Summarization of “The Politics of Home in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun” by Kristin L. Matthews
In her summarization of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” Kristin L. Matthews explores the many meanings from the concept of “home” regarding the play. The South Side of Chicago is the setting of the play, and the hometown of the Youngers and Chicago was also the home to Hansberry’s family, who faced animosity when they tried to move from their neighborhood to a white-dominated area in the 1930s.
Hansberry recollection of almost being hit by a brick and the racial tensions surrounding the time of the move is echoed in the play when Walter Lee reads that “white folks 'set off another bomb yesterday” (Matthews 2). Matthews explains how at the beginning, The Youngers’ current home is a congested and dilapidated one, “a Raisin in a Sun demonstrates that the “house” as it now stands is not only divided, but run-down and in need of reconstruction” (17) and Mama’s goal is to eventually moved them into a better living situation, although it is “better” in the sense that there will be more room, but worse in the sense that the family will knowingly be moving to an area where violence is all but imminent (3). Each character is equally complex; therefore eliminating a central character and a sole hero, in order to promote the idea of cooperation and unison. Internally in the play, and externally in the African American community, this unison is necessary to combat such racial hostility (4).
The Younger family’s struggle for cohesiveness among their individual “homes” and against the social-economic oppressors mirrors the African-American community’s struggle to gain a collective effort towards equality. Walter lives in a house of dreams, but they are “based on a false promise of success and acceptance” (5). Walter is well aware that the odds are stacked up against him, but fails to come to terms with it and ground himself in realism the way his wife, Ruth does. Ruth dwells in the now, but it is a result of the multitudes of her oppression. In contrast to Walter Lee’s “think big” entrepreneurial vision of the American Dream, Ruth’s vision is tempered by a pragmatic realism that can be ascribed to her “triply-bound position as a poor, black woman” (6). Blinded by his ambition, Walter fails to realize his wife’s circumstance and feels as if she never supports him, “Walter and Ruth Younger’s perpetual disconnection and discord exemplify the strain that socio-economic racism places on the family” (7). Mama also resides in the “house of the Lord,”(10) leaving her somewhat stuck in submissive religious roots to the dismay of Beneatha, whom wishes to live out her African roots, and explore black nationalism, even though her “house” has an immature foundation (8,9).
Matthews concludes by highlighting how Hansberry has the family finally band together to gain a communal “home” and defeat the greater, and common enemy of social-economic racism, “The Younger family’s refusal of Mr. Lindner’s “offer” points towards the final function of “home.” In Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun; namely, the play’s exposure of the inconsistencies in national narratives that proclaim ‘all men are created equal’ and possess ‘unalienable rights’ while simultaneously withholding the rights and protections of this “home’ from America’s tired, hungry, and poor minority population” (Matthews 15). The Youngers don’t take the easy way out, and in doing so, tell the African American community that they too should stand in the face of racism and seek out the rights they are equally entitled to, because America is there home as well.
Matthews, Kristin L. “The Politics of Home in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun.” Project MUSE 51.4 (2008): 2-18. Project MUSE. PDF. 5 Mar. 2013.