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Loraine Hansberry’s Play a Raisin in the Sun

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America is a country founded on and upheld by a strong sense of pride and dignity. The characters in Loraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun maintain this same sense of pride, both as a family and individually, despite the growing pressure of the outside world telling them that they are less than what they believe. This is particularly portrayed through the pride found within their apartment, Mama’s pride for her family and her background, and Walter’s pride toward his life and family.

The family’s meager living conditions are characterized as having great pride taken in it by the Youngers. Even though the setting is repeatedly said to be “tired”, it is evident that at one time “the furnishings of this room were actually selected with care and love and even hope- and brought to this apartment and arranged with taste and pride” (1.1. Stage Directions). This reveals that the very foundation for this home and this family are built upon pride in what they have, even though it is not the rich and luxurious lifestyle that can be afforded by the white population surrounding them. Similarly, the furnishings are seen to have “been polished, washed, sat on, used, scrubbed too often” which proves how meticulously the family members have worked to care for what little they have (1.1. Stage Directions). This kind of care toward their furnishings shows the pride that they have in their belongings. This dignity and pride that the family has is further revealed through the care that Mama takes with her “raggedy-looking old” plant, making sure to fix it so “it won’t get hurt none on the way” to the new house (11.3). This pride of even their most run-down possessions by the family portrays the sense of dignity that they have as black Americans and as a family throughout this play.

Mama also displays a great deal of pride in her family and their background throughout the course of the text. This pride stems from her late husband, and she constantly reminds her family that Walter Senior is the example they should all be following, telling her son to “stand up and look like [his] daddy” in order to keep the family from falling apart under the pressures of the outside world (1.2). Mama’s pride in her family and their background is further strengthened by her resolve against kneeling to the white man Karl Lindner, for she came “from five generations of people who was slaves… ain’t nobody in my family never let nobody pay ‘em no money that was a way of telling us we wasn’t fit to walk the earth. We ain’t never been that poor” (3.1.97). This portrays Mama’s great sense of dignity in who she is as a strong, free black woman in America, just as the rest of her family are strong, free black individuals, and they will not stand to be treated as anything less. This pride resonates out toward her son Walter once he steps up and takes his place at the head of the household, beaming that “He finally come into his manhood today, didn’t he? Kind of like a rainbow after the rain…” (Act 3). Great pride is taken in her family and background, and Mama upholds it through the entirety of the play, never falling under the pressure of white America.

Walter Lee becomes a beacon of pride and dignity throughout the play, upholding that pride which his mother and father taught him against the pressures of the world. This is first revealed through Walter’s actions to shield his son from the fact that their family is poor. Upon hearing that Ruth denied the boy money, he says “What you tell the boy things like that for? ... In fact, here’s another fifty cents… That’s my boy” (1.1). Even though they have little to give and to live off of, Walter’s pride in his son and family spurs him to give all he has to Travis, so that he does not feel empty-handed at school, as if he is lesser than his classmates. Walter further exhibits his pride and dignity even through his greatest moment of weakness. His pride as a man and a husband is seen when he exclaims that he “[wants] to hang some real pearls ‘round my wife’s neck… I tell you I am a man, and I think my wife should wear some pearls in this world!” (Act 3). Even when faced with his greatest weakness- money- before the white man, Walter can only think of how his dignity should come through in order to give his wife the best that he can, even though it is the dignity of a fool pushed too far for too long. This is then juxtaposed with Walter’s complete transformation into the man that his mother and father raised him to be. He finds himself in a greater sense of pride, saying, “This is my son, and he makes the sixth generation of our family in this country. And we have all thought about your offer… And we have decided to move into our house because my father- my father- he earned it for us brick by brick” (3.1.131). Walter Lee found his pride and dignity as a free black man in America, and upheld

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