Details I found to be Interesting in A Raisin in the Sun Act I

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?

7 thoughts on “Details I found to be Interesting in A Raisin in the Sun Act I”

  1. I like your analysis of the poem, I think we can narrow down the poem even further by saying that it is a foreshadowing of Walter’s dream. On page 34, Ruth says “Honey, you never say nothing new”, implying that he has always been a dreamer of sorts (also when he says “Mama-Mama- I want so many things, page 73), flitting from one get-rich-scheme to the next (just like Bennie jumps from one hobby to the next), just like the dream in the poem becomes ruined in many different ways. And at the end? Walters dream explodes into nothing just like the last stanza.

  2. I thought this post was really insightful! You mentioned how using the Langston Hughes poem at the beginning, gave this predisposed idea that as we delve into the lives of Mama and her kids, there is a grim and gloomy vibe to impress upon the readers that things were alright before we started reading. In reference to the poem and the raisin that settles into the sun to continue to dehydrate, Walter asks Ruth on page 32 “You’re tired, ain’t you? Tired of everything…” illustrating that maybe Ruth is the raisin. And you also brought up the relationship between Beneatha and Mama which can emphasize that maybe one of them are the raisin in the sun.

  3. I think it’s really cool and interesting that you actually analyzed the dedication page. I feel that this often goes overlooked, as it is seen as not extremely important. But, that is the beauty of close reading. I believe that the “Mama” in this story is formed around the “Mama” on the dedication page. It is rather easy to believe that this real life Mama is also driven, strong-willed, and a staple of the family.

    While I disagree with many of the points brought up in your post, I do not necessarily believe that Bennie is childish. She, like the rest of the family, has a dream of her own. She wants something more for herself, and although she is younger, it’s important that we don’t overlook that.

  4. Loved your analysis of Mama and Bennie and their contrasting values and personalities. I totally agree that Mama’s values lie in pursuits of the families well-being, while Bennie is more of a dreamer who is focused on the things she can accomplish while she is still young, and therefore she comes off as “childish.” Based on that analysis I want to compare Ruth and Mama as well, considering Ruth is the other mother figure in the play. In Mama’s absence in Act II scene i, Ruth demonstrates her motherly status when she reprimands Bennie and her husband the way she might also reprimand a child, “Beneatha, you got company–what’s the matter with you? Walter Lee Younger, get down off that table and stop acting like a fool…” (Hansberry, 79). I would even argue that Ruth and Mama have a shared job in raising Bennie and the “mother-daughter” dynamic between Ruth and Bennie would be interesting to explore as the play goes on.

  5. I really like your comparison of Mama and Bennie, and I agree that they both have large ambitions. Mama tells the readers about her dreams on page 45 when she says “But, Lord, child you sold know all the dreams I had ‘bout buying that house and fixing it up and making me a little garden in the back…” Since you brought up how Bennie challenges Mama, do you think perhaps Mama finally went for her lifelong dreams of buying her house because Mama sees Bennie actively trying to achieve her goals of becoming a doctor? Maybe if Bennie didn’t have such a strong and eager personality, Mama would never have finally jumped on her dreams as well.

  6. Hi Katie,
    You have made some very valid points throughout your analysis, yet I interpreted the poem by Langston Hughes a little differently. While I see why you interpret the poem’s ending as grim and solemn, I feel as though the poem is more optimistic and hopeful, especially comparing it to Walter’s dream. Walter’s dreams and aspirations for the future are not far fetched at all; in fact, he feels he can actually obtain these higher opportunities with the help of his family. I took the end of the poem by Hughes as a more inquisitive approach to the reader, which is synonymous to the point Lorraine Hansberry tries making throughout the play. By the poem ending with the question, “Or does it [the raisin] explode?” I think this was Hughes’ way of asking the reader, “What would you let stop you from achieving your dreams and goals?”. Even from the Act I Scene I you can see that Walter wants to thrive and is being hindered by his wife’s own fear. On page 34, Walter says, “That is just what is wrong with the colored women in this world… Don’t understand about building their men up and making ’em feel like somebody.” This is what I feel that Hughes meant by the exploding raisin. The raisin (which represents Walter) wants to be recognized to the same prestige of a grape (white people) without being denounced by his friends and family thus causing it to explode. Of course Walter, and the reader must take into account that not only were people of color demonized from society, but at this time women were also in the spotlight; to be both a person of color AND a women in this time, it’s understandable why Ruth is cautious with expressing approval of Walter’s dream.

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