A Raisin in the Sun Character Analysis
Table of Contents
Lorraine Hansberry’s play “A Raisin in the Sun” demonstrates various human behavior using different characters. Throughout the drama that focuses on an African American family in 1959 based in Chicago, Lorraine establishes characters whose obstacles, including segregation and poverty, bring about conflicts amongst themselves. For example, Walter is a dreamer who plans to use his father’s insurance proceeds to invest in the liquor business and lives on the conviction that the liquor store will be able to lift his family out of poverty (Hansberry, 2012). At the same time, Beneatha, a character who plays Walter’s sister, is self-filling and an aspiring doctor, while Travis, Walter’s son, can be described as an innocent young boy. Furthermore, Lena (Mama) plays the mother in the drama, trying to fit into the description of a caring mother by doing everything she can to improve her family status (Hansberry, 2012). These characters face the obstacles of being black in America but try their best to overcome these difficulties. Therefore, Lorraine’s “A Raisin in the Sun” establishes fictional characters in a drama whose faith, passion, determination, and bravery show their strong human spirit.
The play’s author uses Beneatha to represent the new transformation or generation of African American women. A woman who will strive to achieve anything in a male-dominated society and a society where several women are comfortable being in low status compared to white women. Her role in the play foreshadows the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the current American dream movement promoting equal opportunity for all races. Beneatha’s passion and burning desire to get higher education can be denoted as a modern transition of black women having equal educational rights as white women (Neupane, 2022). Moreover, her outlook represents African Americans who refuse to be transformed into white culture and freely express their racial identity. In the play, Beneatha spearheads preserving the African beauty hairstyle and culture.
Beneatha has a very heavy emotional personality, and just like her brother, she has a lean figure. Her central aim was to get into medical school. Along the way, she got into male-dominated games such as guitar playing and photography to challenge male masculinity belief (Malute, 2008). However, at the end of the play, Beneatha is in more trouble with the assimilation of African Americans into white culture and the destruction of African heritage.
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Walter Lee, in the play, represents the African American families that are uninformed but very ambitious in life. The author uses him to personify the black people who make a wrong life decision that results in family failure through gambling with life and making bad choices. Furthermore, American success is represented through Walter’s ignorance and lack of wisdom in heading the family; he hopes to achieve financial freedom for a short time by investing in liquor stores, which turn from bad to worse (Malute, 2008). The author also uses Walter to signify the feud still existing among lower-class African American families by showing how he argues with Beneatha. Through different scenes, he selfishly continues to imagine being a successful business owner and having all the financial freedom that comes with it. However, due to striving to be financially stable, Walter suffers internal and external conflict.
Walter Lee is the primary protagonist of the drama due to his several characteristics, and the play primarily focuses on him. Through various scenes, Walter is the play’s central character, with almost every theme discussing his characters. He can be described as a greedy person from the propensities of humans (Hansberry, 2012). Moreover, he is a risk-taker, ambitious and passionate character in several scenes of the play and as shown by the author.
The author uses Travis to embody the future of all African America striving to achieve the American dream. Travis plays a good angel watching over his father in the last scenes because the play’s conclusion would have transformed into tragedy without him watching his father. His financial desire forces him to carry groceries after school to earn his own money, which portrays his hard work to achieve financial freedom, considered the pillar of the American dream (Hansberry,2012). Furthermore, being more informed of the family situation, Travis still strives to get the same opportunity as other children and asks for money for the activities.
Travis can be considered a static character because his role is constant throughout the play. Lorraine Hansberry uses Travis to represent humans’ purity; Travis is Lena’s grandson and Walter’s son. Generally, he is polite and respectful, but sometimes disobedient to his parent by coming home late at night. Therefore, Travis can be considered a hope for the future generation of the Youngers, representing a new generation determined to achieve equal opportunity in life.
Lena, in the drama, has been used by the author to bring up the new side of women from all global communities. The role embodied by mama teaches many women that they can live for themselves and without depending on any man and society. She represents the current women’s movement that births independent women who are more satisfied with their achievements and are not interested in being remarried. Furthermore, her role in the play shows that women can also be the head of the family and look after it, effectively by installing good morals in children.
Lena, in the play, is considered a minor character that illustrates women’s maternal nature. Before the drama begins, Lena experiences the loss of her husband and receives insurance money as compensation. As much as Lena experiences conflict within her family, she is a very passionate woman and has deeply rooted in faith (Gomes, 2010). Despite being widowed, and experiencing family challenges and financial hardship, she remains optimistic in the play. Furthermore, Lena can be described as the most nurturing character in the drama. For example, Lena explains to her son Walter that all she has ever desired is to provide for them and ensure they are all happy (Hansberry, 2012). She deeply cares for Walter and gives him the remaining insurance money, and at some point, she understands and respects Beneatha’s evaluation of George as a narcist and arrogant man.
In conclusion, Lorraine Hansberry creates imaginary characters in the drama “A Raisin in the Sun” whose faith, passion, tenacity, and bravery demonstrate their powerful human spirit. At the beginning of the play, the Younger family home is represented as crowdy and dirty, describing how the family was greatly disconnected. However, the play ends optimistically, with Lena placing the Younger family in a good position and Beneatha portraying the emergence of the new revolution in the life of American American women.
- Hansberry, L. (2012). The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window. Vintage. https://khdzamlit.weebly.com/uploads/1/1/2/6/11261956/a_raisin_in_the_sun_-_lorraine_hansberry.pdf
- Gomes, L. (2010). Lorraine Hansberry created the Visions of Lena Younger in A Raisin in the Sun. Undergraduate Review, 6(1), 87–92. https://vc.bridgew.edu/undergrad_rev/vol6/iss1/18/
- Martin, C. (2008). PONS GmbH Stuttgart Lektürehilfe A Raisin in the Sun Lorraine Hansberry. https://download.audible.com/adde/guides/pdfs/pons/BK_PONS_000094DE.pdf
- Neupane, D. (2022). Racial and Cultural Tension in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. Cognition, 4(1), 16–20. https://doi.org/10.3126/cognition.v4i1.46438