysis will focus on these characters to bring out the theme of the search for an identity as we explore the different dreams the characters had and whether they were realized.
In Langston Hughes poem Dreams he advises about holding fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird, meaning it becomes difficult to progress. From the play, the Younger family of five is all staying up in one small house. Walter Younger is a middle-aged man who has a dream of gaining financial freedom so that he can provide his family a stable life. But he experiences some drawbacks since he does not have enough star-tup capital to kick-start his business ideas. For this reason, this just stays as a dream for a long time to the extent that his wife Ruth tells him he never says anything new. Beneatha has set her mind on becoming a doctor and at last become something as she tells her brother. She is also eager to know about her identity and seeks the help of Asagai to trace back her origin which they claim to be in Nigeria. Before this, she has tried so many things like horseback riding, play-acting, photography, and now playing guitar. Her life is full of experiments in a bid to find herself.
The family is looking up for a life insurance paycheck for their dead father, and everyone is leaning their hopes on the money. Lena purchases a house in a white neighborhood and gives Walter the rest of the money to invest and to spare $3,000 for Beneathas schooling, but the investment goes down the drain with Willy, leaving the family with nothing to hold onto for their dreams except for the house. At the end of the play, not much has been achieved of the dreams the characters had at the beginning. The Younger family is left to appreciate the house as the only thing they have and are proud as it keeps them united.
To sum up, Langston Hughes advises readers in his poem to hold fast on their dreams, for when these dreams go, life becomes like a barren field, frozen with snow. For the character Beneatha, she manages to achieve at least one dream of identifying her origin, which is her identity.
Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. Literature and Its Writers: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Ed. Ann Charters and Samuel Charters. 6th ed. Boston: Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2001. 901. Print.
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