A Raisin in the Sun is a play about the Youngers family who lived in the South Side of Chicago during the 1950s. During the first scene the Youngers’ are waiting for the check from the now dead Mr. Youngers’ life insurance policy totaling $10,000. Each character/family member has a different idea about what should be done with the money. The main characters within the story include Mama, Walter Lee (Mama’s son), Ruth (Walter’s wife), and Beneatha (Mama’s daughter). Mama wants to buy a house in a nicer neighborhood with the money which was the dream her husband and her shared. Walter would like to invest in a liquor store with friends. Ruth is backing Mama’s idea. Beneatha would like to invest in her future by attending medical school.
When the money is finally received Mama puts a down payment on a house in an all-white neighborhood. Someone from the neighborhood, Mr. Lindner, tries to make an offer to the Youngers to get them to not move into the new home. The family refuses. At the end of the story the family finally leaves their cramped apartment and moves into their new home which is basically the American dream. The play was written and produced by Lorraine Hansberry in 1959. There are several movie versions however for the purpose of this assignment I will be using the 2008 movie version written by Paris Qualles and Lorraine Hansberry, directed by Kenny Leon and starring Sean Combs as Walter.
In both the play and movie versions, there are multiple similarities. The movie did a great job describing the overall message of the stage play. One similarity is the characters pursuit of their individual dreams. In the story no character was able to achieve their independent dreams. In the end, they realize the dream of a family is the most important because it unites them all. For example, Walter is shown as desperate to get a better life for him and his family. He struggles with having to work for others who make a lot of money and as he describes he is invisible to them. He is tormented by his lack of success and believes the money can help realize his dreams. Walter has big dreams but he is also irresponsible. He does not go to work for three days in a row and it is implied that he gets fired. He gave all money Mama had given him to a man named Willy, who promises to go get their liquor license but disappears with the money.
In both the movie and play, racial discrimination is a key part of the story and what the family faces. Their plight becomes a reality to those watching the movie or reading this story. An example of this occurs with Mr. Lindner’s character when he attempts to offer the family money in exchange for not moving into his all white neighborhood. Their refusal showed the strength the family had in standing up to discrimination and not backing away from it. Lastly, the play and the movie both showed the importance of family. Even with all the differences the family is able to come together as a unit and reject Mr. Lindner’s offer.
There are differences between the play and movie versions. In the film, Lena is seen quitting her job working as a maid. In the play version, it is not a scene at all, it is only assumed as all we know is that she works as a maid for a white family. Another difference occurs when Walter begins missing work. In the movie, Lena answers the phone when his company begins calling about his absence. She states Walter is not home. However, in the play version it is Ruth that answers the phone and Walter is laying in his bedroom and it is found out he has been missing from work for 3 days. A major difference between the two versions is the appearance of Mrs. Johnson.
She is not a character at all in the movie version. And in the play she is a supporting character to Lena. Another difference is how the movie is able to expand on the setting locations. In the play, there is only one setting, the Younger’s living room, in Chicago’s Southside. The movie is able to show the family in different rooms of the apartment and Walter at work. The most striking difference of the movie and play is the ability to capture close-ups of the characters. The close-up of the characters in the movie allows the audience to get a closer view of the emotions of each character.
In conclusion, the movie was a better depiction to me because I am a visual person. It was easy to clearly see what the overall story was about. Walking away from the movie, I learned what a difficult time it was to live in the 1950s. Discrimination was so real and people were okay with it back then. Even during all the outside hardships, the family was able to come together and provide strength to each other and achieve their family dreams.