SOLUTION: Southwestern Community College Raisin In The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry Essay

Character Analysis Midterm
A Raisin in the Sun or Death of a Salesman
Your name:
Your characters name:
Scene and page numbers:
Before you take this midterm, make certain you are familiar with the whole play. Once
you choose your character and scene, read over the WHOLE scene before attempting
the midterm. Both plays are posted in PDF in this container.
Remember to give WHOLE and COMPLETE answers. For full credit, please
provide as much information as possible in regards to each question. For
example, in question #2 you would tell me everything you know, feel, and
think about the character that you are speaking to.
Please answer:
1. Who are you? What are your given circumstances? (2 points)
a. Remember that the given circumstances are all of the details about the
play that are important for the reader to know in order to understand
the play.
b. You should have at least 10 given circumstances. They should include
details like, time period, location, age and occupation of character, etc.
2. Who are you speaking to? Be sure to write about your relationship (mother,
son, friend, etc.), relationship history, status within the relationship (who has
more power and why) and how you feel about them. (2 points)
3. What is the conflict in this scene? (1 point)
4. What do you want from the other character? (1 point)
a. Hint: This is likely a large goal – I want love or I want acceptance or I
want to replace them in their position of power
5. What are you fighting for? This is directly related to the want, but it is very
specific. For example, I want them to accept me so that I can feel supported
by them and excel in my life. (1 points)
6. What is your action? This relates to your want. (1 points)
a. Action: The physical pursuance of a specific want.
b. Example: I want sooth and support my scene partner so that they will
love me.
7. What happened just before the moment you speak? (1 point)
8. What tactics does the character use to get what he/she wants? (1 points)
i. Tactic: the WAY the character enacts an essential action.
ii. For example, I want to sooth my scene partner so that they will
love me more so my tactic is to sooth them by speaking softly
and using flattering words to convey my love.
9. What is the obstacle that this character faces in pursuit of getting what
he/she wants? (1 point)
Works by
A Raisin in the Sun
The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window
The Drinking Gourd
To Be Young, Gifted and Black
Les Blancs
What Use Are Flowers?
The Movement
Copyright © 1958, 1986 by Robert Nemiroff, as an unpublished work
Copyright © 1959, 1966, 1984, 1987, 1988 by Robert Nemiroff
Introduction copyright © 1987, 1988 by Robert Nemiroff
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright
Conventions. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a
division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in
Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Originally
published in hardcover in somewhat different form by Random House,
Inc., New York, in 1958.
Caution: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that A Raisin
in the Sun, being fully protected under the copyright Laws of the
United States of America, the British Empire, including the Dominion
of Canada, and all other countries of the Universal Copyright and Berne
Conventions, is subject to royalty. All rights, including professional,
amateur, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio and
television broadcasting, and the rights of translation into foreign
languages, are strictly reserved. Particular emphasis is laid on the
question of readings, permission for which must be secured in writing.
All inquiries should be addressed to the William Morris Agency, 1350
Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019, authorized agents for
the Estate of Lorraine Hansberry and for Robert Nemiroff, Executor.
Grateful acknowledgment is made to Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. for
permission to reprint eleven lines from “Dream Deferred” (“Harlem”)
from The Panther and the Lash by Langston Hughes. Copyright ©
1951 by Langston Hughes.
Reprinted by permission.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hansberry, Lorraine, 1930–1965.
A raisin in the sun / by Lorraine Hansberry; with an introduction
by Robert Nemiroff.—1st Vintage Books ed.
p. cm.
eISBN: 978-0-307-80744-1
1. Afro-Americans—History—20th century—Drama. I. Title.
To Mama:
in gratitude for the dream
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?
by Robert Nemiroff*
This is the most complete edition of A Raisin in the Sun
ever published. Like the American Playhouse production
for television, it restores to the play two scenes unknown to
the general public, and a number of other key scenes and
passages staged for the first time in twenty-fifth anniversary
revivals and, most notably, the Roundabout Theatre’s
Kennedy Center production on which the television picture
is based.
