Literary Analysis: A Raisin in The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction

Age Recommended: 15 and up

The title of this book is taken from the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes, that asks the reader what happens to a dream deferred. A fantastically written play, it teaches us to seize the opportunities given to us and not wait for the death of someone else’s dream to accomplish ours.

Here is my literary analysis for Act 1 of the play.

Taking The Lord’s Name in Vain: Beneatha versus Ruth in Act 1 of A Raisin in The Sun

On page 46 of the book, Beneatha angers Mama by taking the Lord’s name in vain, not once but twice. A few pages later we realize that this is because she believes that man makes his own miracles and that God has nothing to do wit it. During this entire exchange, Beneatha is quickly reprimanded by both Mama and Ruth, especially in the beginning, for taking the Lord’s name in vain. However, when Ruth does the exact same thing on page 47 and in other instances, such as page 44, and she gets no reaction from Mama, who is talking to her both times. This raises an interesting question about Mama’s favoritism in the book between Beneatha and Ruth. Why does she reprimand one and not the other?

The most likely idea that comes to mind is the fact that Beneatha is younger than both Ruth and Mama and tends to challenge their ideas and traditions about the role of a woman in society and other customs while the two of them have the opportunity to bond over common experiences. On page 50, Beneatha speaks about whether or not she’ll get married and both women are appalled by the fact that she would potentially be single for the rest of her life because they are both married and have kids (another commonality).

The same thing happens when Beneatha speaks about God and is instantly shut down, rather violently, by her mother, who makes her repeat the line, ‘In my mother’s house there is still God” (51). Beneatha is a black woman who wants to become a doctor, wants to find herself, and doesn’t necessarily believe in the institution of marriage or God. By challenging the traditions that Mama and Ruth have been abiding by and the norms that society is imposing upon her, Beneatha is opening herself up to criticism by a large number of people including her own family.

But Mama treats Ruth differently. One instance of this is on pages 68 and 69 when the letter finally arrives. Mama begins to deliver lines about the letter while shushing the people who tell her to open it, but when Ruth finally yells at her to “OPEN IT”, she promptly does. We see a large contrast between Mama’s treatment of Ruth in this scene when Ruth undermines her and Mama’s treatment of Beneatha in pages 45-49 when Beneatha challenges her and her traditions.

This could be because Ruth and Mama have a lot in common. They both are married, have kids, and have experienced a “Walter” as a husband. In instances such as page 45, they bond over their mutual experiences as married women who just want what’s best for their family in spite of their extremely ambitious husbands, when Beneatha comes in and interrupts them with comments about cleaning the house which seems to offend Ruth and later anger Mama when the conversation continues. Because Ruth and Mama are so tightly connected, it seems difficult for Beneatha to be able to relate to a lot of the issues that they have, and she doesn’t seem to want to either. Thus, Mama begins to show slight favoritism towards Ruth whenever the two are present.

If you would like to read this book, you can purchase it here: A Raisin In The Sun

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