Bonnie's Reviews > A Raisin in the Sun

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
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Sep 05, 12

bookshelves: plays, classics-modern
Read in August, 2012

Plays can be a tricky thing to read instead of watch. So much of plays is dependent upon the actors and a really great play can make a really boring text.

A Raisin in the Sun doesn't have that problem. The writing is brilliant on the page and when I see it live it will just be icing on the cake.

This play's title comes from Langston Hughes' poem "A Dream Deferred":

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?

And that poem is exactly what this play is about. Almost everyone in this play is living with a dream deferred. Walter, whose dream is to be a wealthy man (and his own boss!) but is stuck in the job of a chauffeur to a rich white man. Ruth, whose dream was a happier marriage, instead of the bitter, resentful one she now has with Walter. Mama (Walter's mother), whose dream was of a house with a garden. The only characters who do not seem to suffer from dying dreams is Walter & Ruth's young son, Travis, whose dreams are still ahead of him, and Beneatha (Walter's sister/Mama's daughter), who dreams of being a doctor (though there is the ever-present possibility that Beneatha will also be denied her dream).

The life insurance money from Mama's dead husband provides the possibility of everyone getting their dream: Walter can have money to invest in a business and make his riches, Ruth can have a husband who is happy and loving again, Mama can get her house and garden and Beneatha can have the money to pay for medical school.

But life is never that simple. Among the problems they face is the racism in the all-white neighborhood the family wants to move into.

Excellent play, with excellent character portrayals, especially the many ways the death of a dream can fester in a person (which reminds me of a quote from Glee: "Do you know what happens when a star dies, Brian? It doesn’t just disappear. It turns into this black hole. This giant, energy-sucking mass that doesn’t just collapse in on itself, it takes any light that comes close down with it.")
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