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A Raisin In The Sun: Teaching Presentation
Transcript of A Raisin In The Sun: Teaching Presentation
Author Bio & Influence in Theatre
Lorraine Hansberry was born on May 19, 1930, in Chicago, Illinois. She wrote A Raisin in the Sun, a play about a struggling black family, which opened on Broadway to great success. Hansberry was the first black playwright and the youngest American to win a New York Critics’ Circle award. Throughout her life she was heavily involved in civil rights. She died at 34 of pancreatic cancer.
The Play's Themes
The Value & Purpose of Dreams
A Raisin in the Sun is essentially about dreams, as the main characters struggle to deal with the oppressive circumstances that rule their lives. The title of the play references a conjecture that Langston Hughes famously posed in a poem he wrote about dreams that were forgotten or put off. He wonders whether those dreams shrivel up “like a raisin in the sun.” Every member of the Younger family has a separate, individual dream—Beneatha wants to become a doctor, for example, and Walter wants to have money so that he can afford things for his family. The Youngers struggle to attain these dreams throughout the play, and much of their happiness and depression is directly related to their attainment of, or failure to attain, these dreams. By the end of the play, they learn that the dream of a house is the most important dream because it unites the family.
The Need to Fight Racial Discrimination
The character of Mr. Lindner makes the theme of racial discrimination prominent in the plot as an issue that the Youngers cannot avoid. The governing body of the Youngers’ new neighborhood, the Clybourne Park Improvement Association, sends Mr. Lindner to persuade them not to move into the all-white Clybourne Park neighborhood. Mr. Lindner and the people he represents can only see the color of the Younger family’s skin, and his offer to bribe the -Youngers to keep them from moving threatens to tear apart the Younger family and the values for which it stands. Ultimately, the Youngers respond to this discrimination with defiance and strength. The play powerfully demonstrates that the way to deal with discrimination is to stand up to it and reassert one’s dignity in the face of it rather than allow it to pass unchecked.
Synopsis of the Play
A Raisin in the Sun portrays a few weeks in the life of the Youngers, an African-American family living on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s. When the play opens, the Youngers are about to receive an insurance check for $10,000. This money comes from the deceased Mr. Younger’s life insurance policy. Each of the adult members of the family has an idea as to what he or she would like to do with this money. The matriarch of the family, Mama, wants to buy a house to fulfill a dream she shared with her husband. Mama’s son, Walter Lee, would rather use the money to invest in a liquor store with his friends. He believes that the investment will solve the family’s financial problems forever. Walter’s wife, Ruth, agrees with Mama, however, and hopes that she and Walter can provide more space and opportunity for their son, Travis. Finally, Beneatha, Walter’s sister and Mama’s daughter, wants to use the money for her medical school tuition. She also wishes that her family members were not so interested in joining the white world. Beneatha instead tries to find her identity by looking back to the past and to Africa.
The Importance of Family
The Youngers struggle socially and economically throughout the play but unite in the end to realize their dream of buying a house. Mama strongly believes in the importance of family, and she tries to teach this value to her family as she struggles to keep them together and functioning. Walter and Beneatha learn this lesson about family at the end of the play, when Walter must deal with the loss of the stolen insurance money and Beneatha denies Walter as a brother. Even facing such trauma, they come together to reject Mr. Lindner’s racist overtures. They are still strong individuals, but they are now individuals who function as part of a family. When they begin to put the family and the family’s wishes before their own, they merge their individual dreams with the family’s overarching dream.
Social & Historical Perspective
Stories At The Time
April 15, 1955
The first McDonald's -- The journey to billions and billions began with a single humble hamburger.
December 1, 1958
Our Lady of Angels School fire
At 2:40 p.m. on this chilly Monday, the time of day when fidgeting youngsters count the minutes to the final bell, a billowing and blinding mass of flames, smoke and gas burst out on the second floor of Our Lady of the Angels School. Within seconds, 1,200 students at the Catholic school were scrambling for their lives, many leaping from windows to escape the inferno.
