Wrapping Up A Raisin in the Sun

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A close look at the characters and symbols in Hansberry’s play
WRAPPING UP A RAISIN IN THE SUN
MAMA
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Freud: Mama is the ego, the balance between the strong voice
of Walter Lee Sr. and her son
She struggles to maintain tradition in an evolving world, tries
to keep religion in the home
Yet, she has disassociated herself with Africa (her roots) and
remembers little of history (as seen with Asagai)
The matriarch of the family, she wants to bring all together
through a house
Inspite of her struggle, she tends to her plant, and feels it
represents her
Against her better judgment, she leaves Walter to control the
money
The money isn’t as valuable as the lesson to teach: how to
claim ownership of his manliness and assume his father’s role
WALTER LEE
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The relentless dreamer: run by id
His biggest battle is not supporting his family financially,
but vocalizing his dreams of success
He abandons his family for alcohol and jazz (chaos ensues
as control is lost)
Is pressured to assume his father’s position
Once his “selfish dream” of owning a liquor store is broken,
he realizes that reality is better
He is most powerful when speaking to Lidner
BENEATHA
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“ The Black Sheep”
The most academically educated of all
A modern thinker, feminist
Struggles to find her identity
Doesn’t know her place between the “old world” of Africa (a
life of domesticity and compliance) and the “new world” (of
independence and opportunity)
Experiments with different past times to find herself
Dates George Murchison(“slave master”) and Asagai (“strong
slave”)
Asagai shows her the ways of the past, of her roots and this is
where she discovers herself (“there’s no place like home”)
Dream of being a doctor, of helping, of changing
not just about curing illness, but close-mindedness
THE PLANT
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Represents both Mama’s care and her dream for her family.
In her first moment onstage, she moves directly toward the
plant to take care of it.
She admits that it is missing light and water, and is proud of
the way it doesn’t cease to flourish
Her care for her plant is akin to the care for her children,
unconditional and unending despite a less-than-perfect
environment for growth.
The plant also references her dream to own a house and,
more specifically, to have a garden and a yard.
With her plant, she practices her gardening skills. Her success
with the plant helps her believe that she would be successful
as a gardener.
The garden of opportunity, where hope is sewn and dreams
are grown
RUTH
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She’s “Ruth”less when it comes to Walter’s dreams and
imagination
Works to help with finances
Lost her identity to being a wife and mother
Tired
Considers abortion, but doesn’t do it
She wanted to abort as she was facing more struggle
and despair
She is hopeful with the prospect of a new house
BENEATHA’S HAIR
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At the introduction her hair is straightened
Once Asagai questions her hairstyle, she cuts her after
Caucasian-seeming hair.
Her new, radical afro represents her embracing of her
heritage.
Beneatha’s cutting of her hair is a bold social statement, as
she symbolically declares that natural is beautiful,
foreshadowing the 1960s cultural philosophy that “black is
beautiful”.
Rather than force her hair to conform to the style society
dictates, Beneatha prefers a style that allows her to
embrace her identity and culture.
Beneatha’s new hair is a symbol of her anti-assimilationist
beliefs as well as her desire to shape her identity by looking
back to her roots in Africa.
THE APARTMENT
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The Younger apartment is the only setting throughout the play,
highlighting the centrality of the home.
The lighting changes with the mood
With only one window, the apartment is a small, dark area in which all
the Youngers feel closed in by.
While some of the play’s action occurs outside of the apartment, the
audience sees this action play out in the household.
Most of what happens outside of the apartment includes Travis’s playing
out in the street with the rat and Walter’s drinking and delinquency from
work.
The home is a electrifying force for the family, one that Mama sees as key
to the family’s unity.
The audience sees characters outside the family—Joseph Asagai, George
Murchison, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Lindner, and Bobo—only when they visit the
apartment. These characters become real through their interactions with
the Youngers and the Youngers’ reactions to them. The play ends, fittingly,
when Mama, lagging behind, finally leaves the apartment.
THE COMFORT OF FOOD
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“Eat Your Eggs”
A command from Ruth to Walter to quiet him.
Walter criticizes this comment to show how women keep men
from achieving their dreams
Being calm and eating one’s eggs represents an acceptance of the
harsh conditions that Walter and the rest of the Youngers face in
life. Walter believes that Ruth, who is making his eggs, keeps him
from achieving his dream, and he argues that she should be more
supportive of him.
The eggs she makes every day symbolize her mechanical
approach to supporting him. She provides him with nourishment,
but always in the same, predictable way.
She wants to nourish him, but can’t keep him full and satisfied
She doesn’t see that he hungers for more than food, for love and
acceptance
MUSIC AND DANCE
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Walter’s jazz is chaotic, he listens to it in the “outside
world”, showing his need to let loose of the constraints he
faces inside the home
Beneatha plays a blues melody, that Mama doesn’t like;
quite literal: “they all have the blues”
Asagai brings Beneatha back through music and dance,
she is one of “her people” as she performs a tribal dance
Walter says he is going to perform a “tap dance” for
Linder, a reference to minstrelsy
COMPARING RAISIN TO “THE HELP”
Choose 3/5 following questions and answer in full
sentences.
1) 1) Compare Skeeter to Beneatha. (similarities and
differences in persona and dreams) /10
2) 2) Compare Ruth to Abeline. (similarities and differences
in persona and dreams) /10
3) Compare Mama to Minne (similarities and differences in
persona and dreams) /10
4) 3) Compare the end of Raisin to The Help. Who has the
happier ending? Why? (compare and contrast) /10
5) 4) The movie cover for “The Help” is of 3 birds. Who are
these “birds”? Who is a “bird” in Raisin? Explain. /10

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