Dreams Deferred, an analysis of “A Raisin in the Sun”

DreamsDeferred, an analysis of “A Raisin in the Sun”

Theplay “A raisin in the sun” by Lorraine Hansberry was a phenomenonpost war literature. The play which first appeared on the stage inthe late 1950s was a watershed moment in the history of Americanliterature. There was little prospect of success of the play, but itsreception was phenomenon. This is mainly due to the circumstancesunder which the play was set. The play focused on the challengesfaced by the minority races in the United States, and therefore didnot received support from the elites in the American literature.Lorraine Hansberry was an inexperienced writer, there were no whitecast members and the directors were unskilled. However, the theme ofthe play attracted a lot attention, especially in the civil activismera. Consequently, Lorraine Hansberry is celebrated as one of themost bold and creative writers in the mid 20th century(Loos, 2007).

Theplay involves a story of Walter and Ruth Younger family who lived inabject poverty in Chicago together with their mother Lena and a youngson Travis. Walter, the family bread winner is a limousine driver,but desperate to become wealthy, despite his wife Ruth beingcontented with their condition. Walter has plans of establishing aliquor store with his friends in order to become wealthy. On theother hand, Walter father has recently died and his mother isexpecting a ten thousand dollars life insurance check. This is asource of corrosion in the family because Walter expects that hisentitlement will boost his liquor business prospect, while his motheris opposed to it for religious reasons. However, when his mother getsthe insurance check, she gives some money to Walter on condition thathe will reserve some money for his sister, Beneatha, education.Unfortunately, when Walter invests the money with his two friends,they abscond, killing the dream of Walter and his sister. Walterloses his business prospects while his sister is unable to go tomedical school. There is no doubt that the ten thousands dollarsinsurance check could have changed the lives of Walter and hisfamily. However, this is not the case. The desire of Walter sister togo to medical school is now dependent Asagai, her boyfriends. Theidea is supported by Walter, but late changes his mind. The play endwith the family moving to a house their mother had bought using someof the money from the insurance. However, they have to cope withracial prejudice and discrimination in the new white dominatedneighborhood (Hansberry, 1959).

Animportant aspect of the Lorraine Hansberry play is the choice of thetitle, “A raisin on the sun”. Raisin referred to dried grapes.The big question is what happens when dried grapes are put on thesun. The title was borrowed from the poem “Harlem” by LangtonHughes. The poem is one of the most published works of literature inthe renaissance period, and is commonly referred to as the “DreamsDeferred” due to its theme on dreams. In the poem, Hughes asks thequestion “what happens to dream deferred? Does it dry up, like araisin in the sun?” In the play, there are no dried grapes, andtherefore, it is not a literally meaning. However, there are severaldeferred dreams in the play. Only one of the dreams is deferred.Therefore, it can be argued that the play attempted to answer thequestions in the poem (Loos, 2007).

Theplay by Lorraine Hansberry revolves about a poor black family in thewhite dominated white society in the 1950s America. Despite thisdisadvantage, the family is determined to achieve the American dream,the dream of social and economic prosperity. After the death of thehead of the family, the insurance check is the only savior to theeconomic challenges facing the family. Each member of the family hashis or her own dream to achieve with the ten thousand dollars checkfrom their father’s insurance. Walter wants to be a successfulbusiness man by venturing into the profitable liquor business, hermother want to own a decent house while her sister want to go tomedical school and become a doctor. Although their mother is able tobuy a house where the family can live happily, the only dream thefamily is able to achieve, the other dreams disappears which resultsinto the family falling apart. Walter is unable to start a businessdue to his unscrupulous allies and thus he is unable to reserve feesfor his sister to join medical school (Hansberry, 1959).

Thetitle Lorraine Hansberry play is based on the dreams of thecharacters. The dreams of Walter and other family members can becompared to the raisins referred to in the poem by Langston Hughes.There is no doubt that the dreams of the family can be referred to as“deferred dreams”. Thus, the poem is essential in understandingthe theme and contextual meaning of the play. It can also be arguedthat the play makes a significant attempt to answer the questions inthe poem, in the context of deferred dreams. The togetherness andhappiness of Walter and his family is dependent on the realization ofthe dreams of individual members of the family, and the family atlarge. Failure to realize the dreams results into miserly anddepression and thus a break up of the family. In the poem, the raisinin the sun will therefore dry up. The dreams in the play are likedried grapes left out in the sun. They dry up and harden, becomedesiccated and brittle making them useless. The dried up raisins canonly be thrown away. When Walter family loses all the money from theinsurance check, the raisin dries up.

Itis important to look at the title of the play in the context of the1950s American society. Thus, another issue in reference to the titleis what Lorraine Hansberry refers to as a raisin, dried grapes. Whythe grapes dried up, and what was the sun being referred in thetitle. Racial discrimination and segregation was an important aspectof the American society in the 1950s. Thus, although the Walterfamily had dreams of prosperity, they were faced with the challengesin achieving these dreams. In addition to being servants of thewhites, they lived in poverty in segregated environs (Loos, 2007).They did not have an access to social and economic opportunitieswhich could have improved their lives or enabled them achieve theirdreams. Thus, the “raisin” was unable to cope with the heat ofthe “sun” and thus dried up.


Hansberry,L. (1959). “A Raisin in the Sun”, In The Norton Introductionto Literature by Kelly J Mays, K. (2014).pp 1470-1537. New York:W W Norton &amp Co Inc.

Loos,P. (2007). A reader`s guide to Lorraine Hansberry`s A raisin inthe sun, Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow Publishers.