“The events of every passing year add resonance to A
Raisin in the Sun. It is as if history is conspiring to make
the play a classic”; “… one of a handful of great American
dramas … A Raisin in the Sun belongs in the inner circle,
along with Death of a Salesman, Long Day’s Journey into
Night, and The Glass Menagerie.” So wrote The New York
Times and the Washington Post respectively of Harold
Scott’s revelatory stagings for the Roundabout in which
most of these elements, cut on Broadway, were restored.
The unprecedented resurgence of the work (a dozen
regional revivals at this writing, new publications and
productions abroad, and now the television production that
will be seen by millions) prompts the new edition.
Produced in 1959, the play presaged the revolution in
black and women’s consciousness—and the revolutionary
ferment in Africa—that exploded in the years following the
playwright’s death in 1965 to ineradicably alter the social
fabric and consciousness of the nation and the world. As so
many have commented lately, it did so in a manner and to
an extent that few could have foreseen, for not only the
restored material, but much else that passed unnoticed in
the play at the time, speaks to issues that are now
inescapable: value systems of the black family; concepts of
African American beauty and identity; class and
generational conflicts; the relationships of husbands and
wives, black men and women; the outspoken (if then yet
unnamed) feminism of the daughter; and, in the penultimate
scene between Beneatha and Asagai, the larger statement
of the play—and the ongoing struggle it portends.
Not one of the cuts, it should be emphasized, was made
to dilute or censor the play or to “soften” its statement, for
everyone in that herculean, now-legendary band that
brought Raisin to Broadway—and most specifically the
producer, Philip Rose, and director, Lloyd Richards
—believed in the importance of that statement with a
degree of commitment that would have countenanced
nothing of the kind. How and why, then, did the cuts come
The scene in which Beneatha unveils her natural haircut
is an interesting example. In 1959, when the play was
presented, the rich variety of Afro styles introduced in the
mid-sixties had not yet arrived: the very few black women
who wore their hair unstraightened cut it very short. When
the hair of Diana Sands (who created the role) was
cropped in this fashion, however, a few days before the
opening, it was not contoured to suit her: her particular
facial structure required a fuller Afro, of the sort she in fact
adopted in later years. Result? Rather than vitiate the
playwright’s point—the beauty of black hair—the scene
was dropped.
Some cuts were similarly the result of happenstance or
unpredictables of the kind that occur in any production:
difficulties with a scene, the “processes” of actors, the
dynamics of staging, etc. But most were related to the
length of the play: running time. Time in the context of
bringing to Broadway the first play by a black (young and
unknown) woman, to be directed, moreover, by another
unknown black “first,” in a theater were black audiences
virtually did not exist—and where, in the entire history of the
American stage, there had never been a serious
commercially successful black drama!
So unlikely did the prospects seem in that day, in fact, to
all but Phil Rose and the company, that much as some
expressed admiration for the play, Rose’s eighteen-month
effort to find a co-producer to help complete the financing
was turned down by virtually every established name in the
business. He was joined at the last by another newcomer,
David Cogan, but even with the money in hand, not a single
theater owner on the Great White Way would rent to the
new production! So that when the play left New York for
tryouts—with a six-hundred-dollar advance in New Haven
and no theater to come back to—had the script and
performance been any less ready, and the response of
critics and audiences any less unreserved than they proved
to be, A Raisin in the Sun would never have reached
Under these circumstances the pressures were
enormous (if unspoken and rarely even acknowledged in
the excitement of the work) not to press fate unduly with
unnecessary risks. And the most obvious of these was the
running time. It is one thing to present a four-and-a-half-hour
drama by Eugene O’Neill on Broadway—but a first play
(even ignoring the special features of this one) in the
neighborhood of even three??? By common consensus,
the need to keep the show as tight and streamlined as
possible was manifest. Some things—philosophical flights,
nuances the general audience might not understand,
shadings, embellishments—would have to be sacrificed.
