The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of English

Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun

1. Do you find any differences between the play/movie and written versions? If so, what may explain these differences?

2. What features of the movie's characterizations would you describe as interpretations? Do they convey the characters and themes as you expected them from reading?

3. What are some thematic similarities and differences between this play and Petry's novel? How do they each deal with themes of frustration, gender, and family conflict?

4. In the written version, what is added by the stage settings?

5. What is the signficance of the opening poem? How does it illuminate the themes of the play?

6. In the first scene, what family conflicts and tensions emerge? What do we learn about Walter, Ruth, Travis, Lena and Beneatha?

7. Which family members seem to get along relatively well with one another? Relatively poorly?

8. What are some reflections of the mother's moral values? What does she think of the idea of owning a liquor store? Of questioning the existence of God?

9. In your view, are the conflicts of the first scene resolved in the play?

10. In scene two, what issues are raised by Agasai's visit? What does Beneatha worry about in her mother's behavior? How do she and the other family members differ in their attitude toward Africa?

11. What seem to be some of Agasai's criticisms of African-American culture? (60-61, "mutilated hair") Does Beneatha accept his claim that she and other African-Americans are assimilationist?

12. How do she and Agasai differ in their view of romance? (62-63) What seem indicators that he is being criticized?

13. What nickname does he give her? Is this appropriate? (65)

14. How do the others react to the news of Ruth's pregnancy? Whom does Mrs. Younger blame for Ruth's decision to abort?

15. How do interpret Walter's refusal to urge his wife to bear their child? What do we learn about their past conceptions?

16. What generational conflicts are expressed in the play? How are these presented? (74) How do Walter and Beneatha's views of life differ from those of Mrs. Younger?

17. What is prophetic about Mamma's reaction to the check on its arrival?

18. What disagreement does she have with Walter about how this money should be used? What does she think has gone wrong with him? (71) What reason does he give for his desperation?

19. In Act II, what points are made by the scene in which Beneatha and Walter dance to African music, only to be interrupted by the arrival of George?

20. What tensions surface between Walter and George? Are all three characters equally satirized?

21. What is the significance of Beneatha's new hairstyle, and how do the others react? (85)

22. What does George mean by calling Walter Prometheus?

23. What do Ruth and Walter believe has happened to their relationship? What does she ask from him? (88) Are their attempts at reconciliation successful?

24. How do the others react when they learn that their mother has begun purchase of a house? What reason does Mrs. Younger give to her son for the purchase? (94)

25. What are the assumptions behind the notion that there is one "head of the family"? Who assumes that this should be Walter, and why?

26. What drives Walter's despair? What is seen as inherently degrading about the job of chauffeur?

27. Are there parallels between Walter's situation and that of other members of his family? Of characters in The Street?

28. Why is he angry? How sympathetic are we expected to be with his frustration?

29. In Act II, scene two, after their date, about what do George and Beneatha disagree? Do George's views differ from Asagai's?

30. What different views do George and Beneatha hold on the purpose of education? (97)

31. What bad news does Mrs. Johnson bring? How are her views different from those of the Youngers? What is added to the play by the account of her visit?

32. Why do you think the episode of Mrs. Johnson's visit was omitted from the movie version?

33. What is significant about Mrs. Johnson's references to Booker T. Washington? What does Beneatha mean by her statement that the two things her people must overcome are the Klu Klux Klan and Mrs. Johnson?

34. Why does Mrs. Younger give her son the remaining money and state that he should now be the head of the family? How does she expect him to apportion it? Why do you think she offers him more than she keeps for her daughter's education?

35. What notion of "being a man" is presented in the play? How is "being a man" different from being a woman? What is he permitted to do as "head of the family"?

36. What do we learn about Walter's work situation? Why hasn't he been going to work? How has his mood changed?

37. What dreams for the future does Walter share with his son? Are these realistic? What are some things he might have done with his $3500 share of the money?

38. What is notable about the scene with Mr. Lindner? What are some of the offensive aspects of his manner and statements? What implicit threats does he make?

39. Do you think this scene is realistic for its time?

40. What effect does Mr. Lindner's visit have on the family?

41. What is the importance of the scene in which the Walter, Ruth and Travis give Mrs. Younger gifts? Are the gifts symbolic of their future?

42. What symbolism is associated with the plant?

43. What is Walter's attitude toward Beneatha's civil rights activism?

44. What are some important features of the scene in which Bobo announces that Willie has stolen his money? How has Bobo deceived him also?

45. How do the characters respond to his news? What seems important to Walter? to his mother? to Beneatha?

46. What are some poignant aspects of the scene at the end of Act II?

47. Does Walter apologize for having taken opportunities away from his sister and perhaps also his son? What role does Mr. Agasai have in soothing Beneatha's anger?

48. What alternate future does he offer her? Does the play seem to indicate that she will take it?

49. What reflections enable Mrs. Younger and Beneatha to forgive Walter? How does he regain his status in their eyes?

50. What are some of the meanings inherent in the play's conclusion?

51. What do you think will be the result of Beneatha's romantic involvements? Why do you think this issue is left openended?

52. Do you feel that the issues raised by the play are mostly resolved? What do you predict for this family's future?

53. What would have been the social context for this play's publication in 1954? What issues important to African-Americans at the time would it have addressed?

54. What difference forms of speech are used in the play, and how does usage contribute to the play's effect?

55. What are some of the gender tensions evoked in the play? Are these resolved?

56. What are some ways in which class issues are evoked in the play?

57. Which segments of African-American culture and aspiration are represented by the play's different characters? (e. g. George, Agasai, Beneatha, Lena, Ruth, etc.)

58. What are some issues evoked in the romance between Beneatha and Agasai? Is Agasai seen as a more suitable mate for Beneatha?

59. What are some ways humor is used in the play?

60. Do you find the characters likeable?

61. Does Raisin follow the conventional rules for a comedy?

62. Which features of the book do you think may be autobiographical?

63. Is this a successful play? Why?


  Copyright © 2010 Florence S Boos, The University of Iowa. All rights reserved.
  Page updated: September 3, 2010 22:56