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A Raisin in the Sun

Lorraine Hansberry

Theme: Pursuing the American Dream Against Difficult Odds
Grades: Grades 10-11


Summary:
Set in Chicago in the 1950s, this three-act play explores the struggles of ordinary people to achieve their desires. An African American family pursuing the American dream of owning a home encounters racism and must decide what is really important in life. This play refelcts society before fair-housing and equal-employment laws were enforced, and before most African nations had gained independence from European rulers.


THEME OPENERS
  1. Concept Web.
    Ask students to work independently or in small groups to create a world web or other graphic organizer that explores one or more of the following concepts: dreams, materialism, family, self-esteem.
  1. Role-Playing.
    Have students discuss or role-play one of the situations that follow: (1) Imagine that your family suddenly wins the lottery. What does it feel like to have all that money? What will you do with it? What conflicts might arise among family members and others? (2) Your family moves into a new neighborhood, but your neighbors don't want you living there. They do everything to make your life unpleasant in your new home. Do you put up with it or move out?
CROSSCURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
  1. Speaking Out.
    Have students write a monologue for their favorite character in the play and include the thoughts and feelings of that person. Set the monologue at a critical moment of the play, such as when the family learns that Walter has lost their money or when Walter tells Mr. Lindner to leave the first time. Point out that a monologue is a speech given by only one character. Students will deliver their monologues to the class and then discuss them.

  1. What Is $10,000 Worth Today?
    In 1959, the year A Raisin in the Sun was first produced, $10,000 was worth much more than it is worth today. Have students look up inflation rates for each year since 1959 and use that information to calculate how much $10,000 would be worth today. Suggest that students display their results on a graph.
RESEARCH ASSIGNMENTS
  1. The Civil Rights Movement.
    The Civil Rights Movement forms an important background to the story of the Younger family, who are searching for an identity and dealing with prejudice. Have students research the Civil Rights Movement in the United States in the 1950s and the 1960s and write a research paper about one aspect of it--either about a major event, like the Montgomery bus boycott, or about a person like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  1. African-American Writers.
    Have student research another African-American woman writer, such as Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, or Alice Walker. Instruct students to write a comparison between the life and work of Lorraine Hansberry and that writer. Have them note similarities and differences in their work and how it reflects their feelings about such issues as civil rights and the African-American family.