Week 2: Raisin (due 6/16)

Raisin in the Sun 2008.jpg

Hi Everyone,

Please check out some Week 1 wrap-up ideas here and a  simple film that a colleague and I put together for City Tech’s 2019 Literary Arts Festival, which that year featured the wonderful Mexican-American poet, José Olivarez.  You’ll see this relates to Shire’s “Home,” Chaplin’s  The Immigrant and some of the important connections many of you brought up in your Week 1 responses.

Week 2:

  1. Note that we’re taking a bit of extra time for this assignment (through 6/14)
  2. Aim to begin thinking about which Project 1 topic you’d like to pursue.  Project 1 is due 6/17. Feel free to email me to discuss.
  • Read: Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun (1958)  **Download  for easier full screen reading of the pdf**
  • Watch: Kenny Leon,  A Raisin in the Sun (2008)
  • Read Interview with Kenny Leon
  • Watch my Week 2 lecture; Note that I focus on the background of the author and story here, deliberately leaving a clean slate for discussion of the film and and your impressions of how the play was adapted for the screen.
  • Optional Extra Credit: Read and respond to (add a paragraph to your weekly post)  this New York Times article by Linda Villarosa, whose mother went to school with Lorraine Hansberry in Chicago, on the city today
  • This week, please discuss any aspect of the play that interests you– see some possible discussion points at the end of my lecture. Other potential threads include the setting (time, space, and place, stage directions), character development, structure (division of Acts, Scenes), gender roles, intersectionality, African American history, the differences between the play and the film.
  •  The only guideline regarding your comment on the film is to pay attention to the storytelling techniques we learned about in Week 1 (shots, angles, blocking, establishing shots). We want to make connections between the ideas of a text/play and the way these are brought to life on screen (after first undergoing a screenplay adaptation). In other words, *how*– through what camera work– is the director conveying these ideas to the viewer?  Aim for a paragraph on the play and one on the film.
  • Visual Storytelling 101 and How A Director Stages and Blocks A Scene ; Introduction to      Shot Types and Camera Movement**As I mentioned in my Week 1 Wrap-Up above, Trigger Warning: violent/disturbing scene in the Shot Types and Camera Movement explication.

 

52 Comments

  1. alex

    The film Raisin in the sun (2008)

    I love the way the film used story techniques to bring the play to life and emphasis the character’s mood with the sound effects in the background to emphasis moods such shocked, denial, and anger as when Walter found out that he got scammed by one of the business partners. Also the ending scene when Walter gives a speech to Linder about how he and his family had to struggle through many obstacles to get where there at in life and that he’s now not going to let a racial prejudice man (that was sent by the neighborhood) from stopping this family from accomplishing a dream. A dream of freedom rather than wealth keeping what his father has earned is more important than money being offered by Linder to evacuate the house. Walter plans to move in with his family. The camera work to show that what Walter has to say to Linder is important by using close up to add emotion to the scene as well as making their reaction the main focus in the frame, using the composition of rule of thirds to draw the viewers eyes to the image/place to emphasis on the subject and the empty space that’s left should be in the direction the subject is looking.

    The play Raisin in the sun (1958)

    There was some part from the play that I would have like to seen like the part in the book were Walter was smoking a cigarette while looking out at the little window, to show that Walter being stressed out while looking at the view outside his window so it can show that Walter is thinking about his life that he’s not where he want to be in life and dreams to be in a better place in life with his family where he enjoys looking at the view from his home.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Hi Alex,
      The conversation with Lindner is a great scene in the film to deconstruct. In this exchange the camera is doing a lot of work– we’re looking up at Walter during his speech, and down at evil Lindner. We can contrast this with the earlier scene with Lindner sitting at the level as Walter, in an adjacent chair, and Walter grasping the true meaning of the “Welcoming Committee.”

      Are there any ideas that you found evident in the play, that didn’t appear in the film in the same way? Or scenes that translated differently than you imagined?

