Sample Student Essay on Drama Argument & Analysis
Society’s actions matter. Humans make reactionary decisions based on observations through media or in-person encounters like talking to a co-worker. Most of the thoughts and perceptions a person makes is a direct result of what is going on around him or her. This is certainly true of the characters in Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun. Hansberry portrays the impact that social injustice and inequality has upon a particular African American family, a family that represents all families of color at the time. Dr. Martin Luther King states in his Birmingham letter “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and he could not be more accurate (1534). King brings to light the problem of negative, discriminatory attitude so prevalent in society, an attitude based on poor decision-making by people who make up American society. Gertrude Samuels writes that African Americans have to “follow, to demonstrate, to be involved in the struggle more decisively than ever before” (1530). What hinders many from following her advice is that racial discrimination affects the mentality and confidence of African Americans. A Raisin in the Sun captures this impact by showcasing how outside factors can so easily influence the mindset and dignity of a family like the Youngers. Social environment correlates to both the characters’ views of themselves and one another.
Friends and acquaintances can easily alter a person’s goals or ambitions. Walter Younger is a man with a plan to get his family out of poverty into a new life. At least, that was his hope. He became enthralled with the idea of a liquor store investment with a couple of his pals that would end up paying noticeable dividends (Hansberry 1462). Right off the bat, the audience notices how Walter is driven by society’s view of people like him. A major factor in his train of thought is how his people are treated and get along with one another. He questions Ruth “You tired of everything, ain’t you? Tired of everything, Me, the boy, the way we live---this beat up hole---everything. Aint you?” when he is really just sharing his own thoughts and hoping she will agree (Hansberry 1462). He tries to convince his wife along with others in the family of how poor their situation is and that his investment plan can save them. It is his so-called friends, however, that influence him to believe in the worthlessness of his life.
A person's mental state is also affected by how society as a whole is functioning around him or her. The sheer fact that racism and discrimination were still so prevalent at the time negatively altered the focus of many African Americans, and the Youngers were no exception. Lena acknowledges the racial divide by telling Ruth, “We ain’t no business people, Ruth. We just plain working folks” (Hansberry 1467) While she is quite literally explaining the current occupations for everyone in the family, she is also uses this statement to compare white people to those with color. The impact that social norms have on her attitude toward her family is astonishing to look at now, but, at the time, her view would have made plenty of sense. Reality was, unfortunately, fairly bleak for minorities in terms of the ceiling they could reach in the job market. Lena was a straight shooter and told the family like it was whether they wanted to hear it or not. Another example of this can be found in her take on money when the check arrives in the mail. Again speaking to Ruth, she claims “Now don’t act silly… We ain’t never been no people to act silly ‘bout no money” (Hansberry 1480). Like before, one could view this as her making a statement about her family, but she is referencing African Americans as a whole. Due to their low station in a society infiltrated with racism and prejudice, African Americans did not often receive significant sums of money. Because of this condition, they were typically more careful with their earnings than white poeple. Accordingly, Lena allows the African American's attitude toward money influence her own personal decisions.
Arguably the most important factor influencing the characters’ actions is family. The first key instance is when Lena entrusts Walter with the rest of her insurance money, so that he can use part of it for his investment idea (Hansberry 1497). This is a significant change of tone from what Lena’s approach was earlier. At this stage of the story, she wants to show her son that she trusts and has faith in him. The other turning point in the story comes much later when Walter finds his maturity and denies the neighborhood representative of their departure from the new house (Hansberry 1518). Walter thinks of his son and the example he could set for him in the face of prejudice. A true evolution of character comes full circle at this point in time as the audience witnesses Walter achieving his manhood. He had allowed the struggles of African Americans and the family’s low income justify his desperate motives before, but, now, he exudes confidence and dignity in front of his son. His mother helps him find strength by reminding him of what his father stood for and sacrificed for their family (Hansberry 1484). This causes Walter to rethink how he would react toward the neighborhood representative. He demands to be treated with dignity and equality by refusing to give up the house. Walter decides to lead and to make positive changes instead of yielding to desperation.
For hundreds of years, the search for dignity motivated African Americans and other colored people to fight the long battle against oppression in America. Leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., along with writers such as Lorraine Hansberry and Gertrude Samuels, prove this in their speeches, plays, and other writings. The Youngers are only one example of thousands of families battling discrimination; their story encourages other people to stand up for true equality. Walter’s transformation into an African American who wins his personal war against prejudice is a symbol of hope for a better future and improved social standing of all oppressed Americans. In the words of Dr. King, “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever” (1535). This play's sermon is that American society should not halt its progression toward universal equality; it should welcome it.
Hansberry, Lorraine. “A Raisin in the Sun.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. W.W. Norton, 2016. Pp. 1456-1520.
King Jr., Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. W.W. Norton, 2016. Pp. 1534-1536.
Samuels, Gertrude. “Even More Crucial Than in the South.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. W.W. Norton, 2016. Pp. 1529-1532.