Gender Issues in "A Raisin in the Sun" Essay Example

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1486 Words
Date:  2022-11-06


The author of "A Raisin in the Sun" pronounces a variety of gender roles in the play in various instances about the female characters used. It is a story of a younger family which supports the theme of the importance of family. The family is a strength, and the author uses the female characters to support this fact. It is a story which anticipates massive changes in gender relations, especially about the rise of sexual revolution and feminism which managed to transform the lives of Americans in the 1960s. Among the issues which the author manages to highlight is abortion (which was illegal in 1959), and transforming gender roles for both men and women. In the play, Beneatha is prevented from expressing her identity due to the societal expectations of womanhood.

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Gender Roles and Family Importance in "A Raisin in the Sun"

Hansberry uses Beneatha to highlight the theme of gender roles. The author says that Beneatha was partially based on herself. She had a perception of modern views, and she longed to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor in a society where the males dominated the profession. She also shocked Mama and Ruth by telling them that her primary concern was not marriage. She was, therefore, living life is contrary to the expectations of society. Walter, her brother, also criticizes her concerning her ambition of becoming a doctor. Walter suggested to her that she "just get married." (Hansberry 917). She held on to her belief of perception of modernity. Her ideology supported her distinct brand of strength which served as an indirect expression of her personal opinions.

Similarly, Ruth and Mama share the same conservative perceptions towards their role as women and marriage. Ruth and Mama are domestic servants. These were among the few job opportunities which were left for the African-American women during this period. Beneatha's brother, Walter Lee had prevailing ideologies about gender. He firmly believed in his ability to comfortably achieve hos responsibility as a man which substantially interfered with his self-esteem. He also managed to link his self-worth and own identity to the logic of manhood which covers a large part of the play. Walter even begrudges his enervating position as a white man's chauffeur. He also feels that Mama's position as the "head" of the family confined him to the position of a "child" in his very own home (Hansberry 973). Mama finally elevates Walter to become the "head of the family." His new position is in line with his courageous refusal of Lindner Karl's offer which prompted Ruth and Mama to realize that Walter "finally came into his manhood today." (Hansberry 970). Walter's position as a man is corresponding to his ability to set himself as an equal in his interactions with Lindner and others, and his success as the "man" of the house.

According to Hansberry (960), the men expected women to accept their strains. What they should do is to "just get married and be quiet." The author manages to use dialogue to further stress on the way men were narrow-minded in the 1950s. Walter and Bennie fought, and the fighting emanated from the fact that Walter was a male chauvinist. It is this Walter's male Chauvinism which bigoted Beneatha's outlook. On many occasions, Walter criticized Beneatha's school dreams. He also frequently criticized the cost of her schooling. He embarks on an argument on the fact that Beneatha is a woman. For instance, he says, "(She) should not even want to become a doctor." () Walter's anger also emerges when he tells Bennie "Who the hell told you, you had to be a doctor? If you are so crazy about messing "'round with sick people, then go be a nurse like other women" (Hansberry 960).

The Men's Expectations and Beneatha's Nonconformity

The author also employs dialogue as a way of showing how the nonconformity of Beneatha towards altering is f her presumption about the stereotypical contemplations that people have towards the cultures and beliefs of Americans. The author does not also hold the opinion that any African American who "(are) willing to give up (on their) own culture..." (Hansberry 984). Through this, Benie does not manage to disregard any of offensive remarks from Walter. Maya Angelou in her book "Phenomenal Woman" manages to win Beneatha's deportment. She asserts, "It's the fire in her eyes, and the flash of her teeth" (Rogers, 22-23). Beneatha is therefore confrontational within the limits of standing up for herself.

Notions of Femininity and Masculinity in the Play

There are also various instances where the author displays notions of feminity and masculinity. For example, Walter feels that his position as a man is directly liked to his socio-economic situation. He sees his status as a man as strong, and that he should be seen as the "man" in the family. He also argues from the perspective of his manhood to support his claims that his wife is not supporting him. He also feels that his mother should give him money so that he should have control over it. He keeps on wondering why he needs a better career. The author also explains the concept of women supporting each other through characters such as the traditional Mama and supportive Ruth. Beneatha is progressive. The author praises and demeans the here women for their disobedience and adherence to traditional feminine standards.

Aspirations, Dreams, and Worries of Beneatha, Ruth, and Mama

The play also displays the aspirations, dreams and worries of the three resilient characters, Beneatha, Ruth and Mama. The author manages to present these aspirations and dreams of different generations. For instance, Mama (Lena) Younger is the empress of their family. During this period (the 1950's), omen could not head their households. However, Mama managed to take the position of the household head because her husband had been killed "in an accident on the job" (King 60). History also suggests that "Black households without make heads increased during the decade, from 17.6% in 1950 to 22.4% in 1960" (Fisch, Audrey, and Chenelle 30).

Mama's position as the household head was beyond her expectation. However, even though she was forced to take up the role, she handled it effectively throughout the play. It, therefore, supports the claim that women are successful in their positions, primarily as leaders. They possess excellent leadership skills. Whenever they take up any position, they ensure that they execute their roles effectively.

The play also suggested that the role or women are changing within society. Mama is a conservative and old-fashioned woman who keeps on speaking about the chauvinistic and womanizing characters of her late husband. She says "God knows there was plenty wrong with Walter Younger-hard-headed, mean, kind of wild with women" (Hansberry 45). Her perception towards life originates from her conviction that accepting such behaviour as a female's position in life. Throughout her life, she has undergone difficult situations.

During the 1950s, about 55% of the entire population owned homes (Murray 53). These were individuals with homes which were located at separate neighbourhood for black Americans and Whites. Mama recalls "I remember just as well the day Big Walter and I moved in here. Hadn't been married but two weeks and wasn't planning on living here any more than a year" (Hansberry 44). With her new position as the family leader, she takes a section of the money which they had been saving for life cover and uses it for a deposit of a house. She met hostility from Walter Lee because of her decision to use the money for down payment.

Big Walter and Mama also relocated from North to Chicago to run away from slavery. Their objective was to start a new life as a way of securing the life of their future children. There are occasions when she recalls being worried about failing to be lynched and reaching North if they could and staying alive after her husband's death. She wonders if "they could stay alive and still have a pinch of life too" (Hansberry 74). Her great love for her family and the zeal to experience something healthier come of their lives motivated her. She had managed to live through the death of her husband and the loss of her child (Hansberry 45). Lena Younger holds on to the vision of possessing a home. It is a vision which she had previously shared with her late husband.


In conclusion, the play manages to capture the spirit of feminism which Hansberry reflects female dissatisfaction with conservative roles which the society subjected to the female gender in the post-World War II years. The three women in the playwright are a reflection of the attitudes and differences of various generations.

Works Cited

Fisch, Audrey, and Susan Chenelle. Using Informational Text to Teach A Raisin in the Sun. Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.

Hansberry, Lorraine. Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. Samuel French, Inc., 1984.

King, Eric S. "African Americans and the Crisis of Modernity: An Interpretation of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun." ethn stud rev 41.1-2 (2018): 53-60.

Murray, William. "The Roof of a Southern Home: A Reimagined and Usable South in Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun." The Mississippi Quarterly 68.1/2 (2015).

Rogers, Kenya. "Kenya Rogers Reads" Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou." (2018).

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