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PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS
The tightly structured plot of the play is developed in a very traditional manner. In the first scene, the major characters are introduced, the setting and theme are established, and the conflict is presented. All of the Youngers eagerly await the arrival of the $10,000 life insurance check. Walter, in particular, dreams about the money, believing that he will be able to use it to invest in a liquor store with his two friends.
The rising action really begins with the arrival of the check. Everyone seems to have plans for the money. Walter is sure that Mama will give him the money for his business venture; Beneatha is certain that the money will be used for her education. Only Ruth, the daughter-in-law, is wise enough to realize that it is Mama's money and she can spend it however she wants and should spend it on herself.
When Mama uses a large portion of the money on a down payment on a house in Clybourne Park, an all-white neighborhood, everyone in the family has a different reaction. Ruth is overjoyed, for she has dreamed of moving out of the cramped, dingy apartment. Beneatha wonders if she will be deprived of her education. Walter is infuriated and blames Mama for stealing his future from him.
Mama, not wanting to see her children unhappy, gives Walter sixty five hundred dollars, the balance of the insurance payment. She tells him to put three thousand of it in a savings account for Beneatha's schooling and advises him not to spend his portion on the liquor store, an un-christian venture. Walter ignores the warnings of his wise mother and gives all of the money, including Beneatha's share, to Willy, one of his business partners, who quickly steals the cash and flees town.
When the family learns about the theft, it is the climax of the play. Walter, of course, is most upset of all, for his dream has been destroyed and his family is very angry about his irresponsibility. The rest of the play centers on how Walter handles the loss. In order to recoup some of the money, he decides he will sell the new house to the Clybourne Park Association for a handsome profit, destroying the hopes of Mama and Ruth in the process. In the end, he stands up to Mr. Lindner and refuses to sell. His decision proves he has regained his pride and come into his manhood. As a result, the play ends as a tragic comedy. Although the money is lost, the family is saved.
Many things help to unify the plot. There is a cast of very few characters, with one of the Youngers appearing in every scene; Walter, the protagonist, is the main character and focal point throughout. The play also has a unity of time and place. Only a few days pass in the drama, and almost all the action takes place in the small, dingy apartment of the Youngers, located in the ghetto of South Chicago. The play is further unified by the Themes of having dreams, discrimination, and pride, which are developed throughout. Another unifying factor is the use of the symbolic potted plant, which stands for the struggling Younger family and appears several times in the play, including the touching closing scene.
The appeal of the play stems from its hopeful and realistic portrayal of a black family during the 1950s. The message is that a family such as the Youngers, who suffer from poverty and discrimination, can survive, even thrive, in spite of overwhelming obstacles. Hansberry never strays from this central theme throughout the entire three acts of the play.
Finally, the six scenes moves forward in a linear, chronological fashion, with one scene logically following the next. In addition, there is no confusion between the past and the present; the few flashbacks that do occur are very clear and obvious and basically relate to Big Walter, the deceased husband and father. The entire play is really a movement away from the darkness, represented by the ghetto, to the light, represented by the new neighborhood. Thus, the play is appropriately titled A Raisin in the Sun.