Before starting A Raisin in The Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry, I knew nothing about this play. I didn’t read the back of the book, I didn’t hear anyone talk about it, I had no context to the book other than the few shorts words we had in class. The initial thought I had when I opened the book and saw the picture was this- there is a colored family, all surrounded by an older woman, the family didn’t seem poor nor wealthy, they just seemed to be an average middle-class family. The picture was in black and white, so the time period must have been before colored pictures. On the next page it says, To Mama: In gratitude for the dream. This statement implies that the book is to a character named Mama and there is an appreciative factor towards her. From this statement, we already feel a sense of joy towards Mama. Within the next couple pages is the poem by Langston Hughes. After reading the poem a couple of times out loud, it is easy to understand that the poem foreshadows a problem with an obstacle. However deeper within the poem, the reader will understand more to the story. The second line says, “Does it dry up” …into the next line that says, “Like a raisin in the sun”, in these two sentences the poem is already starting off at a low point because usually a grape would turn into a raisin in the sun, but what would a raisin turn into in the sun? The grape is the full-bodied, healthy raisin but a raisin is a shriveled up, dehydrated grape. These lines create a feeling that once your already so low what is there to happen, will you move on and “explode” like at the end of the poem or will you just die into nothing. So, the tone at the start of the play is already at a solemn sort of grim stage, but there also is a factor of mysteriousness as to what will happen.
Through Act I, most of the characters are introduced. Each character has unique qualities that challenge each other’s thoughts and lives. What I found interesting was the contrasting personalities of Beneatha (or Bennie) and her mother Lena (aka Mama). The two characters are constantly having different view points on a matter. It seems as if Lorraine Hansberry had created a character to challenge the perspectives of Mama. When Bennie is introduced on the seventeenth page of the book, she is described as more modern and educated then the rest of the family. She has wild ambitions and is intended on accomplishing them. When reading through the scenes with Bennie and Mama, you feel a sort of similarity between them in that they both have or had large ambitions. However, Mama is just more realistic in the thought process of her goals. Bennie almost has a child-like personality because of the dreams she aspires to accomplish, even though she is twenty years old. Bennie has many dreams she wants to accomplish while Mama just wants to have a good life for her and her family. Lorraine Hansberry wrote the book as if to be seen as Bennie was Mama when Mama was Bennies age. Bennie wants to be able to express herself in new ways such as playing the guitar. Since the time period is around the 1950s/1960s, it is during the time period right after the famous case of Board vs Education naming it unconstitutional for students to be separated in school by the color of their skin. So, it is evident that this has influence Bennie to be whoever she wants to be and express herself in anyways she wants. Mama sadly did not have that right like Bennie does, so Mama somewhat understands her desire to play the guitar. There is a mutual loving relationship between the two, but at the same time Beneatha constantly challenges the authority of Mama.
For the next Act in the Raisin in the Sun, I ask myself: Will Beneatha be able to fully accomplish one of her dreams in her life, or will she end up like Mama- not being able to successfully be what she wants to be? I also ask myself: How will Mama wisely use her money?