A Raisin in the Sun

The Circumscribed and Tragic Hero: Lena’s role in A Raisin in the Sun College

In his book Twelve Million Black Voices Richard Wright asserts that:In the Black Belts of the northern cities, our women are the most circumscribed and tragic objects to be found in our lives […] Surrounding our black women are many almost insuperable barriers: they are black, they are women, they are workers; they are triply anchored and restricted in their movements within and without of the black belts (1526). Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun,set in the south side of Chicago afterWorld War II, works as an affirmation of Wright’s statement. The play at first seems to be subjugating its women by pushing them to the background of the narrative, ignoring their contributions to the plot, and presenting Walter as the hero. However, a closer look at the script reveals that Hansberry—a black women herself—intentionally uses this framing to encourage the readers to first view Walter as a protagonist and, later, to question their original assessment and their willingness to push the true protagonist, Lena, to the side.

Although there are several subtle indications from the beginning of the novel that the main character is Lena, rather than Walter, the first instance of Lena significantly driving the plot occurs around the...

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