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A Raisin In The Sun Essay On Theme

Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements / paper topics for “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in “A Raisin in the Sun” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements for “Raisin in the Sun” offer a short summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent paper.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Roles of Dreams in A Raisin in the Sun

Each of the characters in the Younger family has a particular individual dream. One wants to move to a bigger home, one wants to attend medical school, one wants to rise above his conditions though does not necessarily have a plan to do so. Each person’s dream serves an important psychological function (i.e.: hope, motivation, direction) for the character; however, the dreams also divide the characters, creating conflict among them. Write an essay in which you compare and contrast the adaptive and divisive functions of dreams in A Raisin in the Sun. Consider whether there was a way to make each individual dream compatible with others’ dreams. If so, explain why the characters did not identify this alternative.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Significance of the Title “A Raisin in the Sun”

The title of Hansberry’s play makes a direct reference to the Langston Hughes poem, “A Dream Deferred." “What happens to a dream deferred?" asked Hughes. “Does it shrivel up like a raisin in the sun?" Consider the conclusion of “A Raisin in the Sun”—or lack of one—and write a persuasive essay on “A Raisin in the Sun” in which you attempt to convince the reader that Hansberry does or does not answer Hughes’s question through the actions of her play. Explain the significance of the play’s title as part of your discussion.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Development of the Younger Family

One of the most important themes in “A Raisin in the Sun” is the unity of the family. Initially, the Youngers are presented as a family that is loving but which experiences conflicts that intensify over the course of the play. Yet by the play’s end, the family members have been able to surmount their differences and support one another in the fight for a common cause: that of overcoming the racial discrimination they face as they prepare for their move to a new home in a neighborhood that was exclusively white. Write an expository essay on “A Raisin in the Sun” in which you observe how the Younger family develops, both as individual family members and as a family unit, during the play. Explain what variables supported this outcome, as opposed to a tragic ending.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4 Gender Issues in A Raisin in the Sun

Generally speaking, the male characters in A Raisin in the Sun are portrayed as irresponsible (Walter), lacking in direction or authenticity (Joseph and George), or hostile (Mr. Lindner), while the female characters are responsible (Mama), ambitious and disciplined (Ruth), and supportively nurturing (Ruth). Write an essay in which you identify the gender dynamics in the play, considering whether the gender roles are as rigid or scripted as they appear to be. If you agree that the male characters represent mostly negative qualities while the female characters represent mostly positive characteristics, explain what Hansberry’s reason for employing such gender stereotypes might be. Additionally, indicate whether the stereotypes are open to changing by the play’s end. If so, identify the variables that made change possible.

Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: The Role of Minor Characters in “A Raisin in the Sun”

Oftentimes, seemingly minor characters can actually have great significance to either the meaning or the actions of the play. In A Raisin in the Sun there is a handful of minor characters, including George and Joseph, who are significant to the play. Choose one or more of the minor characters in A Raisin in the Sun and write an essay in which you analyze the roles that they play in the development of the thematic content of A Raisin in the Sun. Assess whether the inclusion of these minor characters is necessary to develop the play’s message.


This list of important quotations from “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Raisin in the Sun” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for “Raisin in the Sun” above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of “A Raisin in the Sun” by Loraine Hansberry they are referring to.

“That’s it. There you are. A man say to his woman: I got me a dream. His woman say: Eat your eggs. " (15)

Her speech is a mixture of many things; it is different from the rest of the family’s insofar as education has permeated her sense of English…." (17)

“Ain’t many girls who decide—to be a doctor." (18)

“Me and Ruth done made some sacrifices for you—why can’t you do something for the family?" (19)

“‘Seem like God didn’t see fit to give the black man nothing but dreams….’" (29)

“Yes, [he was] a fine man—just couldn’t never catch up with his dreams that’s all." (30)

“I don’t go out with you to discuss the nature of ‘quiet desperation’ or to hear all about your thoughts—because the world will go on thinking what it thinks regardless–" (89)

“There is always something left to love. And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing….Have you cried for that boy today? I don’t mean for yourself and for the family ‘cause we lost the money. I mean for him; what he been through and what it done to him. Child, when do you think it is the time to love somebody the most; when they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain’t through learnin’…."(135)

“Yes, death done come in this here house…. Done come walking in my house. On the lips of my children. You what supposed to be my beginning again. You—what supposed to be my harvest." (134)

“No….You teach him good….You show where our five generations done come to." (137)

Reference: Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. New York: Random House, 1959.

