A Raisin in the Sun can be considered as a turning point in the American art.
Lorraine Hansberry was the first playwright to create realistic portraits of African-
American life. The play is recognizably autobiographical. Hansberry during her short
period of life has made a remarkable mark on the American theatre. The play
addresses so many issues important during the 1950s in the United States. The 1950s
are widely mocked in modern times as an age of complacency and conformism,
symbolized by the growth of suburbs and commercial culture that began in that
decade. America in the years following World War II roiled growing domestic and
racial tension. The stereotype of 1950s America as a land of happy housewives and
Black people content with their inferior status resulted in an up swell of social
resentment that would finally find public voice in the civil rights and feminist
movements of the 1960s.
A Raisin in the Sun was a revolutionary work for its time. Hansberry creates in
the Younger family one of the first honest depictions of a Black family on an
American stage, in an age when predominantly Black audiences simply did not exist.
Before this play, African- American roles, usually small and comedic, largely
employed ethnic stereotypes. Hansberry however, shows an entire Black family in a
realistic light, one that is unflattering and far from comedic. She uses Black
vernacular throughout the play and broaches important issues and conflicts such as
poverty, discrimination, and the construction of African- American racial identity.
Many people have called Hansberry a visionary and her writing prophetic. She
addressed issues unfamiliar at the time but soon to be at the forefront of discussion.
A Raisin in the Sun explores not only the tension between white and Black
society but also the strain within the Black community over how to react to an
oppressive white community. The play addresses difficult questions about
assimilation and identity. Through the character of Joseph Asagai, Hansberry reveals
a trend toward celebrating African heritage. As he calls for a native revolt in his
homeland, Hansberry seems to predict the anticolonial struggles in African countries
of the upcoming decades and also the inevitability and necessity of integration.
In her portrayal of Beneatha as a fiercely independent, self- assured woman,
determined to succeed in the medical profession, Hansberry addressed feminist
questions ahead of their time in A Raisin in the Sun. Through the character of
Beneatha, Hansberry proposes that marriage is not necessary for women and that
women can and should have ambitious career goals. The feminist theme is enhanced
by the portrayal of the two other women in the play, Lena Younger (Mama) and Ruth.
Mama is the epitome of the self-reliant woman, having worked side by side with her
husband to provide for the family and continuing to be its stabilizing force. Ruth, on
the other hand, seems to hold fairly traditional ideas about motherhood, but she finds
herself, without the counsel of her husband, considering abortion as an alternative to
bringing another child into the world. Thus Hansberry even approaches an abortion
debate, allowing the topic of abortion to enter the action in an era when abortion was
A Raisin in the Sun remains important as a cultural document of a crucial
period in American history as well as for the continued debate over racial and gender
issues. The concepts of black beauty, generational conflict, class differences,
feminism and black Americans’ relationship to their African past have discussed
throughout the play. The play also marked the turning point of black artists in
professional theatre. It became a pivotal moment in American cultural history that
opened doors for Black artists, actors, and filmmakers. Thus we can consider A Raisin
in the Sun as a turning point in American art as it addresses so many issues of
importance during the 1950s in the United States.