Conflict In Raisin In The Sun
American Literature courses require research papers on the novel A Raisin in the Sun by Langston Hughes at some point in every college student's journey. Paper Masters suggests writing about conflict in A Raisin in the Sun to underline the main themes of the novel involving injustice, race and the individual's struggle.
Conflict in A Raisin in the Sun can be seen in several characters of the play. A Raisin in the Sun relates the story of a working-class African-American family with dreams. They are willing to rebel against the position that society has forced on them because of their race and class in order to fulfill their dreams. The Youngers battle in everyday revolutions without armies. Raisin celebrates:
- African roots
- The equality of women
- The value of money
- The survival of the individual
- The nature of dreams
Races and A Raisin in the Sun
Focusing on the less obvious one of George, we see a man desperately trying to be something he is not. George symbolizes the epitome of a black man that has fully assimilated into the white mainstream. He is what Berneathea calls an "assimilationist Negro,"(81) and she hates them. George comes off to be very arrogant and flamboyant person, even down to his white shoes. Also he is not one who is interested in his own African heritage, When Berneatha mentions culture, George nastily replies;
Oh dear,dear,dear,! Here we go! A lecture on the African past! On our great West African Heritage! In one second we will hear about the great Ashanti empires; the great Songhay civilizations; and the great sculpture of Benin and the whole monologue will end the word heritage! (Nastily) Let's face it baby, your heritage is nothing but a bunch of raggedy-assed spirituals and some grass huts!
A Raisin in the Sun and George's Behavior
George totally detaches himself from his race and community with his materialistic attitude and his educational supremacy. When Ruth asks George what time is the show, he doesn't simply just answer with the time. Since he is so narrowly concerned with scholarly matters he replies, "It's an eight thirty curtain. That's just Chicago, though. In New York standard curtain is eight forty". This attitude is also evident when George calls Walter "Prometheus". George is cognizant of Walter's limited education and is aware that Walter wouldn't know who Prometheus was. It's an insult to Walter's intelligence, and unfortunately George's education creates a barrier between him and his community (black folks).
George's behavior reveals his insecurities and inability's as a black man in America, or he wouldn't have to denigrate members of his own race. Unlike Walter and George, Asagai doesn't have any American Dreams. He knows exactly who he is; an African studying in Canada, visiting America. Black Americans could perhaps think of Asagai as a link to their African antiquity. This is illustrated when Asagai gives Beneatha a robe and some records from his native land. He was giving Beneatha a representation of her African heritage, that she so desperately wants to know. She makes this effort so that she can find her identity. Of everyone in the family Beneatha is the only person that has a strong sense of racial pride and she makes an attempt to steep her self in the culture of her forbears. Asagai attempts to enlighten Beneatha about her African roots. For example he indicates to her that straightening her hair is unnatural and he also considers it "mutilation".(64) Asagai believes that she should be proud of her Afrocentric, but he blames this hair processing on assimilation, which is so popular in America. Sharply, Beneatha replies that she is "not an assimilationist." Never the less, Asagai symbolizes the substance of character that Walter will never know, and what George wants to reject; Africa.
This play shows how troublesome it is to prosper in society, while representing a minority race. Also, Hansberry wants to show how society can make it difficult for a black man to to find their identity. The outside pressures and influences can completely sidetrack the life of an individual down a path of grief and despair. Hansberry illustrates how the American dream can easily become Black American reality. Too much emphasis is put on the advantages that the affluent white people, and this is how George and Walter get sucked into their life style. We also see how confusion can set in the mind of characters like George, who would denounce their race rather than uplift it. The only bright spot is Asagai, who Hansberry utilizes to contrast the ideals of the African man to the Afro-American male. He is the only character that knows where he is going in life, and he doesn't worry about money, status or society. Walter and George will continue to be affected by the mainstream, while trying to be something that they are not. While these guys search for their hopes down dead end roads, what will happen to them is what Langston Hughes calls a dream deferred.
Conflict forced Walter and George to see, at least each other, in the light of their heritage and the illumination of what they had hoped to be. While neither one should be chastised for their search for identity, Raisin in the Sun offers a view of the confusion that is incited in the search for the American Dream in African American life.
Raisin in the Sun is a poignant play about a black man name Walter wanting to rise above what fate seems to have deemed him to be, poor. The conflict that Walter finds himself in motivates him to want to invest in a liquor store in order to grasp some type of financial freedom. He doesn't just want to have enough money to provide for his family, but he tells his mother, "I want so many things". He is obsessed with earning a lot of money. At the beginning of the play Walter is waiting for Mama's check from the insurance company as if it was his own, and Beneathea has to remind Walter that, "that money belongs to Mama, Walter and if is for her to decide how she wants to spend it". Here we see how Walter is brainwashed into America's materialistic and greedy manner. Walter has been corrupted by society and unlike his sister Beneatha, he doesn't even have a desire to find his identity through his African heritage. He is searching for his identity with money. The idea of making a hundred thousand dollars is what's most on his mind, and to Walter the liquor store is how he will achieve that. The liquor store represents an opportunity for Walter to govern his own life, and to be the head of the household, that his Mama now seems to control. The idea of operating his own establishment gave him a positive outlook for the future that was more promising that his career as a chauffeur. Walter hasn't any education or skills, and for that reason he is stuck in the same routine. He is trying to break out of this rut by trying to attain the American Dream, and in the process he adapts the values of white society. He longs for the socioeconomic advantages of the affluent people and assimilates to their ideas and this is what has warped Walter Younger.