notes on lorraine hansberry's a raisin in the sun

2021-02-07

 | 

~4 min read

 | 

714 words

I finished Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin In The Sun in two sittings. I am still speechless. There’s so much to say and there’s no chance I’d do it justice. A few things that stand out:

  1. The entire play is three acts, five scenes, and takes place in one room. Despite the paucity of real-estate to communicate who the characters are, it feels impossible not to feel like you know who they are by the end of the play.
  2. In reading more about the play and Hansberry, I came across this article about Hansberry and her time at UW-Madison. In it, Imani Perry, an professor of African American studies at Princeton and author of “Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry”, writes that Hansberry was affected by a performance of a play by Irish playwright Sean O’Casey. “He wasn’t concerned with making sure the Irish looked good or countered stereotypes,” Perry writes. “He freed [Hansberry] from a sense that as a black writer one had to constantly be worried about depicting characters who were ‘credits to their race,’ as the commonplace saying went.” The entire play seems to double down on this as Hansberry was much more focused on portraying full characters.
  3. It’s a play, but that didn’t stop Hansberry from writing some truly beautiful narrative and exposition - even while the play was almost entirely driven by dialogue.

The play also takes its name from Langston Hughes’ poem, “Harlem” which ponders the outcome of a dream deferred - the central theme of the book and the deferral’s affect on the dreamer.


On Juxtaposing Characteristics

She is, in a word, a beautiful woman. Her bearing is perhaps most like the nobel bearing of the women of the Heroes of Southwest Africa—rather as if she imagines that as she walks she still bears a basket or a vessel upon her head. Her speech, on the other hand, is as careless as her carriage is precise—she is inclined to slur everything—but her voice is perhaps not so much quiet as simply soft (Pg. 27)

On Judging Others

MAMA: You must not dislike people ‘cause they well off, honey.

BENEATHA: Why not? It makes just as much sense as disliking people ‘cause they are poor, and lots of people do that. (Pg. 38)

On Money’s Gravity

MAMA Son—how come you talk so much ‘bout money?

WALTER (With immense passion) Because it is life, Mama!

MAMA (_Quietly) Oh—(Very quietly) So now it’s life. Money is life. Once upon a time freedom used to be life—now it’s money. I guess the world really do change…

WALTER No—it was always money, Mama. We just didn’t know about it. (Pg. 61)

On Light

MAMA (Moved, watching her happiness) Yes, honey?

RUTH (Looking off) Is there—is there a whole lot of sunlight?

MAMA (Understanding) Yes, child, there’s a whole lot of sunlight.

On Caritas

MAMA There is always something left to love. And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing. (Looking at her) Have you cried for that boy today? I don’t mean for yourself and for the family ‘cause we lost the money. I mean for him; what he been through and what it done to him. Childe, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most; when they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain’t through learning—because that ain’t the time at all. It’s when he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in hisself ‘cause the world done whipped him so. When you starts measuring somebody, measure him right child, measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills nad valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is. (Pg. 121)

Conclusion

These were by no means the only lines that made me think or smile or cry, but I can’t copy the whole play now can I? Let me end with my most earnest hope that if you have not read or seen this play, you will add it to your list and see it at your earliest convenience. It’s worth it!


Hi there and thanks for reading! My name's Stephen. I live in Chicago with my wife, Kate, and dog, Finn. Want more? See about and get in touch!