A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry- Summary, Analysis, Characters & Themes

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Play TitleA Raisin in the Sun
PlaywrightLorraine Hansberry
Date of First PerformanceMarch 11, 1959
SettingA South Side Chicago tenement apartment in the 1950s
ThemesFamily, race, class, dreams, deferred dreams
StyleRealistic, naturalistic

A Raisin in the Sun is a play by Lorraine Hansberry that explores the struggles of an African American family living in Chicago’s South Side. The Youngers receive a life insurance check after the death of the father, and each family member has different dreams for the money. It highlights the challenges faced by the Youngers as they try to improve their lives and confront societal barriers. The title comes from a Langston Hughes poem that suggests dreams, like a raisin in the sun, can either dry up or become a reality.


The characters of “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry are:

  1. Walter Lee Younger: The main character, a passionate and ambitious man who dreams of a better life for his family.
  2. Ruth Younger: Walter Lee’s wife, who works hard to support her family and wants a stable home life.
  3. Lena Younger (Mama): Walter Lee’s mother, a strong and religious woman who receives a life insurance check after her husband’s death.
  4. Beneatha Younger: Walter Lee’s sister, a college student with dreams of becoming a doctor and exploring her African heritage.
  5. Travis Younger: Walter Lee and Ruth’s young son.
  6. Joseph Asagai: A Nigerian student who becomes friends with Beneatha.
  7. George Murchison: A wealthy and educated young man who is interested in Beneatha.
  8. Karl Lindner: Karl Lindner is a white representative of the Clybourne Park neighborhood who tries to persuade the Youngers not to move in.
  9. Mrs. Johnson: The downstairs neighbor, Mrs. Johnson is gossipy and judgmental.
  10. Willy Harris: Walter Lee’s friend, Willy Harris represents the street life that Walter Lee is trying to escape.


The themes of “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry are:

  1. Dreams and Aspirations: The play explores the dreams and aspirations of the Younger family members and how they shape their lives.
  2. Racial Discrimination: It addresses the challenges and discrimination faced by African Americans in the 1950s, highlighting the impact on their lives and dreams.
  3. Family Dynamics: The dynamics within the Younger family are central, reflecting generational conflicts, love, and support.
  4. Social and Economic Struggles: The play delves into the socio-economic challenges faced by the Younger family and their pursuit of a better life.
  5. Identity and Pride: It explores issues of identity and the importance of cultural pride in the face of adversity.

Watch Full Play Summary


The Youngers are a struggling African-American family residing on Chicago’s South Side. The family matriarch, Lena Younger, often known as Mama, receives a $10,000 life insurance cheque following her husband’s passing, which presents her with a chance to leave poverty. Walter and Beneatha, Lena’s children, each have different intentions for the money. Walter, the eldest son, is 35 years old, has a small boy, and wants to invest in a liquor business. Beneatha, the younger sister, is a college student right now and intends to utilize the money for medical school. Lena also has financial plans: she intends to utilize the funds to fund Beneatha’s medical school and purchase a home for the family.

There are several environmental demands: two families share a single bathroom, five people are living in a small one-bedroom flat, and the building is dilapidated and roach-infested. When Ruth, Walter’s wife, learns she is expecting their second child and starts thinking seriously about having an abortion, the demands mount. But there is still a place for ideas and goals, even in a setting where asking for fifty cents turns into a family argument.

The origin of many of the novel concepts and ideologies that permeate the family’s household is Beneatha Younger. She is currently a college student and is often questioning the cultural, racial, gender, and religious beliefs that her family has always held dear. The two guys she is dating are extremely different representations of African-American society. Beneatha’s first classmate, George Murchison, is an affluent African American. Hansberry can depict a number of the class conflicts that occur in African-American society through his character. 

Her second lover, Asagai, is a Nigerian college student. Beneatha can discover more about her African background thanks to Asagai. Towards the end of the play, he urges her to return to Nigeria with him to practice medicine, presents her Nigerian robes and music, and supports her idealistic goals.

