A Raisin in the Sun

The Issue of Universality in Critical Responses to A Raisin in The Sun College

“One of the most sound ideas in dramatic writing is that in order to create the universal, you must pay very great attention to the specific” (Hansberry, To Be Young 128).

Ben Keppel notes that during the 1960s and 1970s, A Raisin in the Sun became a symbol “of the mainstream’s appropriation and domestication of the struggle for racial equality” (184). Following widespread critical acceptance that the Youngers were just like any other family, the play was taken to endorse a “sociologically ideal family”, who held “comfortably middle-class aspirations” (Keppel 184). However, regarding Lorraine Hansberry’s play as universal, or “not really a Negro play . . . [but] a play about people”, ultimately “divorces the particulars of black life from the realm of universal—or human—experience” (Gordon 124). Such appropriative readings wilfully disregard and misrepresent the politics of the play, and in the process expose the critics’ own ideologies and anxieties.

In her analysis of white supremacist responses to the play, Robin Bernstein notes how the phrase “happens to be” recurs “with remarkable frequency” in contemporary reviews: “the play was about human beings, who happen to be Negroes” (16). She rightly asserts that play’s claim to...

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