Wednesday, April 1, 2009

"Raisin in the Sun" Proves Timely and Timeless

Loraine Hansberry's (1930 - 1965) classic Broadway play, 'A Raisin in the Sun', is 50 years old this year.

The title comes from a line in the memorable poem 'A Dream Deferred', by Langston Hughes:

"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?"

The play tells the story of the Younger's, a black family in Chicago, who awaits a $10,000 insurance payment after the death of Walter Lee Younger, Sr. the head of the family. The family is almost torn apart by the competing dreams represented by their sudden windfall: the younger sister Beneatha, who wants the money invested in her education to fulfill her dream to become a doctor. And Walter Lee, Jr. who is consumed to by a passion for 'somebodiness'. He yearns to leave his job as a chauffeur and own his own business - a liquor store. He believes the check is his chance to stake his claim in life. Ruth, Walter Lee's wife watches helplessly as her husband's dream eats away at him - and their marriage.

In order to save the family, Mama Younger uses some of the money for a down payment for a house, in an area known as Cliburn Park, until then a segregated suburb of Chicago. Seeing her action as an affront to his manhood, his position in the family and the loss of opportunity, Mama younger entrusts Walter Lee with the rest of the money, to put aside some for his sister's tuition, for his son, and the rest to use as he sees fit to benefit the family.

Walter Lee gives all of the money to an unscrupulous business partner who steals it and brings into question the ability of the family to survive without this long awaited money and what it has come to represent.

'Raisin' is a play about a black family, but it is a distinctly American story about the struggle for identity, meaning, purpose within the context of family and ultimately proving that there are things far more important than money.

A pretty powerful and contemporary lesson...

No comments: