Manhood As Displayed In A Raisin In

The Sun Essay, Research Paper

Manhood As Displayed in A Raisin in the Sun

Literary works often depict the author s views on some aspect of life. Lorraine Hansberry uses A Raisin in the Sun in order to showcase her views on family relationships in black society. Through the characters in her play, Hansberry shows that men in black society must take a difficult path in order to achieve their manhood in the eyes of society. This goal defines nearly every action in the lives of a black man and is altered each day by the interactions he has with his family and other black men.

The character of Walter Lee Younger that Hansberry created encounters countless difficulties in the road to gaining his manhood. Most of these problems center around his family situation. Walter is a married father who is still living with his mother. The audience sees this in the first scene as the day starts and the family jumps into action. Almost immediately, the reader is presented with one of the conflicts in Walter achieving his manhood – his relationship with his wife, Ruth. Walter blames Ruth for holding him back and preventing him from achieving his goals, saying she couldn t be on {his} side that long (124). In essence saying that her lack of support of his dreams causes him to fail in whatever he attempts. In Walter s eyes a man needs a woman to back him up (124), and according to him the only thing a black woman ever does for a man is hold him back and discourage his dreams.

In truth, Walter is constantly faced with his failures. He has a son, Travis, who he can only entertain and gain respect from by telling him stories of how rich white people live (125). Walter feels he has to cover up the truth of their situation from his son, because it makes him feel like less of a man to admit that he is not supporting his only family, a role that society has placed on the husband and father. This is exhibited when Walter gives Travis not only the fifty cents he requested but an extra fifty cents to buy somefruit…take a taxicab to school or something (124). Walter knows that he can not afford this and later has to ask Ruth for the money, but he does it anyway in order to look like a man to his son.

Walter s interactions with the remainder of his family, mostly with his mother, Lena, show his lack of manhood throughout the rest of the play. The most dramatic of these moments is seen in when Walter loses the insurance money his mother received after his father s death. The moment when Walter has fallen, kneeling below his mother who is standing over him, crying Willy (169), marks the point where Walter has hit bottom. He is now like a child again crying at his mother s feet for a wrong that has been done. He has no manhood. This all changes later in the play when the situation is reversed, Mama is seated as Walter stands and reclaims his authority as head of the household by saying that they will move into their new home. In this singular moment Walter achieves the manhood that he has so long fought for and sought after.

Walter s interactions with other black males is not abundantly discussed in the work. His meetings with his friends merely set the stage for his later disaster. It is obvious to the reader that Hansberry wants to display black males as dependent upon one another for justification and support. Each time Walter mentions one of his propositions (125), it always dependent upon some friend of his in order to work. Hansberry uses this to emphasize Walter s lack of strength and confidence by doing this. Deep down, Walter feels that alone, he could not get anything accomplished. Though his dealings with other black males in the play are briefly described the audience understands the ramifications of his involvement with other black men and the impact it ultimately has on his life.

Hansberry s A Raisin in the Sun explores the author s thoughts on what it is to be a black man in our society. Through the character of Walter Lee Younger, Hansberry depicts the struggles that all black males go through in order to gain respect and support in society. Walter Lee s exploits are not uncommon for young black men that are in search of their manhood in American society. This is because the path to adulthood for black men is a hard one on which to achieve success.

Work Cited

Bensel-Meyers, Linda, gen. ed.. Literary Culture: Reading and Writing Literary Arguments. Needham Heights, MA: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2000.


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