  2. Ashley James

    Raisin in the Sun (Film)

    I enjoyed watching Kenny Leon’s A Raisin in the Sun, my favorite character in the film was Mama Younger played by Phylicia Rashad. I believed that she excellently portrayed the mother role. I really liked the fact that the director used close ups and extreme close ups to portray her true feelings about a subject matter, such as when Ruth was trying to convince her to give Walter Lee money for his business adventure and there was an extreme close up when she said “we ain’t no business people, we just plain ole business people”. The close up paired with her facial expressions really showed that she has no interest in Walter Lee’s business. Near the end of the film when Walter Lee was on his knees and told his mother that all the money is gone, a low angle shot was used to show her reaction due to him being on the floor. That angle really made us viewers see how powerful this scene is and it added emphasis to her reactions to the news. There were some parts of the play that I did wish they showed in the film, such as Beneatha cutting her hair off, as flighty as she was it seemed like she was really tapping into her heritage so it would’ve been nice to see that on the film.

    Raisin in the Sun (play)

    Believe it or not this was my first time reading A Raisin in the Sun and I enjoyed it as well, I read this first before watching the film because often time the film adaptation of text doesn’t fully match up. One of my favorite hobbies is reading, one of the reasons why is because we get to imagine the story, even with the details that’s given we can add our own twists to what we are reading. This was one of the main reasons why I enjoyed reading the play, we got to create our own images of the story, and even with the description texts we are still able to create our own ideas of what was going on. Another reason why I enjoyed this play was because it highlighted another form of racism and discrimination against the black race. Here is a working, educated family trying to have something solid in their name to pass on for generations but because of the color of their skin they are being bribed not to obtain that goal, very mind blowing and disheartening. Unfortunately, this is something that is happening still, during summer of 2020 after the tragic murder of George Floyd, a lot of racism and discrimination that’s been happening came to the surface and was broadcasted. It’s sad that this behavior is still being done to the black race, when the ultimate goal is to create and live a great life, just like the Youngers.

    Black Lives are Shorter in Chicago

    This was a very interesting article that highlighted the disparity between black and white lives in the past and now. The part of article that stated the stats about the COVID deaths and vaccinations between different zip codes was jaw dropping but not uncommon. In the pandemic, it was said that death rates were higher in African Americans and Latinos communities due to reasons such as overcrowding living spaces and occupation. Even with this information that was produced I was still amazed to see the numbers based on zip codes in the article. I haven’t personally experienced the exact loss that this family has but I do live in a neighborhood where gentrification is actively taking place. There are businesses that are shut down, and then turned into empty lots and now being turned into high-rise apartment buildings. Previous owned houses are also now apartment buildings, this is happening in nearby neighborhoods as well. This doesn’t compare to what the author and her family experienced but with the gentrification I am literally watching the place I call my neighborhood change right before my eyes and become an inconvenience to the residents that’s been here for 30+ years.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Ashley:
      Excellent work here, including with the extra credit. It is up to you, but given your Project 1 focus you could potentially bring in the NYT article and what you wrote below about NY and gentrification. I’d be interested in your classmates’ comments about the issue of gentrification as well- important companion to the issues discussed in the play.

      • Ashley James

        Thank you Professor! I will take this into consideration and see how I can incorporate it into what I have already.

  3. Brian Chan

    A Raisin in the Sun (1958)

    An aspect of the play that interested me is the
    use of gender roles. While Beneatha wished to persue a life in the
    medical field, it wasn’t a common thing among women and I see this
    as a representation of fighting social norms. Aside from gender roles.
    one of the most important aspects of the play was the harsh reality of
    betrayal.When I found out Walter was cheated by his friend Willy, it
    reminded me that sometimes the real villians in our lives are
    the ones we know and trust.

    A Raisin in the Sun (2008)

    One thing I’ve noticed with the close up shots is how the emotions
    of the characters greatly protray how they speak and feel. An example
    with this is when Walter speaks to Mama. As Walter explains to Mama
    that he needs to money to open up a liquor store, his face is cold
    as if he has been starved by greed and yearning for money. Walter argues to
    Mama that money is life. Hearing this, Mama’s face shows great disappointment
    that her own son would value money as something greater than freedom.
    With close up shots, we are able to focus on character expressions rather
    than the background and it helps us understand how the character feels.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Good points here, Brian. Was there a particular scene in the play that you feel speaks to Beneatha’s navigation of identity and gender? What do you think of the element of intersectionality (I discuss this in my lecture)?

