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The Effects of Oppression in Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun

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The Effects of Oppression in Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun

Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun is a modern tragedy in which the protagonist, Walter Lee Younger, is unable to find the fulfilling life he wants so badly. A contrasting view of the quest for that fulfilling life is offered in the character of Beneatha (whose name seems a play on her socioeconomic status, i.e. she-who-is-beneath), who serves as a foil against which the character of Walter is defined. Both Walter and Beneatha, representing the new generation of blacks coming of age after World War Two, are in conflict with Mama, who represents the previous generation and its traditions. The character of George Murchison is also opposed to both Beneatha and Walter,
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For Walter, though, success means wealth and the respect that wealth commands. He wants to succeed on his terms and command the respect of others. The argument between Mama and Walter over money illustrates their profound differences over what is important in life:

Mama. Son-how come you talk so much 'bout money?

Walter [With immense passion]. Because it is life, Mama!

Mama [Quietly]. Oh-[Very Quietly] So now it's life. Money is life. Once upon a time freedom used to be life-now it's money. I guess the world really do change . . .

Walter. No-it was always money, Mama. We just didn't know about it. (1010-1011)

There is more to this argument than "freedom vs. money." This is a dispute over what freedom essentially is, whether political freedom is worthy of the name without economic freedom as well. For Walter, and for Beneatha as well, freedom without economic prosperity is merely the freedom to live in poverty. That freedom, for them, is little better than slavery.

The character of George Murchison, who is the son of a wealthy businessman, symbolizes assimilation. The fact that he is despised by both Beneatha-"I hate assimilationist Negroes" (1013)-and Walter is a clue to how they feel about assimilation. George Murchison has wealth, but has lost his soul in the process. Unlike Mama, whose desire for the American Dream is unconsciously assimilationist, George Murchison is consciously and deliberately denying his
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