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A Raisin in the Sun
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Raisin in the Sun eloquently portrays the life struggles of an African-American family living on Chicago's South Side in the 1950s. Characters work at subservient jobs (Walter is a chauffeur, and his mother and sister clean houses), grapple with the impact this has on their self-esteem, and face racial prejudice. Though these family members all love each other, their outbursts are often hostile. Particularly disturbing are the arguments between Walter and his wife, Ruth; Walter often comes home drunk and verbally takes out his disappointments on his wife, and she considers aborting their second child because she feels they don't have the emotional or financial resources to add a baby to the family. Family discussion about the early days of the civil rights movement in the United States and exposure to Langston Hughes' poem, "Harlem," the source of the play's title, will add to young readers' appreciation of this play.
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What's the story?
The action of A RAISIN IN THE SUN all takes place in the Chicago apartment of the Younger family: Lena; her grown children, Beneatha and Walter; and Walter's wife, Ruth, and son, Travis. When the play begins, the family members are waiting expectantly for the arrival of a life insurance payment, as the patriarch of the family, Walter senior, has died. Each of the characters has some hope and idea of how the insurance money should be used. Though the money legally belongs to Lena, the characters argue and struggle with one another for the rare chance to make a real change in their lives. The tension over how the money will be used causes explosive tension between the three generations of Youngers who share the South Side apartment.
Is it any good?
There's good reason that three generations have read A Raisin in the Sun as an important work of American literature. Nominated for four Tony Awards when it was originally staged in 1960, it has generational differences, race and gender roles, and the importance of morality and faith all elegantly woven into the dialogue, and offers abundant lessons and fuel for discussion without ever becoming too preachy. The characters are believable and heartbreaking, well-realized human beings, and their struggles against prejudice and hardship are as meaningful now as they were 50-plus years ago. A Raisin in the Sun was adapted for a classic film version starring Sidney Poitier, who also performed in the Broadway play, and a more recent version stars rap artist, producer and actor Shawn "P. Diddy" Combs.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Lena giving Walter responsibility for so much of the insurance money. Why do you think she hands it all to him?
How are Beneatha's two boyfriends different, and how do they represent different sides of her?
How does Mr. Lindner's proposal make the Youngers feel?
Why did Lorraine Hansberry call her play A Raisin in the Sun?
Themes & Topics
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For kids who love stories of the African-American experience
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