How to write a good research paper on Raisin in the Sun

As the subject of a research paper, Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun has a lot of potential. Themes in the play include aspiration, conflict and identity, all of which can be explored in an interesting way. If you're thinking about writing a paper on it here are a few things to consider.

  • The play takes its name from a line in the poem A Dream Deferred by Langstone Hughes, which is about the barriers to progress suffered by black Americans in the 1940s and 50s. All the members of the Younger family have aspirations and all face obstacles. Walter wants to be wealthy but lacks education; Mama wants to move into a house in a better area but faces racism; Beneatha wants to study medicine but can't afford to as a result of Walter's gullibility. The play also raises questions about whether assimilation helps blacks or holds them back; Walter is influenced by Beneatha's educated and wealthy boyfriend George, but Beneatha increasingly listens to the Nigerian student Joseph Asagai.
  • The play explores conflict on multiple levels. At the beginning the Youngers are arguing over what to do with a $10,000 life insurance payment for Mama's late husband. Each has their own plan; Mama, backed by Walter's wife Ruth, thinks the family will have more opportunities if they move from their small apartment into a house. Walter wants to invest in a liquor store with his friend Willie, an idea which the devout Mama disapproves of. Beneatha wants to use it to pay for medical school. Later conflict is introduced between Beneatha and George, whom she increasingly sees as denying his African origins; rejecting George, she is encouraged by Joseph to look to Africa for her identity, and he asks her to marry him and move there. Racial conflict also arises when Mama buys a house in a white neighbourhood and one of the residents offers the family money to live somewhere else.
  • Racial identity is a theme developed mainly through Beneatha and her male friends, and their influence on Walter. Walter admires George, who he sees as fully assimilated into American society, but George mocks him for his poverty and lack of education. Joseph, on the other hand, tells Beneatha that she herself is assimilating - she straightens her hair, for example - and encourages her to stay true to her own culture. At the end Walter, who initially considered accepting the offer to leave the white neighbourhood, rediscovers his pride in being black and refuses.

A Raisin in the Sun is interesting as it combines at the dynamics between family members, ethnic groups and social classes. Many works of fiction explore one or even two of these, but this play is one of the few that looks at them all together. For that reason it's easy to write a good, interesting paper on it.