Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
Published in 1959 by Random House
My copy: Second-hand copy
The Youngers are a poor African-American family living on the South Side of Chicago. An opportunity to escape from poverty comes in the form of a $10,000 life insurance check that the matriarch of the family (Lena Younger or Mama) receives upon her husband’s death.
This is a very simple and easy to read play, with all the action taking place in one room of the Younger family’s cramped apartment. Although there are only a few characters in the play, each has a very distinctive voice, and the contrasting personalities work very well together to give a range of viewpoints.
The plot revolves around the money Lena is about to receive following her husband’s death, and we can see the tension this is causing as the characters have different views on how best to spend the money. All want a better life for themselves and the rest of the family, but they have differing ideas on how to do this. Central to this plotline is Walter, Lena’s son, who is desperate to make something of himself. His struggle keeps the story moving along – and his decisions affect all the members of his family.
There is also some light relief in the form of Walter’s sister Beneatha and her suitor Asagai – this is much needed to counter some of play’s more serious themes.
I really enjoyed reading this play – although it is very simple in terms of style, it deals with complex issues and stays with you after reading. The characters are all endearing and have distinct personalities which works really well and makes the play easy to read. I would recommend this to anyone interested in issues affecting black families in America in the 1950s, or simply if you want to read a good family drama.
The play has also been made into a film, once in the 1960s starring Sidney Poitier, and again in 2008 with P Diddy playing Walter! If you’re interested, you can view clips on YouTube.
My rating: 10 out of 10