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Critical Race Theory: a Raisin in The Sun

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Critical Race Theory: a Raisin in The Sun Essay

Table of contents

  1. Summary of Critical Race Theory
  2. Everyday Racism
    Interest Converge
    Differential racialization
    Social Construct of Race
    Voice of Color
  3. Summary of Play
  4. Act I
    Act II
    Act III
  5. Application of Critical Theory

Summary of Critical Race Theory

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is based on race which functions as a socially constructed notion to enforce the ambitions of the white population which developed it. According to CRT, systematic racism arises from cultural, political, and legal disparities that white individuals create between “races” in order to preserve white elitism interest developed economies and therefore create conditions that lead to oppression. We are able to separate Critical Race Theory into six subcategories which define it the theory as a whole.

Everyday Racism

Everyday racism contains assumptions one may have about a specific race or individual. The assumptions usually come off as everyday stereotypes which can, in turn, become very stress-provoking.

Interest Converge

This is the act of having racism overlapping with economics in order to fit the white supremacist ideals. It is often linked to being in combined Marxist interests as well as affecting the business world.

Differential racialization

This goes back to the dominant society, also known as the White American group, defining and shifting ideals to benefit their own needs. “racialized in a manner that serves the needs of mainstream white America”.

Social Construct of Race

The race is defined as, not biological, but instead as politically and socially. An example of this would be the United States Census. Definitions of race change as economic and social pressures change.


This is related to the make of an individual which may or may not construct the person’s racist views. This is a make-up of overlapping identities that may become potentially conflicting.

Voice of Color

This category would like to the literature aspect of the race. It connects to individuals, that are part of the minority, and are better to write and/or speak about race than, for example, a white male may. Their experiences are better to show the truth of what it may feel to be oppressed than what an individual with little to no experience may write about.

Summary of Play

A play written by Loraine Hansberry named A Raisin in the Sun can give some insight into what it was like to live in the non-openminded 1950s. There is a family who must face everyday struggles, living in a white-ruled world, as they themselves face oppression by being an African-American family. The story describes the lives of the Youngers, an African-American family living on the southern side of Chicago somewhere within the 1950s, for several weeks. When the playwright opens, the Youngers will receive a $10,000 insurance settlement. Every adult family member has an idea of whatever he or she expects to do with the money.

Act I

The play opens in an apartment building that has been corroded by generations of property ownership. It is located on Chicago’s south side and is not very small to fit a whole family. The living space is a three-room apartment with a bedroom for Lena Younger, the home’s matriarch, a room for Beneatha, Lena’s daughter, and Ruth along with her husband’s bedroom. Unfortunately, Ruth’s son, Travis, has to sleep in the couch of the living room. The family doesn’t seem very pleased about everything. Ruth is indifferent and irritable in particular. Walter claims he wants to partner to open a convenience store with his friends Willy Harris and Bobo. It certainly sounds rather sketchy, but as a means out of poverty, Walter continues to dream of it. Despite his wife getting more and more irritable, Walter keeps mentioning that he can use Lena’s soon-to-come insurance check. The check holds $10,000 and each of the family members begins to dream of what the money may go towards. Ruth asserts that the money is Mama’s and implies she takes a trip to Europe or South America. Mom’s not interested in the possibility. She says some of the money will certainly go to Beneatha’s schooling, but almost all of it can also go to a home’s down payment. Beneatha receives a phone call from a Nigerian classmate, Joseph Asagai. She wants to invite him, even though she knows her mother hates it when people see the house chaotically. Bennie warns Mama not to ask arrogant questions about Africa to her friend. Shockingly, in the spur of the moment as Lena and Ruth clean the house, Ruth becomes faint and ill. It is revealed that she is in fact pregnant. Stress befalls her as she tries to decide whether or not to keep the child. She worries her actions may put more financial stress on the family.

Act II

Beneatha places a record in Nigeria and appears in Nigerian garb. She’s resplendent and singing songs to her audience, Ruth (who’s ironing). A couple of seconds go by and an intoxicated Walter bursts into the house, spouting nonsense and acting immaturely. George Murchison soon enters to pick up Beneatha, before they make their way to the theater. He asks her to change her headdress and she reveals her new haircut. The family is slightly shocked to see her hair in its natural state, an afro! Walter starts talking to George about business, who brushes him off. Walter is offended by this and begins to insult George in his drunken rage. George remains oblivious and instead compliments Beneatha when she reappears in a dress. As they leave, Walter still in his hot-tempered state decides to take his bitterness on Ruth. Mama comes back from a day out of the house. She casually mentions to Travis that on her day out, that she has purchased a house. Of course, the rest of the family members can hear this. Walter pulls away from her, appalled … but it only escalates when Lena declares where the new house is located: a predominately white neighborhood. Instead of understanding the situation, Walter instead accuses Mama of ruining his dreams. As things slowly begin to calm down within the household, there is a surprise visit by a man named Karl Lindner, a member of the Clybourne Park Improvement Association. Karl essentially says that the people in the area do not want the Youngers to move in because of the color of their skin –and they don’t want them to the point to buy the house for more than it was sold to the family for. They continue to keep packing; until they hear someone knocking at the door. Walter is happy with aspirations and answers the door to reveal Bobo’s. It’s regrettably clear that Bobo isn’t happy to be there. Ruth doesn’t know what’s going on, but instantly she feels potential danger. The supposed friend of Walter, Willy, vanished with all the money that Lena handed Walter, with the intent to have it saved in the back. Half of the funds were intended to go into Beneatha’s schooling. Heartbroken, Lena faces away from Walter asking God for strength.


There’s no spirit in the house. Asagai appears at the door, joyful and delusional about what happened. He asks Beneatha to return to Africa with him and then encourages her to remain loyal to pragmatism. Walter leaves the home, in secret to only return with uneasy news. It turns out he called Karl Lindner back in true Walter fashion … to accept the offer. He starts talking about how you can dream of making a difference, but in the end, it’s a dog-eat-dog world. The women are irate, of course within reason. Karl has come to receive the offer and Walter is struggling with his words and struggles to make sentences. Racism intentionally tends to have this effect. Walter finally rejects the offer when he comes to his senses. He says the family doesn’t fight big causes or cause trouble. Everyone else exhales a huge sigh of relief (except Karl). Moving day is back on. The house is busy with life again, with Beneatha and Walter arguing about who she should be married to. Before finally leaving for their new home, Lena has a fleeting moment in the old house, takes a moment to say goodbye, then takes the plant and goes downstairs.

Application of Critical Theory

The family has all put struggles within sacrifices they have made for each other. Some are more intense than others, as well as partaking in major downfalls. Day in and day out the family experiences deep oppression merely by the fact as they are a family of color. Near the end, it is exceptionally obvious as Karl Lindner tries running the family away from their new home “because they are colored.” This enrages Walter as he slowly comes to realize her will not be subjugated to the aspects of Racism. The white community was expecting for the family to willingly obey that they were not wanted into the neighborhood, but being proud and faithful, the family continued to hold their heads high and go through with it. Sadly, the family, especially Walter are subject to everyday racism. Walter has a low-end job and Lena is the housewife. The community within the white neighborhood expects the area to remain predominantly white and expects the Youngers to change for those expectations. Also, another expectation of racism, like Differential racialization. The family now relies on each other once they begin to move out, knowing the treatment may be more complex once they make a home for themselves in the community. Due to their personalities being so strong-willed and brash during the play, it is evident that they will be willing to take on this obstacle with open arms.  

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Critical Race Theory: A Raisin in the Sun. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 27, 2023, from
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