The era during which a drama is written can altogether change or exemplify certain motives, that if written in another time, would not only be misread but could also possibly be entirely unrecognized. It is during the era of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, that two prominent dramatists, Amiri Baraka and Lorraine Hansberry, sought the perfect opportunity to create plays that brought forth, with earnestness and directness, the great trials faced daily by African-Americans throughout the United States. Through their two protagonist's interactions with a representation of the white race of that time, Walter Lee's handling Mr. Lindner in A Raisin In the Sun, and the oppression of Clay caused by Lula in The Dutchman, the very the nature of white and black relations and racism in America, and the responses to the oppression, that these two characters come to symbolize the great Era that their creators belonged to.
While the overall plot progression of A Raisin in the Sun circulates around many characters and their motives, goals, and ways through which they work to move past obstacles, it is most important to note from the beginning, that this play is destined to be formulated through Walter. It is his decisions, dreams, errors, and ultimately, his pride that must be examined and put on trial throughout the entire ordeal. Before, an examination between white and black race relations can be made, the character of Walter Lee must be studied, in order for the reader to understand the makeup of the man through which the drama is displayed. From the onset of the drama, Hansberry uses Walter as her ideal African-American man searching for his idea of the Great American dream, something very common to all Americans of the time. He is a man that dreams big, and while working his job hard, is not satisfied with the life he has been living. The obstacles faced in his reality are noted early on as he states, “Man say to his woman: I got me a dream. His woman say: Eat your eggs.”(Hansberry p.33) With this statement, he relates himself to the countless struggling of the era, waiting hopelessly for a twist of fate.
Hansberry continues to identify Walter to the masses of her audience in his plight to achieve his dreams in a world where they are constantly “deferred.” There must also be noted the prevalent struggle throughout the novel of assimilation and its role in the contemporary African-American household of that era. Walter, is torn between his desire to achieve economic greatness, but also gives glimpses of being pulled towards his cultural past. In perhaps, the most effective scene of this balance, the slightly intoxicated Walter, releases his “tribal” side proclaiming, “Ocomogosiay, flaming spear...my black brother,”(Hansberry p. 78) though he clearly shows little knowledge of the true Africa. This outburst is followed up with his interaction with George Murchison, Hansberry's portrait of the fully assimilated African-American man, where Walter states, “I know ain't nothing in this world as busy as you colored college boys with your fraternity pins and white shoes.” (Hansberry p.81) In a matter of minutes, Walter has shown his ignorance of one extreme and aggression towards the other, with which he held great esteem. It is in this portrayal that Hansberry signifies Walter as a man torn between dreams and left to the devices of fate, much like many of the men in the audience.
While Walter, and his family, fight between the powers of assimilation and African culturing, it is their interaction with the white race, specifically Mr. Lindner, that brings out the nature of the Era. Hansberry skillfully does not portray the typical dominant white male, featured throughout much of American literature, but rather perceives him as an altogether different breed with the same concluding motives. Mr. Lindner is described as, “a quiet-looking middle-aged white man in a business suit.” (Hansberry p.113) His appearance does not...
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