For the purposes of this article, I recommend that you have read or reviewed Clybourne Park in the past, it is an excellent black-centric play that is well composed and super interesting! Also, do try and check out The Cherry Orchard before reading too.
In an article published in 1959 by the New York Times entitled “Review of the Original 1959 Broadway Production”, author Brook Atkinson remarks on her thoughts about the play after seeing it in the Ethel Berrymore theatre. After going over a summary of the premise of A Raisin in the Sun, she discusses how the writer of the play, Lorraine Hansberry, accurately portrays the life and challenges of being a Negro without conveying inherent bias in the story. Atkinson cites this saying, “she has not tipped her play to prove one thing or another. The play is honest.” For the remainder of the article, Atkinson relates the play to The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov, by giving a truncated summary of the play and then concluding with a remark on how both plays take place in Ralph A.
After thoroughly enjoying a read of the play script myself. I too noticed the stark truthfulness of play that Atkinson highlighted in her article. One of the primary reasons is mood. The story takes place in the late 1950s South Side Chicago, where a black family lives in a home with multiple generations. Already, Hansberry paints an accurate picture. Between 1940 and 1960, Chicago flooded with more African Americans, and the demographic increase by over 200% from 278,000 to 813,000. In addition, multi-generational households were extremely common in that period, reaching record highs among the black community. The mood is rather neutral throughout the play, though subject to occasional bursts of happiness or sadness, primarily consists of different emotional undertones that succeed each other. This is an archetypical model of human behavior, one that still exists today and can be seen throughout the daily lives of billions. In addition, the family lives on an overall low income, a reality for millions of Black Americans due to compounded slavery in the United States.
However, where my and Atkinson’s views begin to deviate from one another is during her reference of Raisin in the Sun as a “Black” facsimile of The Cherry Orchard. Atkinson notes in her article that the protagonists of each story belong to entirely parallel demographics and socioeconomic statuses, but persists in relating the two. While yes, it is true that both plays are accurate in their delivery of the respective story, the similarities drawn were rather abstract. Atkinson merely states that they are similar, but does not explicitly point out the similarities between the 1950s black drama and the Russian playwright. There is a very weak connection between a story of a black multigenerational family featuring a woman who does not want to be a conformist, and a want-to-be-man trying to pursue a dream using his late father’s money against the wishes of his family (Raisin in the Sun), and a story about the juxtaposition of a Ranevsky and a poor Anya’s mother in Paris. Overall, there is a clear distinction between the two. However, it is to be noted that both of these plays have been praised for their accuracy, but do not remotely resemble each other.
Though Atkinson concludes with a false equivalent in her comparison between two astonishingly different plays, she does touch on an extremely important facet of Raisin in the Sun, and Hansberry’s writing as a whole: verisimilitude. However, Hansberry’s writing in the play is not superficially true, it is extremely accurate in both form and content. Overall, my reaction upon reading the play was, in truth, very similar to Aktinsons, excluding the similarity analysis with The Cherry Orchard. The honesty of the whole playwright is to be appreciated and is a large part of the reason why is it considered such an amazing read or watch to this day.
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•My name’s Okezue, a developer and researcher obsessed with learning and building things, especially when it involves any technology or science. Check out my socials here, or contact me: [email protected].
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