At the time the cuts were made (there were also some
very good ones that focused and strengthened the drama),
it was assumed by all that they would in no way significantly
affect or alter the statement of the play, for there is nothing
in the omitted lines that is not implicit elsewhere in, and
throughout, A Raisin in the Sun . But to think this was to
reckon without two factors the future would bring into play.
The first was the swiftness and depth of the revolution in
consciousness that was coming and the consequent,
perhaps inevitable, tendency of some people to assume,
because the “world” had changed, that any “successful”
work which preceded the change must embody the values
they had outgrown. And the second was the nature of the
American audience.
James Baldwin has written that “Americans suffer from
an ignorance that is not only colossal, but sacred.” He is
referring to that apparently endless capacity we have
nurtured through long years to deceive ourselves where
race is concerned: the baggage of myth and preconception
we carry with us that enables northerners, for example, to
shield themselves from the extent and virulence of
segregation in the North, so that each time an “incident” of
violence so egregious that they cannot look past it occurs
they are “shocked” anew, as if it had never happened
before or as if the problem were largely passé. (In 1975,
when the cast of Raisin, the musical, became involved in
defense of a family whose home in Queens, New York City,
had been fire-bombed, we learned of a 1972 City
Commissioner of Human Rights Report, citing “eleven
cases in the last eighteen months in which minority-owned
homes had been set afire or vandalized, a church had been
bombed, and a school bus had been attacked”—in New
York City!)
But Baldwin is referring also to the human capacity,
where a work of art is involved, to substitute, for what the
writer has written, what in our hearts we wish to believe. As
Hansberry put it in response to one reviewer’s enthusiastic
if particularly misguided praise of her play: “… it did not
disturb the writer in the least that there is no such
implication in the entire three acts. He did not need it in the
play; he had it in his head.”1
Such problems did not, needless to say, stop America
from embracing A Raisin in the Sun . But it did interfere
drastically, for a generation, with the way the play was
interpreted and assessed—and, in hindsight, it made all
the more regrettable the abridgment (though without it
would we even know the play today?). In a remarkable
rumination on Hansberry’s death, Ossie Davis (who
succeeded Sidney Poitier in the role of Walter Lee) put it
this way:
The play deserved all this—the playwright deserved all
this, and more. Beyond question! But I have a feeling
that for all she got, Lorraine Hansberry never got all
she deserved in regard to A Raisin in the Sun —that
she got success, but that in her success she was
cheated, both as a writer and as a Negro.
One of the biggest selling points about Raisin—
filling the grapevine, riding the word-of-mouth, laying
the foundation for its wide, wide acceptance—was
how much the Younger family was just like any other
American family. Some people were ecstatic to find
that “it didn’t really have to be about Negroes at all!” It
was, rather, a walking, talking, living demonstration of
our mythic conviction that, underneath, all of us
Americans, color-ain’t-got-nothing-to-do-with-it, are
pretty much alike. People are just people, whoever
they are; and all they want is a chance to be like other
people. This uncritical assumption, sentimentally held
by the audience, powerfully fixed in the character of the
powerful mother with whom everybody could identify,
immediately and completely, made any other
questions about the Youngers, and what living in the
slums of Southside Chicago had done to them, not
only irrelevant and impertinent, but also
disloyal … because everybody who walked into the
theater saw in Lena Younger … his own great
American Mama. And that was decisive.2
In effect, as Davis went on to develop, white America
“kidnapped” Mama, stole her away and used her fantasized
image to avoid what was uniquely African American in the
play. And what it was saying.
Thus, in many reviews (and later academic studies), the
Younger family—maintained by two female domestics and
a chauffeur, son of a laborer dead of a lifetime of hard labor
—was transformed into an acceptably “middle class”
family. The decision to move became a desire to
“integrate” (rather than, as Mama says simply, “to find the
nicest house for the least amount of money for my family.…
Them houses they put up for colored in them areas way out
always seem to cost twice as much.”).