The long-standing appeal of A Raisin in the Sun lies in the fact that the family's dreams and aspirations for a better life are not confined to their race, but can be identified with by people of all backgrounds. Even though what that "better life" may look like is different for each character, the underlying motivation is universal. The central conflict of the play lies in Walter's notion of this American dream. Walter buys into the middle-class ideology of materialism. The notion of the self-made man who starts with nothing and achieves great wealth through hard work seems innocuous enough, but the idea can become pernicious if it evolves into an idolization of wealth and power. In the beginning, Hansberry shows how Walter envies Charlie Atkins' dry-cleaning business because it grosses $100,000 a year. He ignores Ruth's objection to his potential business partner's questionable character and dismisses his mother's moral objection to achieving his goals by running a liquor store. The liquor store is a means to an end, and Walter is desperate for his dreams to come to fruition. That same Machiavellian ethic is demonstrated when Walter plans to accept Mr. Lindner's offer. Walter is not concerned with the degrading implications of the business deal. It is simply a way to recover some of the lost money. However, Hansberry challenges Walter's crude interpretation of the American dream by forcing him to actually carry out the transaction in front of his son. Walter's inability to deal with Mr. Lindner marks a significant revision of his interpretation of the American dream, a dream that inherently prioritizes justice and equality over money.

Three generations of women are represented in A Raisin in the Sun. Lena, who is in her early thirties, becomes the default head of the household upon the passing of her husband, Walter Sr. Raised in the South during an era where blacks' very lives were in danger because of the prevalence of lynching, Lena moved to the North with the hopes of leading a better life. The move up North was significant in that she had hopes of a better life for herself. Although Lena is ahead of her times in some respects, her dreams and aspirations are largely linked to her family's well-being, rather than to her own. Scholar Claudia Tate attributes Lena's low expectations for her individual self to gender conditioning - a term used to describe the expectation that a woman's goals and dreams be linked to her family alone. Lena tolerates her husband's womanizing and remains loyal to him even though they suffer under the same impoverished conditions throughout their marriage.

Walter's wife, Ruth, is in her early thirties. She is different from Lena in that she vocalizes her frustrations with her spouse, Walter. Ultimately, however, she seeks to please him, talking positively about the business to Lena on his behalf, encouraging Beneatha not to antagonize her brother so much, and being willing to work several jobs so that the family can afford to move into the new house.

Beneatha, a young feminist college student, is the least tolerant of society's unequal treatment and expectations of women. Beneatha constantly challenges Walter's chauvinism, and has no time for shallow men like George Murchison, who do not respect her ideas. Through these three women, Hansberry skillfully illustrates how women's ideas about their identity have changed over time.

"What defines a man?" is a critical question that Hansberry struggles with throughout the entire play. In many ways, the most debilitating affronts Walter faces are those which relate to his identity as a man, whether it be in his role as father, husband, or son. Being a father to Travis appears to be the role that Walter values the most. He sincerely wants to be perceived as honorable in his son's eyes. Knowing the family has little money to spare, Walter gives Travis a dollar when he asks for fifty cents. Walter chooses the liquor store investment not just to make more money for himself, but also to be better able to provide for his wife and family. He wants to be able to give Ruth pearls and a Cadillac convertible; he wants to be able to send his son to the college of his choice. As a son, he wants to walk in his father's footsteps and provide for his mother in her old age. Walter is framed by the examples of his father and son. At first, Walter is willing to degrade himself in order to obtain these goals, but he faces a critical turning point when he reconsiders Mr. Lindner's offer. Ultimately, he chooses the honorable path so that he can stand before his son Travis with pride.

There is a strong motif of afrocentrism throughout the play. Unlike many of her black contemporaries, Lorraine Hansberry grew up in a family that was well aware of its African heritage, and embraced its roots. Lorraine's uncle, Leo Hansberry, was a professor of African history at Howard University, a well-known, historically black college in Washington, D.C. Hansberry's uncle actually taught Kwame Nkrumah, a revolutionary who fought for the independence of the Gold Coast from British rule. Hansberry's afrocentrism is expressed mainly through Beneatha's love for Asagai. Asagai, a Nigerian native, is who Beneatha seeks out during her search for her own identity. She is eager to learn about African culture, language, music, and dress. The playwright is well ahead of her times in her creation of these characters. Hansberry is able to dispel many of the myths about Africa, and concretely depict the parallel struggles both Africans and African-Americans must face.

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