A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
Walter Lee Younger is a young man struggling with his station in life. Sharing a tiny apartment with his wife, son, sister and mother, he seems like an imprisoned man. Until, that is, the family gets an unexpected financial windfall...
Givng us entitled whites some insight into what must be an infuriating wall of denial and obstructions to the 'good life' in the United States, "Raisin in the Sun" also shows us the dreams and ways to realize the same thing. What is especially symbolic is the overlay of hypocrisy represented by the white "Neighborhood Outreach", which attempts to persuade the Younger family that "you would be happier with your own kind". The author allows you to think the young protagonist is headed for the ruin that so many from the Southside and the South come to, until something called 'pride' kicks in.
The Younger family are a working class black family with three generations, five people, living in a cramped apartment. However, it appears their fortunes are about to change as grandmother Younger is about to receive a large insurance payout. However, there is considerable disagreement within the household on how the money will be spent, resulting in friction within the Younger family.
A substantial insurance payment could mean either financial salvation or personal ruin for a poor black family.
- The Younger family consists of Mama and her college-age daughter Beneatha, her son Walter and his wife Ruth, and her 10 year old grandson Travis. The family has lived in the same cramped Chicago apartment for years. Walter is a chauffeur and Ruth works as a part-time maid. Mama has just retired as she is expecting a $10,000 life insurance check from her deceased husband's estate.
Walter is very dissatisfied with his life and wants the $10,000 to open a liquor store with his friends. Ruth feels the money is Mama's to spend as she wishes and neither of them approve of Walter's dream. While waiting for the check to arrive, Walter has grown angry and bitter. He snaps at Travis and Beneatha, poking fun at his sister's dream of becoming a doctor.
After school, Travis earns money by carrying groceries at the nearby supermarket. Mama worries because he doesn't have a proper bedroom and sleeps on the living room sofa. She is also worried about Ruth, who reveals that she is pregnant but hasn't told Walter yet. They can't afford more children.
Beneatha's college friend from Africa, a Mr. Asagai, drops by. At Beneatha's request, he has borrowed a traditional African costume for her to wear. She reluctantly introduces him to Mama after warning her not to ask him "stupid" questions about Africa. Mr. Asagai is very good-natured and takes Mama's questions in stride.
When the check arrives, Walter begs Mama yet again to let him borrow the money. He got one of his friends to write up a business plan, which Mama refuses to read. She uses part of the check to buy a house in Clybourne Park, which is an all-white neighborhood. The family will have much more room and Mama can plant a garden in the back yard. The rest of the money is set aside for Beneatha's education.
Walter is furious and goes on a three-day drinking binge. His employer calls and says if he isn't back at work the next day he is fired. Mama goes to the bar and listens to Walter cry because he will never have his dream now. At last she relents and gives him the rest of the money. He and his friends give their combined cash to Willie, who is going to bribe certain officials to speed up their application for a liquor license. Only Willie leaves town instead, stealing the money of his friends.
While all this was going on, an official from the Clybourne Park Home Association pays the Youngers a visit. In a nutshell, the white citizens don't want the Youngers moving into their neighborhood. The man offers Mama more than she paid to cancel the sale. But despite Walter's losing the money and likely his job, they decide to move after all.