Huwebes, Enero 24, 2013


(PLAY) by Lorraine Hansberry

MARXIST CRITICISM According to Marxists, and to other scholars in fact, literature reflects those social institutions out of which it emerges and is itself a social institution with a particular ideological function. Literature reflects class struggle and materialism: think how often the quest for wealth traditionally defines characters. So Marxists generally view literature "not as works created in accordance with timeless artistic criteria, but as 'products' of the economic and ideological determinants specific to that era" (Abrams 149). Literature reflects an author's own class or analysis of class relations, however piercing or shallow that analysis may be.

 Walter and Ruth Younger and their son Treevis, along with Walter's mother vena (Mama) and sister Beneatha, live in poverty in a dilapidated two-bedroom apartment on Chicago's south side. Walter is barely making a living as a limousine driver. Though Ruth is content with their lot, Walter is not and desperately wishes to become wealthy, to which end he plans to invest in a liquor store in partnership with Willy, a street-smart acquaintance of Walter's whom we never meet. At the beginning of the play, Mama is waiting for an insurance check for ten thousand dollars. Walter has a sense of entitlement to the money, but Mama has religious objections to alcohol and Beneatha has to remind him it is Mama's call how to spend it. Eventually Mama puts some of the money down on a new house, choosing an all-white neighborhood over ablack one for the practical reason that it happens to be much cheaper.

Later she relents and gives the rest of the money to Walter to invest with the provision that he reserve $3,000 for Beneatha's education. Walter passes the money on to Willy's naive sidekick Bobo, who gives it to Willy, who absconds with it, depriving Walter and Beneatha of their dreams, though not the Youngers of their new home. Meanwhile, Karl Lindner, a white representative of the neighborhood they plan to move to, makes a generous offer to buy them out. He wishes to avoid neighborhood tensions over interracial population, which to the three women's horror Walter prepares to accept as a solution to their financial setback. Lena says that while money was something they try to work for, they should never take it if it was a person's way of telling them they weren't fit to walk the same earth as themWhile all this is going on, Walter's character and direction in life are being defined for us by two different men: Beneatha's wealthy and educated boyfriend George Murchison, and Joseph Asagai, a Nigerian medical student at a Canadian university on a visit to America. Neither man is actively involved in the Youngers' financial ups and downs. George represents the "fully assimilated black man" who denies his African heritage with a "smarter than thou" attitude, which Beneatha finds disgusting, while dismissively mocking Walter's lack of money and education. Asagai patiently teaches Beneatha about her African heritage; he gives her thoughtfully useful gifts from Africa, while pointing out she is unwittingly assimilating herself into white ways. She straightens her hair, for example, which he characterizes as "mutilation."
When Beneatha becomes distraught at the loss of the money, she is upbraided by Joseph for her materialism. She eventually accepts his point of view that things will get better with a lot of effort, along with his proposal of marriage and his invitation to move with him to Nigeria to practice medicine.
Walter is oblivious to the stark contrast between George and Joseph: his pursuit of wealth can only be attained by liberating himself from Joseph's culture, to which he attributes his poverty, and rising to George's level, wherein he sees his salvation. To Walter, this is the American dream, which he pursues as fruitlessly as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, with the added handicap of being black in white America. But whereas Loman dies at the end of his story, Walter redeems himself and black pride at the end by changing his mind and not accepting the buyout offer, stating that they are proud of who they are and will try to be good neighbors. The play closes with the family leaving for their new but uncertain future.


A richly textured play that eloquently captures the zeitgeist of the post-war society in the U.S., A Raisin in the Sun is just as relevant today. In Lorraine Hansberrys powerful play, the characters are on the cusp of a new era of civil rights marches and affirmative action. 

But they struggle to realize that the pursuit of the American Dream does not replace family honor.  A Raisin in the Sun is a powerful and intelligently written discourse on African-American life. It truly shows what example of a Marxist criticism theory should be. We could easily identify the struggle of a family against their personal ambitions or desires in life. It tackles about society where individual matters materialism, money, honor and respect. The characters have their own personal issues. Because of poverty, the characters made ways to lift up their role in the society. People were eaten by their oppression. All wanted to fit in someone else’s shoes. We are never contented that’s why we keep on dreaming for more. A Raisin in the Sun goes beyond the theory’s standards. The class roles in society on the first acts, the life of Youngers, were emphasized. Rich and educated George Murchison and Joseph Asagai were introduced. The White American neighbors were also included who were described here as being racist to the black family because they do not want an interracial community. This play was made way back 1959 and persecution was very common those years. There are also contrasts of ideologies of the characters. Another issue here is an individual’s colonial mentality which targets one’s loss of nationalism. Good thing, the main characters had overcome their oppression and accepted who they are for the common good of their family. Their point of view changed to black pride. Ergo, A Raisin in the Sun consummates its relationship to Marxist Criticism. 

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