Dream Depending On Gender: A Raisin In The Sun

Lorraine Hansberry, in the play A Raisin in the Sun plays a significant role in depicting the impact of traditional gender roles in the struggles of families amidst change. By reading the play, individuals get the impression that Hansberry is a feminist with her opinionated writing. Importantly, she uses all the characters in the play to illustrate the different expectations of gender as each has their definition of correct gender roles. Some of the different understandings of individuals about how gender roles should be at the time are significantly changed by the end of the play. At the time the book was written, women had a significant role in domestic housework. Walter is disappointed by his poor economic status and uses manhood to demand support from his wife and the mother. The women, including the traditional Mama, Ruth, and Beneatha are constantly praised and demeaned for adhering or disobeying the traditional standards placed by society against which women are supposed to behave.

Hansberry's writing shows that she distastes the expectation of gender roles and advocates for changes in character roles to promote equality. Hansberry was born in 1930 in Chicago, and his parents were among the first African Americans to move to white neighborhoods. Further, Valente provides that the family faced violence from the unwelcoming whites that Lorraine's father filed a legal action that ended up in Supreme Court. Importantly, Lorraine was taken to public schools as opposed to private schools as her parents thought it was on a measure that would help fight the incidences of segregation. She studied at multiple universities for her higher education including the University of Wisconsin and the University of Mexico. Later years show that Hansberry had numerous issues in her marriage life with Nemiroff from where she decided to get a divorce in 1964. Hansberry died in 1965 from pancreatic cancer. Importantly, she went through different challenges and struggles that consequently influenced the play A Raisin in the Sun. 

In Act one, Hansberry uses the youngsters to show the dominance of stereotypical gender roles of the period. Historically, women are considered homemakers, and for this reason, Ruth and Mama start their day off by doing all the traditional domestic work that women were raised to do such as cleaning and cooking among other house chores as also provided by. Additionally, the women also worked as servants to wealthier individuals, and their duties were considered “woman work” these duties included home, kitchen, and providing for the family. On the other hand, men are brought up differently with strong provisions that they are not homemakers and thus do not know anything to do with housekeeping. For instance, Travis, Ruth’s son is already being taught that he has no place in homemaking. Travis messed his bed yet Mama claimed that he was only a little boy who “ain’t supposed to know about housekeeping”. Mama further tells Ruth that Travis is what he is to imply that there is nothing she could do to change the situation. Instead, she should accept the fact that women and men have significantly different roles to play with men’s duty being tending to domestic work. Walter is the man of the house and Hansberry starts the play by giving him a voice and a significant role as the head of the family in his own right. However, Walter is not proud of his position as he has not had a chance to prove his position and voice. Walter was angered and disappointed when Ruth failed to support his business ventures. She said to his wife that “ I got to hold of this here world, baby!”. The statement illustrates the passion that Walter has for fending for the family yet he still relies on the family to support him achieve his goals. As such, he wants to maintain his traditional position as a man and head of the family; however, it is evident that Walter has to change is perceptions about gender roles for him to gain full support from the family. Towards the end of the chapter, Ruth is pregnant and contemplating abortion without informing Walter. Her main reason includes protecting the family from circumstances hampering their success. Notably, her decisions show that she is acting independently and willing to break from the traditional gender roles that dictate how she should act. 

In Act Two, Mama received a check from the late husband and bought a house for the family without informing anyone. On the other hand, Walter believes she is entitled to know everything that happens in the family and especially with the family that Mama received. He particularly wanted to invest the money in a liquor store when he was thus displeased when Mama used the money to buy a home. 'Son-you-you understand what I did, don’t you? (WALTER is silent and sullen) I- I just saw my family falling apart today… just falling to pieces in front of my eyes…'. The move to buy a home is a triumphant move for Mama as an African American, and further, she decided without consulting any man. 

The statement shows strong feminist views by Mama. The author used Mama who has significant traditional values to illustrate that time has reached where men needed to understand the importance of breaking free from the stereotypes about the position of females and gender roles. According to Oláh, Irena, and Rudolf, a new generation that supported the role of women in fending and providing for the family has developed as illustrated by Mama’s move. 

Bebeatha tries to find herself throughout act two, and she eventually becomes a strong and more independent woman. However, Beneatha undergoes significant struggles to attain her goals from family and societies that are entangled with the old ideas of gender roles. Her potential suitors like George and Asagi try to influence Beneatha’s mentality on her position as a woman. In Act one, for instance, Asagi convinced Beneatha to be more conversant and practice with her African culture and even encouraged her to practice it. Importantly, Beneatha does not get into a relationship with Asagi because she does not have romantic feelings toward him. She shows a strong feminist move as traditionally, women are not supposed to reject men whatsoever. George is Beneatha's suitor and just like many other men, wants her to “Drop the Garbo routine. It doesn’t go with you. As for myself, I want a nice- simple- sophisticated girl… not a poet- O.K.?”. Loraine used the mind of George to show the expectation that men during her time had on women which were nothing but beauty and being submissive to their men. According to, the women during Lorraine’s time were discriminated against and subordinated which overall disadvantaged them. The author uses Beneatha to show that women wanted more than being subservient to men and having good looks. 

In act three, there are significant instances of gender roles with the focus on young women that have strongly portrayed independence. The changes in the role of women have made men, represented by Walter have difficulty understanding their new roles, especially for failures in taking care of their families. Walter is overwhelmed by the changes as illustrated by explanations to the women in his family about the recent developments. “Yes, I want to hang some real pearls ‘round my wife’s neck. Ain’t she supposed to wear no pearls?... I tell you I am a man- and I think my wife should wear some pearls in this world!”. The quote is significant and illustrates how Walter has an issue with his inability to fend for his family. Notably, he is not opposed to the idea of having women, particularly of his family being stronger. 

Characters keep changing throughout the play; however, the author keeps Walter on edge. Walter understood his role as defined by society and thus, he so much desired fully fend for the family. Hansberry, however, illustrates that Walter was not wealthy, yet he was not intimidated by the strong women in the family. Instead, he changed his perception and realized the need to take pride in protecting and loving the family as opposed to changing it. The play’ A raising in the Sun, undoubtedly plays an important role in promoting the rights of women with Hansberry’s point of view being significant and most effective. The writing shows that Hansberry is a strong feminist as illustrated in the gender roles and struggles portrayed in the young family. Through the voices of the characters, the writer helps readers to understand that change is not always easy and sometimes impossible for some people to embrace. Thus, the play is significant in showing the significance of societal gender expectations and the difficulty of changing towards women's equality from individuals, race, and age. Essentially, A raising in the Sun is an incredible and realistic piece of feminist literature on gender expectations.   

29 April 2022
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