  4. kezia king

    In the play “ a raisin in the sun” in 1958 it went even deeper into dialogue and understanding things from this time including how it was for African Americans. I feel like the play reflected the story very well and not just because it was written first but because we can understand things more deeper than what was being shown in the film. This including things with the staging the sequence and division of scenes adding to the time line and the overall understanding of why what happened to the characters happened and so much more.

    In the film “ a raisin in the sun” we are able to actually see more as oppose to having more dialogue. This including what Walter characters actually does. The films go deeper in terms of not everything being left in the little apartment that they had. But we get to see so much more. In the film we get to see what happens when we find out the bobo thing and we get to see the characters emotions making us connect with the character more. Feelings of sadness and empathy for different characters and feeling of stuck.

    Overall I enjoyed reading the play more than the film even though I got to see emotion as a writer and director myself I like having my imagination and being able to make everything they way I want it to make. I also like how all the scenes are included.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Hi Kezia,
      Thanks for this commentary. I encourage you to discuss specific scenes in the comparison and contrast here.

    • Yovanna

      I totally agree with you, the play was better than the movie, I even ended up watching more versions. It had me waiting for more. A question, do you think Walter is a victim? Cause I feel he’s a grown man; he did this to himself and everybody else (he should’ve known better) but looking at his social circumstances living as a black man back then was prolly awful even nowadays can be bad.

      • kezia king

        I think in some ways he is definitely a victim! Almost like a tragic hero he believes he doing the right thing for his family but he is not. Some would argue he is selfish and knows but I honestly believe he is so oblivious and in a way a victim in his faults of trying to make things good. I do agree with your points living as a black man during these times were hard and deft could’ve been a obstacle in this process!

  5. Nathiw Sanchez

    The film “A Raisin in the Sun” directed and produced by the director Kenny Leon made in 2008 and the reading “A Raisin in the Sun” written by Lorraine Hansberry emphasized similitudes such as the definition of the issue, and character, and environment. In both concepts, the audience can emphasize an Afro-American family suffering from poverty, feminism, and stereotypes of race. Both scenarios show an Afro-American family fighting for the inheritance that the head of the house has left after his death through life insurance. In both scenarios, we can see the feminism that existed in those years, and how the only man of the house was trying to take all the money in invest without listening to the opinion of the women of the house. In the same manner, the movie and the reading have shown in a different case the attitude and conflicts that exist in the family between Walter Lee Younger and Beneatha Younger since both characters have different personalities and both of them have created in their mind different plans of how to use the money without asking the other members of the family if they agree with the decision. The author emphasized the problems that the family lived with due to racism, feminism, and discrimination that existed in those years. On the other side, the movie has shown in with different technique the manipulated mind that Walter Lee Younger have because at the end of the movie he decided to decide without thinking about the consequences that can have between them. However, at the end of the movie, he decided to step back with the decision to invest money to create more. I enjoyed the movie more than the reading for the reason that the film has shown the discrimination and racism that Afro-Americans were having during those times.

  6. Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

    Hi Nathiw,
    Can you say a bit more about the ending of the play vs the film and what you mean here regarding Walter and racism?

    • Nathiw Sanchez

      In the film, Walter decided to step back in the decision of investing and decided to move out to a house for his family and live in a decent house in the neighborhood, he also says to Mr. Lindner “We don’t want your money.” which make clear the decision that he took for the best of his family and for his son Travis. He talked about the past of his family, and how hard his father worked to complete all the achievements and the pride of his family.

      • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

        Hi Nathiw- did you find this ending different from that of the play?

        • Nathiw Sanchez

          To be honest, I didn’t find any differences between the reading and the film both of them ended up with the scene about Mr. Linder refusing the offer

  7. Makai

    A Rasin in the sun (1958)
    I’ve read this in high school and it has always spoken volumes to me. I liked how it goes into detail on how African Americans lived and I liked how the women wanted to challenge the gender norms and get careers that many people would say is male-dominated. The twist where Willy was cheating out Walter it sent a message about life, that someone we trust dearly can still backstab you and lie to your face.

