A Raisin in the Sun

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A Raisin in the Sun Themes

Themes and Colors
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Raisin in the Sun, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Dreams possess great importance in A Raisin in the Sun, with the play’s name coming from a 1951 Langston Hughes poem titled Montage of a Dream Deferred. In the poem, part of which serves as the play’s epigraph (a quotation at the beginning of a book that elaborates on its major themes) the poet asks, “What happens to a dream deferred?” pondering whether it shrivels up “like a raisin in the sun” or…

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A central virtue in the Younger household, dignity exerts a unifying force throughout the play. Mama expresses pride in her family’s background and tries to instill in her children a sense of respect for their ancestors, who were Southern slaves and sharecroppers. Although some characters, such as Mrs. Johnson, criticize the family as “one proud-acting bunch of colored folks,” the family holds fast to its ancestral dignity, an inheritance it considers to be greater…

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In 1959 much of the United States, including Chicago, remained de facto segregated, meaning that racial segregation persisted in education, employment, and housing even though the Supreme Court had overturned segregation that was established by law as unconstitutional. Set in de facto segregated Chicago, Hansberry’s play draws on stories from the author’s own life, such as her family’s experience with housing discrimination in 1930s Chicago. After moving to a house in an all-white neighborhood, Hansberry’s…

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A Raisin in the Sun anticipates the massive changes in gender relations – principally, the rise of feminism and the Sexual Revolution – that would transform American life in the 1960s. Hansberry explores controversial issues like abortion (which was illegal in 1959), the value of marriage, and morphing gender roles for women and men. Each of the Youngers takes a different attitude towards shifting gender roles, and the characters’ perspectives shed light on their identities…

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Money provides a constant source of conflict and preoccupation in the Younger household. Within moments of the play’s opening, Walter Lee asks Ruth, “Check coming today?” in reference to the insurance payment that his mother, Lena, is due to receive as a result of her husband’s death. The members of the Younger family view money in different ways, with Mama, Beneatha, and Ruth imagining money as a means to an end and…

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