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Raisins in the Sun: Lena Younger - Essay Example

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Raisins in the Sun: Lena Younger

They were confronted by vigilante violence and the young Hansberry narrowly escaped being struck by a brick thrown through the window by a shrieking, racist mob (Mathews, 556). In 1959, Hansberry became the first black, and the youngest person, to win the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for “Raisins in the Sun” (Washington, 75). The Younger family, comprising of Lena Younger, Beneatha (her daughter), Walter (son), Ruth (daughter-in-law) and Travis (grandson), lives is a run-down, cramped apartment in the black ghetto of Chicago’s Southside. Each member of the family has a dream: Lena dreams of a new house, Beneatha aspires to become a doctor, Walter reaches out for economic success and Ruth yearns for an easier life. When Lena receives her dead husband’s insurance check of ten thousand dollars, these different dreams bring about conflict in the family. Walter loses a substantial part of the sum in a poorly conceived business scheme. Lena buys a house in an all-white neighborhood. The Younger’s are covertly threatened by their prospective neighbors. Finally, the conflict is resolved with the family defiantly moving to their new house. Lena Younger, as the dynamic protagonist of “Raisins in the Sun,” is motivated by the good of her family and displays commendable heroism.
Lena Younger is the protagonist, or central character, of the drama. In an interview, Hansberry comments that “Raisins in the Sun” lacks a central character. This is debatable, as it is through Lena that the reader is “able to hold on to the play and become involved in a way that the central character is supposed to guarantee”. Lena, as Mama, dominates the narrative and enjoys the empathy of the audience. “The overpowering personality of Lena Younger, particularly her moral rectitude and selfless nature, tends to overshadow Walter, and this accounts in part for the tendency of many readers and audiences to focus their attention almost entirely on her” (Washington, 110). Mama’s spirituality is an integral part of her character. Her actions are dictated by a deep religious faith and morality. Walter and Beneatha are raised as regular church goers. Her religion is the source of her fortitude and strength. The simplicity and absolute completeness of her faith is deeply moving. Lena is the epitome of principled living. She rejects Walter’s dream of opening a liquor store, as selling liquor to people would weigh on her conscience. Her patience and understanding are admirable. Mama emphasizes Travis’ need for nourishing food and playing space; she sympathizes with Ruth’s pain; she patiently attempts to understand Walter’s point of view; she supports Beneatha’s aspirations. Mama’s unconditional love and boundless compassion form the cement which holds the Younger family together and touches an emotional chord in the audience. It is this which enables her to forgive Walter for losing the money earmarked for Beneatha’s education. In fact, Hansberry herself delineates Lena Younger in terms of a strong protagonist, giving her a bearing which “is perhaps most like the noble bearing of the women of the Hereros of Southwest Africa” and a face “full of strength” (Hansberry, 1.1. Line). Mama’s tremendous strength of character is magnetic in its attraction. As the central ...Show more


Lorraine Hansberry’s “Raisins in the Sun” is written in the historical context of Chicago’s housing rights struggle in the early twentieth century. …
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Raisins in the Sun: Lena Younger essay example
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