What is an annotation? An annotation documents the source and provides a summary of that source The documentation should adhere to Modern Language Association (MLA) guidelines. The annotations are to be ordered alphabetically according to the author’s last name. This assignment will be graded for its accuracy, content, and writing. use the source from the document.
Title: `A Raisin in the Sun` Revisited 8 pp
Author(s): J. Charles Washington
Publication Details: Black American Literature Forum 22.1 (Spring 1988): 109-124.
Source: Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Roger Matuz and Cathy Falk. Vol. 62. Detroit: Gale Research, 1991. From Literature Resource Center.
Document Type: Critical essay
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1991 Gale Research, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning
It seems incredible that A Raisin in the Sun, which opened on Broadway in 1959, has reached the ripe old age of twenty-nine and even more incredible that its creator, Lorraine Hansberry, who died in 1965 at the age of thirty-four, has already been gone twenty-three years, for she is still spoken of with passion and reverence by a younger generation of writers and critics whom she encouraged and influenced.... What has inspired them is not only the quality of her art, but also her courage and commitment. Hansberry was fearless and brash enough to declare that art does have a purpose, and that purpose is to change things. She was not afraid to write a play about social problems because she understood that “there are no plays which are not social and no plays that do not have a thesis.”
In the eyes of some critics, however, A Raisin in the Sun was passé almost before it closed, because they saw it only as a protest play or social drama about a Black family`s struggle to buy a house in a white neighborhood. In Confrontation and Commitment, C. W. E. Bigsby reflects this critical point of view: “For all its sympathy, humour and humanity, ... [A Raisin in the Sun] remains disappointing.... Its weakness is essentially that of much Broadway naturalism. It is an unhappy crossbreed of social protest and reassuring resolution” (emphasis added). Even more damaging and unsound is the evaluation of critic Harold Cruse [see excerpt above] who, in The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, observes that the play is “the most cleverly written piece of glorified soap opera” he has ever seen.
On the other hand, more perceptive critics, such as Julius Lester in his introduction to Les Blancs, early on recognized the play for what it really is: a work of art that contains universal and universally American themes that make it a significant contribution to American dramatic literature. In her recent biography of Hansberry, Ann Cheney writes that ” ... the simple eloquence of the characters elevates the play into a universal presentation of all people`s hopes, fears, and dreams.”
For Hansberry, there was never a conflict between the play`s specific social value and its universal literary value because the latter was inextricably bound to and grew logically out of the former: “I believe that one of the most sound ideas in dramatic writing is that in order to create the universal, you must pay very great attention to the specific. Universality, I think, emerges from the truthful identity of what is.” Regarding Raisin, Hansberry observed that, while
... there are no waving flags and marching songs at the barricades as Walter marches out with his little battalion, it is not because the battle lacks nobility. On the contrary, he has picked up in his way, still imperfect and wobbly in his small view of human destiny, what I believe Arthur Miller once called “the golden thread of history.” He becomes, in spite of those who are too intrigued with despair and hatred of man to see it, King Oedipus refusing to tear out his eyes, but attacking the Oracle instead.... [He] is the nine small heroes of Little Rock; he is Michelangelo creating David, and Beethoven bursting forth with the Ninth Symphony. He is all those things because he has finally reached out in his tiny moment and caught that sweet essence which is human dignity, and it shines like the old star-touched dream that is in his eyes. [see excerpt above]
The dignity of Walter`s character is present long before the end of the play, “when he marches out with his little battalion.” However, the fact that Walter`s dignity is somewhat obscured from view has led many readers, critics, and viewing audiences to misunderstand him and his true intentions. I agree with Douglas Turner Ward that “it is not Walter Lee`s action at the end of the play, as meaningful as it is to his development and inspiring to the audience, but his central presence and thrust throughout the play” that should be emphasized. The overpowering personality of Lena Younger, particularly her moral rectitude and selfless nature, tends to overshadow Walter, and this accounts in part for the tendency of many readers and audiences to focus their attention almost entirely on her. Unfortunately, this violates the equal balance or proportionate share of the spotlight which each deserves and which the structure of the play calls for.