During this era, segregation—the enforced separation of whites and blacks—was still legal and widespread throughout the South. Northern states, including Hansberry’s own Illinois, had no official policy of segregation, but they were generally self-segregated along racial and economic lines. Chicago was a striking example of a city carved into strictly divided black and white neighborhoods. Hansberry’s family became one of the first to move into a white neighborhood, but Hansberry still attended a segregated public school for blacks. When neighbors struck at them with threats of violence and legal action, the Hansberrys defended themselves. Hansberry’s father successfully brought his case all the way to the Supreme Court. (Hansberry Vs. Lee)
Synopsis of the Play cont....
As the play progresses, the Youngers clash over their competing dreams. Ruth discovers that she is pregnant but fears that if she has the child, she will put more financial pressure on her family members. When Walter says nothing to Ruth’s admission that she is considering abortion, Mama puts a down payment on a house for the whole family. She believes that a bigger, brighter dwelling will help them all. This house is in Clybourne Park, an entirely white neighborhood. When the Youngers’ future neighbors find out that the Youngers are moving in, they send Mr. Lindner, from the Clybourne Park Improvement Association, to offer the Youngers money in return for staying away. The Youngers refuse the deal, even after Walter loses the rest of the money ($6,500) to his friend Willy Harris, who persuades Walter to invest in the liquor store and then runs off with his cash.
Synopsis of the Play cont....
In the meantime, Beneatha rejects her suitor, George Murchison, whom she believes to be shallow and blind to the problems of race. Subsequently, she receives a marriage proposal from her Nigerian boyfriend, Joseph Asagai, who wants Beneatha to get a medical degree and move to Africa with him (Beneatha does not make her choice before the end of the play). The Youngers eventually move out of the apartment, fulfilling the family’s long-held dream. Their future seems uncertain and slightly dangerous, but they are optimistic and determined to live a better life. They believe that they can succeed if they stick together as a family and resolve to defer their dreams no longer.
Synopsis of the Scenes (Today)
Faith's Monologue : about Mama having a discussion with her son. She is upset with Walter because he's messing up in his relationship with Ruth. Mama doesn't want Walter to drive his girl away because of his actions.
Kevin & Bianca's Scene: This is the first scene in the play where you get to see Walter and Ruth, and what their realtionship is towards each other. It is an early Friday morning before everyone has to leave for the day. Walter comes in the room and talks to Ruth about her feelings.
Stories Behind The Play
Langston Hughes worked with Lorraine Hansberry. She worked for several newspapers and married a Jewish songwriter.
The Play's Premiere
Lloyd Richard was the first director
Ruby Dee-Ruth younger
Ivan Dixon-Joseph asagai
John Fielder-Karl Linder
Frances Foster- Ruth younger (understudy)
Lovis Gossett- gearge murchison
Lonnie Elder 3 -bobo
Claudia McNeil- mother (Lena younger)
Sidney Poitier - Walter lee yoinger ( brother )
Beah Richards-Lena younger (understudy)
Charles Richardson- Travis younger (understudy)
Diana Sands- beneatha younger
Glynn Truman -Travis younger
Douglas Turner- moving man
Mervyn Williams- Karl Lindber ( understudy)
Plays premiere: it was the first black Broadway show ever it one many awards. Lauren has Perry one the new York drama critics Circle award for the best play of the year
Faith Williams - Mama's Monologue
Kevin Ortega & Bianca Scott (Walter & Ruth Younger)- First Thing In The Morning
Lorraine Hansberry took the title of A Raisin in the Sun from a line in Langston Hughes’s famous 1951 poem “Harlem: A Dream Deferred.” Hughes was a prominent black poet during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance in New York City, during which black artists of all kinds—musicians, poets, writers—gave innovative voices to their personal and cultural experiences. The Harlem Renaissance was a time of immense promise and hopefulness for black artists, as their efforts were noticed and applauded across the United States. In fact, the 1920s are known to history as the Jazz Age, since that musical form, created by a vanguard of black musicians, gained immense national popularity during the period and seemed to embody the exuberance and excitement of the decade. The Harlem Renaissance and the positive national response to the art it produced seemed to herald the possibility of a new age of acceptance for blacks in America.