A Raisin in the Sun
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load. Or does it explode
—Langston Hughes, "Harlem"
is a play written by Lorraine Hansberry in the 1950s. It details the life and times of the Younger family, a poor black family living in a small apartment in Chicago. Due to the passing of the elder Mr. Younger, the family is now in the position of receiving a large life-insurance check. Each of the adult members of the family has an idea as to what he or she would like to do with this money, and over the next few weeks, it's shown how each character's hopes and dreams affect the other family members.
Notable for being the first play by a black woman to be shown on Broadway as well as the first play with a black director. Despite Hansberry's worries, the play was a huge success, and would have probably been Hansberry's big break had she not died a few years afterwards.
It has been adapted into a 1961 theatrical film (starring most of the original Broadway cast, including Sidney Poitier
and Ruby Dee), made-for-TV productions in 1989 and 2008, and the 1971 musical Raisin
Contains examples of
- Affectionate Parody: Clybourne Park, a Perspective Flip and a sort-of Distant Finale.
- Bittersweet Ending: The money is gone and the Youngers will likely receive nothing but hostility from the residents of Clybourne Park, but Walter's confidence has been restored and the family is prepared to face whatever challenges their new life will offer them.
- Brother Chuck: The character of Mr. Johnson, at least in the original script. He doesn't show up at all in later versions of the story.
- Deadpan Snarker: Beneatha.
- Despair Event Horizon: Both Walter and Mama pass this when Willie Harris makes off with the money.
- Despair Speech: Walter's chilling 'Takers and Tooken' speech when he decides to cave to the racism of Clybourne Park in exchange for money, in which he condemns the rest of the family for worrying about 'right and wrong' when ultimately it comes down to how much you can 'take'.
- Fainting: Ruth does this in the first scene. It comes as a result of stress and pregnancy.
- Foil: Joseph Asagai and George Murchison, Beneatha and Ruth.
- Gender-Blender Name: Beneatha's nickname is Bennie.
- Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Played straight with Ruth, who gets a down payment on an abortion when she finds out she's pregnant, but she ends up keeping the baby when the family gets a bigger house.
- Greed: Walter's tragic flaw.
- The Ghost: Willie Harris. He's briefly seen in the film and TV versions.
- Important Haircut: Beneatha cuts her hair and lets it be natural when Asagai mentions that keeping it straightened is "mutilating" it.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Walter has a real nasty habit of doing this when he gets stressed. And this turns into Drowning My Sorrows when he thinks that Lena spent all the insurance money on Travis's house—so much that he blows off work to go to the bar for three days straight.
- Literary Allusion Title: The title comes from Langston Hughes' poem "Harlem", first published in his 1951 collection Montage of a Dream Deferred.
- Motif: Plants, sunlight, dreams.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Beneatha, for the most part.
- Purple Prose: An odd case of a play doing this, if you read the script, you'll see that the stage directions and set descriptions are unusually detailed and precise.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Inverted. Lena wants to know that her children love her as much as she loves them.
- Wham Line: "Mama... I never... went to the bank at all..." (Related to the below)