"Then isn't there something wrong in a house - in a world - where all dreams, good or bad, must depend on the death of a man..?" - Asagai, A Raisin in the Sun
So, this week, I decided to do something a little different and depending on how well this is received we may keep it up. I have opened up my platform to guest writers and reviews. This particular review is extremely special because it was written by a fellow bookworm, my sister, Lacy-Ann Miller. Lacy takes us on her journey of re-reading a staple piece of literature that we were both required to read during our preteen and teenage years. In my opinion her review is spot on. I, too, highly recommend that if you haven't read A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry as of yet then you should definitely do so. You won't be disappoint, I promise.
This past vacation, I decided that I absolutely had to reread some of my light reading favorites. With this goal, I went home with the intention of sorting through the boxes of old books that my mother has stashed away, as mothers sometimes do with most of their children's old things. I had, by far, THE BEST taste in novels between the ages of 13 and 17. I must have gone through about 50 or so books, getting all sorts of giddy seeing the various titles of fiction and nonfiction. I finally came around to one of my 9th grade favorites and ended up deciding, "to hell with light reading!!!"
What a gem Hansberry has blessed us with. One that transcends time, race, culture etc. in so many different ways. Who doesn't know a Mama, a Walter-Lee, a Ruth, a Beneatha and/or a Travis? Even supporting characters such as Mrs Johnson, George, Asagai, Mr. Linder, Bobo and Willy Harris made their marks appropriately and served as some kind of cyclical representation of people we know, knew and will know in our lifetime.
Yes, at a very precocious fourteen years, I was able to identify and even relate to much of the various racial discourses that pervaded the play. And I could appreciate the depth of love existing between different members of the Younger family and the value of their dreams of being “more” than what they were (or at least what society labeled them to be). I remember how easily I understood the symbolism of Mama’s “little old plant” and the ever unattainable “liquor license.” And best of all - or maybe even worst of all - that infamous insurance money. The one driving force of the entire play. If ever there was a representation of hope and despair existing simultaneously in one object, Big Walter’s life insurance money is that object. And at fourteen, it is not surprising that I focused primarily on the fulfillment of the family’s hopes and dreams that this money represented. It is also no surprise how deeply disappointed I was when Walter “invested” all of it for his own selfish reasons. I understood because, I was a young, black girl in a family barely making ends, who had hopes and dreams for “more” just like the Younger family.
This time around however, with the proverbial wisdom that comes with age and experience, I am able to appreciate the other side of what Big Walter’s insurance money symbolises. So much so, I found myself contemplating Asagai’s rhetorical question to Beneatha in the last act of the play.
“Then isn't there something wrong in a house - in a world - where all dreams, good or bad, must depend on the death of a man?”
This had me thinking, partly because of my own personal experiences, and mostly because of the occurrences of the past few years. Yes, the world has seen much progress since Hansberry’s first 1959 production. Let us not take away from that progress. But how much progress? And at what cost? How many times have we, as a human race, inadvertently progressed only after the upheaval that resulted from one person’s passing? How many times have we unintentionally moved forward to attain dreams “good [and] bad” as a symbol of our human and racial strides, only after lives have been lost? Isn’t there still something wrong with our world when the measure of how much we gain in years to come hinges on “the death of a man?”
Think on it and interpret it as you wish. Take from it as much as your heart desires. Despite it all however, there is no question that at some point in our lives we should all experience the magic that is, A Raisin in The Sun.
This post is in honor of Ms. Lorraine Hansberry on her Birthday; Happy Birthday Queen!!! Thank you for contributing your literary excellence to our world | You have left a phenomenal legacy!!