Walter Younger is a living example of the American ideal. He is driven to advance and has an entrepreneurial mentality. Beneatha wants to question the current system, but Walter doesn’t want to. Rather, his goal is to move up the social scale and into a higher class. He wants a huge house, a great automobile, pearls for his wife, and an office job because he is not happy with his current position as a driver. To put it succinctly, he aspires to a bourgeois existence. Walter truly has a strong desire for change because he idolizes riches and power, but his goals and ambitions can never be realized as long as racial barriers like racism prevent him from moving forward. After a few incidents, Mama comes to see the importance of his ambitions despite her moral objections to the concept of a booze business.

Lena grants her oldest son control over the remaining insurance money after he makes the down payment on a home in a largely white area. She asks him to set aside a sizeable amount for his sister’s medical school tuition. On the other hand, Walter chooses to partner with two dubious-looking individuals to invest the entire sum in a booze store. When one of the “investors,” Willy, takes off with the entire sum of money, the plan collapses.

The family is reliant on the funds; they are now packing up their belongings and have already made arrangements to migrate. Heartbroken, Walter gives serious thought to accepting an offer from Mr. Lindner, a white community official, that would pay the Youngers more to stay out of their neighborhood. The family believes that the choice is immoral because it puts money above human dignity. Despite his reservations, Walter is adamant about closing the purchase, but at the last minute, in front of his son Travis’s naive eyes, he is unable to do so. Ultimately, the family chooses to relocate. They know they have made the right decision, even if the path ahead will not be easy.

The play ends with the Younger family preparing to move into their new home in Clybourne Park, a predominantly white neighborhood. Although they are excited about their new life, they are also aware of the challenges that await them.

Mama, the matriarch of the family, is the first to express her concerns. She worries that the neighbors will not welcome them and that the family will be isolated. However, she also believes that they are strong enough to overcome any obstacles.

Walter, the family’s patriarch, is more optimistic about the move. He believes that the Youngers can break down racial barriers and create a better future for themselves and their children.

Beneatha, the family’s youngest member, is more ambivalent about the move. She is excited about the opportunities that it will bring her, but she is also aware of the sacrifices that her family has made.

Despite their differences, the Youngers are united in their determination to succeed. They know that the move to Clybourne Park is a risk, but they are willing to take it for the sake of their future.

As the play ends, the Youngers are packing their belongings and preparing to leave their old apartment. Mama looks around the room and takes a deep breath. “Well, for better or for worse, here we go,” she says.


What is the story A Raisin in the Sun about?

A Raisin in the Sun follows an African American family’s dreams and struggles in post-war Chicago.

What is the main message of A Raisin in the Sun?

A Raisin in the Sun conveys the powerful message that despite challenges, dreams can be achieved through resilience and family unity.

What are the 3 main points in A Raisin in the Sun?

The three main points in A Raisin in the Sun are:
-the importance of dreams,
-the struggle against racial discrimination, and
-the power of family.

What does Ruth symbolize in A Raisin in the Sun?

Ruth symbolizes the quiet strength and resilience of the Younger family in A Raisin in the Sun.

What does Ruth’s pregnancy symbolize in A Raisin in the Sun?

It represents the family’s hopes for the future while also highlighting the challenges they face in achieving those dreams.

What do the eggs symbolize in A Raisin in the Sun?

The eggs symbolize Ruth’s practicality and her desire to keep Walter grounded in reality.

What is the irony in the raisin in the sun?

The irony in A Raisin in the Sun lies in the tragic realization that the family’s dreams of a better life are hindered by the very things they hoped would bring it about.

What happens to Ruth at the end of A Raisin in the Sun?

Ruth decides to keep her baby and embraces the family’s decision to move into a bigger house in a better neighborhood, symbolizing hope for a brighter future.

What happens at the end of the raisin in the sun?

The Younger family moves into their new home in Clybourne Park, despite facing racial prejudice and financial setbacks.

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