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The Politics of “Home” in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun
Abstract

Abstract:

This essay examines the complexities of “home” in Lorraine Hansberry’s prize-winning play A Raisin in the Sun (1959). While scholars have discussed how the home purchased by Lena Younger at Raisin’s close signifies a radical challenge to and revision of the American Dream, few have explored the ways in which this literal home mirrors the psycho-social struggle of mid-century African Americans to attain, secure, and define a sense of place, or “home,” in the face of systemic socio-economic racism. I argue that the Younger family’s Clybourne Park home is more than a structural device used to catalyze the dénouement. Rather, this physical space illuminates the diverse psychological and ideological “homes” the Younger family seeks throughout the play, as Raisin probes the racially charged politics of home ownership particular to post–World War II Southside Chicago, investigates the viability and vulnerability of the various “homes” occupied by the Younger family in their attempts to find and “express” themselves, and confronts national myths of “home” that associate citizenship with property ownership. Understood in light of the gaps and inconsistencies in national narratives that proclaim “all men are created equal” but deny to some the rights and protections that belong to being at home, “home” becomes a complex space that is simultaneously material, historical, philosophical, psychological, and political. Lorraine Hansberry’s play recognizes the interconnectedness of personal and social struggles to feel “at home” in one’s nation, one’s community, and one’s own skin, and does not offer a blueprint for dismantling the “master’s house.” Instead, A Raisin in the Sun is a pluralist call for committed “builders” – those willing to use their diverse “tools” in concert to reconstruct vital homes and come closer to realizing the dream deferred: America as “home of the brave” and “land of the free.”