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Imagery, Symbolism and Irony in Raisin in the Sun

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Nana O

on 14 November 2013

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Transcript of Imagery, Symbolism and Irony in Raisin in the Sun

Imagery, Symbolism and Irony in Raisin in the Sun
-Mama’s plant represents the desired growth and current states of her family. The plant is the only thing (and family) she personally has left. She constantly cares for it, just as she does with her family.
-Mama knows that the plant will survive through the tough living condition it is in if she continues her deep nurture and care. She never gave up on the plant and puts great hope and care towards it.
-The plant symbolizes hope, in which as Mama took the plant to the new house, it represents how her family will begin to succeed and thrive in their new living condition, a new beginning for them. Mama’s own individual American dream of having her own individual house also serves as a symbolism for the plant.
-Mama’s deep nurture toward the plant despite its lack of sunlight and energy on its appearance, symbolizes her care towards her family despite the poor condition they are living in.
At the beginning of the play, Beneatha has straight hair. Her hair looks very westernized and conformed to the rest of the society. Asagai comes over and asks her about her hairstyle.
Beneatha realizes that she needs to get rid of her conformity by cutting her hair into an afro.
Her hair symbolizes that the natural look is more beautiful. She is against assimilating with the norms of society. She also embraces her African culture with the afro.
The insurance check is SYMBOL of the key to a successful dream.
Everyone in the household wants money to be able to fulfill their goals. However, Mama is the one in charge of the household and therefore in charge of the insurance check.
The check symbolizes the chance of fulfilling their lifelong goals such as the house, medical school, and the liquor store. The check also symbolizes Walter’s greed for the money.

Beneatha is potrayed as an extremely radical figure in the play.
She demonstrates this radicalism by wearing a Nigerian headpiece and gown that Asagai got for her as a gift.
This symbolizes Beneatha fighting against white dominance. She is showing off her African roots and she refuses to conform to society. She is exploring her African heritage.
The title of this play is a line from Langston Hughes’ poem which questions what happened to a dream deferred. It reflects on and questions what happens to dreams that do not get accomplished.
The family’s hopes and dreams for a better life will never dry up even though they are going through difficult struggles.
Walter’s dream is the play is the open up a liquor store. He is extremely greedy and craves money.
He is very selfish in regards to other peoples feelings and only cares about his dream.
He despises his job as a chaffeur and wants to provide for his family in a more respectable and profitable way. He hopes that his liquor store will be a success.
While Walter does not know or maybe is not aware, Prometheus was a god in Greek mythology that was known for his great act of stealing the fire and bringing it back to the humans.
Prometheus is akin to Walter in that though Walter had many great plans, he is ultimately making situations more challenging just as how Prometheus brought challenge to humans by presenting them with great technology, insight and knowledge, which was presented as a challenge.
Another example is when Ruth sings the song “No Ways Tired” multiple times throughout the story yet at the end of Scene 1 of Act 1, while Ruth was singing, she faints from fatigue of being pregnant. This is a prime example of situational irony: she affirms to herself that she was not tired when in actuality she was on the brink of collapsing.


One example of dramatic irony was at the beginning of the story when Travis was begging his mother for fifty cents for school activities. Seeing how his mother would not give him it, his dad stepped in and hands Travis the coin while giving him an additional fifty cents. As Travis leaves the room, Walter informs his wife that he needed money for carfare.
Asagai is the only person to understand the American Dream even though he hails from Africa.
He asks Beneatha, “Isn’t there something wrong in the house-in a world-where all dreams, good or bad, must depend on the death of a man?”
He is showing her that is was not just the money that Walter lost; he affirms that she did not make/earn the money herself, thus, it would've change anything if her father was alive or not.

Beneatha’s shift in mindset is also ironic as the story progresses.
“And where does it end? ... An end to misery! To stupidity! Don’t you see there isn’t any real progress, Asagai, there is only one large circle that we march in, around and around, each of us with our own little picture in front of us – our own little mirage that we think is the future.”
Here, Beneatha loses faith in the idea of progress after her family faces more challenges. She condemns the hope of the future and has lost some confidence that she exuberantly exudes in the beginning of the play.

Who the hell told you you have to be a doctor? If you so crazy ‘bout messing ‘round with sick people - then go be a nurse like other women - or just get married and be quiet?
It is ironic how Walter in the beginning goes CRITICIZES Beneatha for wanting to become a doctor. Yet in the presence of Lindner, he says that they are "proud of her" and that she shows how they are just a regular normal family.
"Eat your eggs!"
In the beginning of the story, it starts off with Ruth making breakfast for Travis and Walter before they have to go to work and school.
In this breakfast, she makes eggs which is an archetype for fertility.
Walter was explaining his liquor store plan and was trying to talk about himself, but all Ruth kept saying back to him was, “Just eat your eggs.”
It is significant that Ruth said it to Walter because it shows that she is indirectly telling him that her eggs are fertile and that she maybe having a baby in the future. This is later proven true when Mama breaks the news to Walter.

Through the heated conversation, Walter mentions how it was necessary for man to change his life but Ruth would just disregard him by telling him to “eat your eggs and go to work”.
This shows how despite all the dreams that Walter has, Ruth does not support him in any way. She says, (
) “Honey, you never say nothing new. I listen to you every day, every night and every morning, and you never say nothing new. (
) So you would rather be Mr. Arnold than be his chauffeur. So – I would rather be living in Buckingham Palace.”
Ruth is weary from hearing her husband have the same complaints and the same half-thought-out idea to fix their troubles. The family's suffering has really put a strain on their relationship and therefore Walter feels that Ruth is not very supportive and she doesn’t always believe in and support her husband in all his far-fetched aspirations.
50 cents
When Walter gave Travis a dollar instead of the fifty cents that he only needed for school activity, it symbolizes how they yearn for more materialistic things in life rather than just on the necessary things they need to survive.
The 50 cents represents the legitimate needs money can buy while the dollar represents the desire for material goods beyond these needs. It symbolizes both their hopes and greed of what they want.
And so he goes and gives him extra which symbolizes Walter’s pride wanting to act like he has more money than he actually does.
Walter’s internal desire to be a better provider for the family becomes more apparent which is being manifested through his hunger for the success of the liquor store.
Walter wants to be able to give Travis spending money and he wants his family to be able to afford the nicer luxuries like fruits and riding the taxicab.

Mama's New House
The description of the house that Mama bought for the family brings about the benefits of some living conditions they didn't have.
ex: three bedrooms, basement, yard with patch of dirt
"[the house] will be ours":
their desire to actually own a house
Room shows signs of many people living in one small area, signifying their financial state.
Everything has been polished/shined/scrubbed too often: shows that someone is restless and seeks cleaning as a stress-reliever.
One small window gives a feeling of loneliness, with little "natural light" shining through.
The Family House
Bennie and Walter's Dance
Walter is drunk; seen dancing atop the tables
Creates quite a scene with the screaming and acting (spears, shirt opening, etc.)
We can imagine the chaos going on in the house.
Just as the whole family begins to celebrate over the Christmas gifts, Bobo, one of Walter’s friends, arrives. It is he who announces that Willy Harris has run off with all of the money that Walter invested in the liquor store deal. It was ironic because he was supposed to bear good news about the liquor business.
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