Wednesday, December 03, 2014
Reader's Diary #1095- Lorraine Hansberry: A Raisin in the Sun
I think this is one of those plays where audience members (or readers, in this case) will gravitate toward different characters. Perhaps it's the male thing, but I was most intrigued by and interested in Walter, though the rest were certainly interesting and well-developed as well.
For those not familiar with the play (or movie adaptation), it revolves around a black family from 1950s Chicago, living in a tight-spaced, rundown apartment. Walter is the father in the household, living with his mother, wife, sister, and son. His mother is getting some insurance money, for which Walter has big plans. Tired of his low-paying, dead-end limo-driver job, he wants to invest the money in a liquor store, much to the reluctance of his mother. His mother relents and gives him some money (which Walter's so-called business partner runs off with), but also uses some of it to buy a house, for purely financial reasons, in an all-white neighbourhood. A representative from that neighbourhood appears stating how the locals there have concerns and offers to buy them out. A subplot involves Beneatha, Walter's sister, who is discovering her African heritage.
I suspect many would feel frustrated with Walter. However, I couldn't help but sympathize with him somewhat. While there's the more obvious discussion of racial pride throughout the play, I thought Hansberry expertly depicted masculine pride through Walter's character as well; the version where the man feels the need to be the provider. Walter was a risk-taker, which is sometimes an admirable quality, but then selfish at times, putting his own desires to get ahead above his family's wishes. He also put his desires ahead of sound decision making, and so it's easy to judge him, but I felt for him despite it all.