In his “A Critical Reevaluation: A Raisin in the Sun ’s
Enduring Passion,” Amiri Baraka comments aptly: “We
missed the essence of the work—that Hansberry had
created a family on the cutting edge of the same class and
ideological struggles as existed in the movement itself and
among the people.… The Younger family is part of the
black majority, and the concerns I once dismissed as
‘middle class’—buying a home and moving into ‘white
folks’ neighborhoods’—are actually reflective of the
essence of black people’s striving and the will to defeat
segregation, discrimination, and national oppression.
There is no such thing as a ‘white folks’ neighborhood’
except to racists and to those submitting to racism.”3
Mama herself—about whose “acceptance” of her “place”
in the society there is not a word in the play, and who, in
quest of her family’s survival over the soul- and bodycrushing conditions of the ghetto, is prepared to defy
housing-pattern taboos, threats, bombs, and God knows
what else—became the safely “conservative” matriarch,
upholder of the social order and proof that if one only
perseveres with faith, everything will come out right in the
end and the-system-ain’t-so-bad-after-all. (All this,
presumably, because, true to character, she speaks and
thinks in the language of her generation, shares their
dream of a better life and, like millions of her counterparts,
takes her Christianity to heart.) At the same time,
necessarily, Big Walter Younger—the husband who reared
this family with her and whose unseen presence and
influence can be heard in every scene—vanished from
And perhaps most ironical of all to the playwright, who
had herself as a child been almost killed in such a real-life
story,4 the climax of the play became, pure and simple, a
“happy ending”—despite the fact that it leaves the
Youngers on the brink of what will surely be, in their new
home, at best a nightmare of uncertainty. (“If he thinks that’s
a happy ending,” said Hansberry in an interview, “I invite
him to come live in one of the communities where the
Youngers are going!” 5) Which is not even to mention the
fact that that little house in a blue-collar neighborhood—
hardly suburbia, as some have imagined—is hardly the
answer to the deeper needs and inequities of race and
class and sex that Walter and Beneatha have articulated.
When Lorraine Hansberry read the reviews—delighted
by the accolades, grateful for the recognition, but also
deeply troubled—she decided in short order to put back
many of the materials excised. She did that in the 1959
Random House edition, but faced with the actuality of a
prize-winning play, she hesitated about some others which,
for reasons now beside the point, had not in rehearsal
come alive. She later felt, however, that the full last scene
between Beneatha and Asagai (drastically cut on
Broadway) and Walter’s bedtime scene with Travis
(eliminated entirely) should be restored at the first
opportunity, and this was done in the 1966 New American
Library edition. As anyone who has seen the recent
productions will attest, they are among the most moving
(and most applauded) moments in the play.
Because the visit of Mrs. Johnson adds the costs of
another character to the cast and ten more minutes to the
play, it has not been used in most revivals. But where it has
been tried it has worked to solid—often hilarious—effect. It
can be seen in the American Playhouse production, and is
included here in any case, because it speaks to
fundamental issues of the play, makes plain the reality that
waits the Youngers at the curtain, and, above all, makes
clear what, in the eyes of the author, Lena Younger—in her
typicality within the black experience—does and does not
Another scene—the Act I, Scene Two moment in which
Beneatha observes and Travis gleefully recounts his latest
adventure in the street below—makes tangible and visceral
one of the many facts of ghetto life that impel the Youngers’
move. As captured on television and published here for the
first time, it is its own sobering comment on just how
“middle class” a family this is.
A word about the stage and interpretive directions.
These are the author’s original directions combined, where
meaningful to the reader, 6 with the staging insights of two
great directors and companies: Lloyd Richards’ classic
staging of that now-legendary cast that first created the
roles; and Harold Scott’s, whose searching explorations of
the text in successive revivals over many years—
culminating in the inspired production that broke box office
records at the Kennedy Center and won ten awards for
Scott and the company—have given the fuller text, in my
view, its most definitive realization to date.
Finally, a note about the American Playhouse production.
Unlike the drastically cut and largely one-dimensional 1961
movie version—which, affecting and pioneering though it
may have been, reflecte …
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