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Illustrations of how discrimination affects the fulfillment of dreams are at the core of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. Hansberry explores the lives of a family living on Chicago’s South Side as they face numerous discernment challenges. As an African-American female living in an all-white neighbourhood in Chicago with widespread racial discrimination, Hansberry uses her experience to illustrate the disproportionate treatment African-Americans are subjected to in America. Although the writer focuses on a specific era in Chicago, she universally covers how seclusion and discrimination continue to rave American society. Despite the numerous changes in the system of governance that barred segregation in most parts of the country, seclusion persisted in various forms, including housing, education, and employment. Hansberry illustrates how racial discrimination affects the realization of success through the Younger family’s predicament in finding housing and employment.
Racial discrimination plays a vital role in disenfranchising and isolating the Younger family, preventing them from accessing appropriate housing. Lena Younger, also known as Mama, desires to move her family to a better neighborhood by investing in a house in the white neighborhood of Clybourne Park. However, her wishes are challenged by the systemic racism in the all-white housing units, as they are seen as a threat to such establishments (Neupane, 2022). Karl Lindner, a representative of the Clybourne Park Improvement Association, introduces himself to the family with the disguise of welcoming them. He states, “(we) go around and see the new people who move in the neighborhood and sort of giving them the lowdown on the way we do things out in Clybourne.” (Hansberry, 1959). Lindner implies that Younger’s family are outsiders because of their racial background; consequently, they offer to buy back the family’s offer to move into the neighborhood. His claim that “ racial prejudice does not enter into it” is ironic because their proposal to buy back Younger’s offer indicates their concern for a black family moving into their neighborhood. (Hansberry, 1959). He continues, “…You people must be aware of some of the incidents which have happened in various parts of the city when colored people have moved into certain areas.”(Hansberry, 1959). Lindner’s assessment of the family is racially motivated and biased, illustrating the family’s predicament as they move into the new neighborhood.
Racial discrimination significantly impacts the employment and economic empowerment of African-American families. The harsh and dilapidated conditions surrounding the Younger family exemplify the systemic social and economic inequality founded on racial discrimination (Nowrouzi et al., 2015). The family lives in a shabby housing unit with inadequate space and poor living conditions. When Lena tells Ruth of the prospects of moving into a new neighborhood, she is delighted because of the rare opportunity for improved living conditions. Ruth states, “If this is my time in life- My time- to say good-bye- to these goddammed cracking walls- and these marching roaches- and this cramped little closet.” (Hansberry, 1959). Both Ruth and Lena work as domestic maids because it is the only available job for African-American women. Despite their employment, this economic discrimination limits their ability to meet basic needs (Nowrouzi et al., 2015). Similarly, because of employment discrimination, Walter works an emasculating job as a white man’s chauffeur.
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On the whole, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun intricately explores the impacts of racial discrimination on the African-American families’ dream of prosperity in a complex American society. Hansberry demonstrates the racial discernment that disenfranchises the Younger family on the quest for a better future with suitable housing and adequate employment opportunities. Through the play, the author offers a universal view of the challenges of overcoming one’s difficult situation, especially in a prejudiced environment.
- Hansberry, L. (1959). A Raisin in the Sun. Vintage Books.
- Neupane, D. (2022). Racial and Cultural Tension in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. Cognition, 4(1), 16-20.
- Nowrouzi, T., Faghfori, S., & Zohdi, E. (2015). In search of equality: a dream deferred for African Americans in A Raisin in the Sun. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 5(11), 2269.