    A Raisin in the sun (2008)
    The film showed lots of emotions when characters would interact. I noticed how the flower was symbolic to the family. When Mama comes home, she sees the flower and said that if it doesn’t get sunlight, it will die. The family was low-class people who lived check to check. When their son would ask for 50 cents he would be told no by the mother because they can’t afford to give away 50 cents like that. It is pretty much that the family is on its last legs but the new house is their sunshine so they can grow as a family and be happy.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Hi Makai,
      Thanks for this comment. For this class we read a different edition with scenes that were taken out of most other versions. Have your thoughts on the play changed, reading it years later, a second time? How does the play change with these added scenes?

  8. Yovanna

    The film Raisin in the sun (2008)

    The film employed storytelling techniques to bring the play to life and emphasize the characters’ moods by adding sound effects in the background. Music was frequently used in the 2008 edition, which helped to set the tone. For instance, the music that starts playing at the beginning introduces the little apartment atmosphere. This factor significantly altered the tone and mood of the scene. Throughout the movie. When the family views their new home, they are enthralled by the big floor design, light rooms, and yard, the camera work shows how they run from room to room in the movie, and how they are excited using close up shots, then out to the backyard, where Mama sits them all down as she opens a box of supplies. Travis then gives her his gift, which he chose himself. Which was a gardening hat, adorned with plastic fruit. The others can’t stop themselves from laughing, but Mama is ecstatic with Travis and his present. The camera work (focus) turns to the white neighbors (so we tell that the family will face racism in their new house) glaring at them disapprovingly through their windows as the family turn to leave their yard, and the family, fully knowing that they will be unwanted.

    The play Raisin in the sun (1958)

    The play’s only setting is the Younger home, highlighting the importance of the house. The lighting seems to adjust with the mood, and the house, with just one window, is a small, often dark space in which all of the Youngers feel oppressed. Although some of the events in the play takes place outside of the apartment, the audience witnesses everything unfold within the house. Travis’s playing out in the street and Walter’s drinking and skipping work account for the most of what happens outside their home. The family’s home is a rallying point, according to Mama, and it is critical to the family’s unity.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Good points here, Yovanna. Was there a particular scene in the play that you found most pivotal? Can you tell us more about the other film versions you watched and what you thought of them? A comparison/contrast could potentially be a focus for Project 1.

      • Yovanna

        When “Mama” pays a deposit on a house for everyone in the family, I felt this science to be particularly important in the play. She believes that having a larger, brighter home will benefit them all. The neighborhood in which this property is located is mainly Caucasian. Whenever the Youngers’ new white neighbors discover of their arrival, they send a guy to offer them money in exchange for them remaining away. Even after Walter loses the remaining money to his “friend,” the Youngers refuse to consider the offer. This scene is crucial because it is incredibly dramatic and has an impact on the remainder of the action in the play. It’s crucial because it alters how the audience perceives the play’s conclusion. As a member of the audience, I would have expected the play to have a happy ending after everything the Youngers have been through because they finally have a home, but due to the scene, I can tell they’ll face racism (A lot of it).

  9. Alondra Vences

    I enjoyed watching the film “A Raisin in the Sun” produced by Kenny Leon. The producer Leon emphasized a lot of scenes. There were extreme close ups which helped emphasize the moments of sacrifice and sorrow. Moments such as when Ruth was very sad about having another baby due to poverty. There was an extreme close up when she was telling Walter she was sorry about the new baby (1:08:20). The scene also helps show how it was being a woman with poverty. The producer wanted to show the sacrifices women had to go through back in the day. This helped view her feelings and helped us connect to her feelings.
    On the other hand, the play was very detailed. I felt as if it was very dramatic in a good way. The author Lorainne Hansberry showed more detail and creativity in the play. Compared to the film, the scene where Ruth confronts Walter about wanting to abort the baby, it felt way more dramatic and depressing when reading the scene. You obviously use more imagination when reading, which makes it a better experience. Once Walter finds out about the baby he walks out and Act Two begins, this gives such drama and suspension to the play. Reading the play gives you more insight into the characters and depth of the plot.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Alondra-
      Indeed. The scene when Walter returns home from the bar and Mama Younger tells him to speak his wife— we know he he ultimately says almost nothing and turns around and leaves— is pivotal. How might we relate this scene to Hughes’ poem?

