Setting & Relationships
A Raisin in the sun is about a family living in Southside Chicago. They live in an overcrowded apartment. The furniture is ‘worn and tired’. The family display a sense of pride in themselves by attempting to cover up the threadbare carpet and sofa. The mother and daughter share a bedroom, the husband and wife share a makeshift tiny bedroom and the son has to sleep in the living room on a sofa bed.
All of the action in the play takes place in this tiny, overcrowded, claustrophobic apartment. The writer Lorraine Hansberry wants to reveal the tensions that exist within and outside of the family. The audience can immediately say that the main struggle for this family is financial. It’s easy to see that money is going to be a major theme in the play. The dialogue in the opening of the play shows that Ruth is the one who organises the family she has to rise early to wake the son and the husband and make the breakfast.
The writer introduces the symbolism of eggs in this scene. ‘How do you want your eggs?’ ‘not scrambled!’ – Ruth scrambles the eggs. Eggs represent fertility, new life, hope scrambling the eggs represents her pessimistic mood and the fear things will never change. The eggs could also represent the family’s exclusion from the American Dream whilst living in that apartment – there’s no room to grow or thrive.
The stage directions show that she has aged prematurely and she is exhausted by the way life has treated her since her marriage to Walter. The first time she addresses her son in the play there is excessive use of exclamatory phrases, this reveals that she has to be authoritarian in her approach to motherhood there is no time for a softly, softly approach as she is the one who attempts to maintain some normality and routine in the morning ritual.
With Walter, she also treats him like a child, she takes responsibility for waking him up for work. She has to rouse him several times possibly because He has been drinking the night before. When Walter finally gets out of bed, he greets Ruth with several interrogatory phrases such as ‘cheque come yet?’ This clearly shows Walter’s priorities desire for money has blinded him to the needs of his wife such as basic love, attention and affection. Even when he asked her what’s the matter, he is not interested in her response it seems to be another way to provoke an argument.
Walter behaves like a child and not like a mature adult in the relationship is his growth stunted? Has he become infantile and emasculated as a result of living in his mother’s cramped apartment at the age of 35 with his wife and son?
Clearly both characters are trapped by poverty, institutional and systemic racism. They are both victims of housing segregation in Southside Chicago they both desire to escape their life of poverty and to make a better life for their child. Ruth is concerned that Walter is being poorly influenced by his friends. The play is clearly set within a patriarchal Where women are subservient to men. Walter is presented as an alpha male in a toxic environment.
He blames black women for his inability to grow and to flourish. He fails to realise that woman are struggling in the same unequal society but they are double victims because not only do they face racism everyday but also the sexism that comes from men within their own community.