  10. Mariama Zoumanigui

    Raisin in the sun (Film)
    I really enjoyed watching this film it is a true example of what people still go through in this day and age .There is a huge battle between dreams and reality, for example when mama younger wants to use her husbands insurance as a down payment on house so her family can have ownership of property . When she goes to tell Walter and Ruth you can see that dream slowly fade away from their reactions. The house she wants is in a white neighborhood. Its like obstacle after obstacle that this family has to fight. In that scene Ruth is on the edge of her seat and Walter is pacing because they still have to live in the reality that, that dream is still far away .Another scene that is very powerful is when Walter is looking of camera his back is to Ruth and he is really deeply bothered by the lifestyle he is living with his family. It is very interesting that Ruth was very dismissive she has a more take it day by day and do what you have to do mentality , where as Walter is a dream chaser that wants to make the moves. Some of the themes I spotted were racism. racial discrimination, housing discrimination that still lingers today but is swept under the rug. We as people have took certain steps to make changes but we are still behind, we see this from last year with the amount of killings due to racial discrimination, this movie is a great depiction of the reality people of color used and still do live in.
    (Play)
    In the play you see more of the interior , the apartment is more of the focus all the events in the play happen in the living room. Instead of Lena giving money to Walter in a bar in the fil she gives to him in the living room in the play. In both the film and play they do move into the house with white neighbors. The movie broadened our experience due to the change of locations. The director shows more of the outside world , for example Walter walking around scenes in Chicago, also the mother walking to her work place . These are some similarities and the differences from the play and movie .

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Mariama,
      Excellent phrasing- the battle between dreams and reality. What effect does Leon’s more outward imagining of the play (including several settings outside the Younger apartment) have on the viewer’s understanding? I wonder if you might want to take on setting as part of your Project 1 effort.

  11. Cristina

    Film:
    I really enjoyed watching this film. I think each character’s role/ personality was well portrayed with the actors that played them. I really enjoyed Beneatha’s character because she portrays a person who the majority of us experience when we are young. We have a goals in becoming successful in life and are looking to pursue a lot. We are also trying to figure out who we are as a person. Her character is a strong women and knows what she is looking for. I see this side of her more when George is insisting to be with her, but Beneatha stands her ground and doesn’t let him push her over. I also enjoyed the character Lena because she is the strongest person in the family. She is a wise women and all of that comes from her life experience. You see her strong/ serious side when she stands her ground in front of her kids to show discipline, but she also shows her nurturing side when she has a one to one talk with Walter. In the scene the camera shows them seated at eye level and they frame the shot to their faces to clearly display their emotions. Throughout the film they also play the appropriate background music that goes with the mood of the scenes.
    Play:
    Throughout the play the subject of racism and social inequality was brought up several times. One part of the play when Walter mentioned that he was a driver for some rich folks. He brought up a point when he mentioned that he aspires to better things so he doesn’t have to be “just” a driver. Another example is when Linder shows up to Walter’s house to try to get them not to move in to the white neighborhood because the residents there don’t want black people in their community. When reading this part, I can hear Beneatha’s tone of voice when she immediately understands why he is there. Her tone is frustrated and is in disbelief in what she is hearing.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Cristina,
      Wonderful response here to Beneatha. Different readers and viewers will identify with different female characters. Do you think you’d want to focus on Beneatha’s character in the play— and the way she is brought to life in the film- for Project 1?

  12. Farai Matangira

    A Raisin in the Sun (2008)

    The film does well to take the audience on an emotional journey through the experience of a working-class black family in the Southside of Chicago. The setting, dialogue, acting, lighting, and dressing do well to solidify this portrayal. Straight from the beginning of the film, you can tell from the set design that this is a low-class household. They are all cramped up in a small apartment and the director does well to capture this and immerse the audience into their apartment as Ruth is moving around in a tight space preparing breakfast.
    Their dialogue is also used in a manner that evokes strong emotions of dreaming, hope, and perseverance through their struggles. This is another strong method to connect to the audience because people tend to generally become attracted and empathetic to people who seem vulnerable and optimistic at the same time.
    The director also effectively amplifies the emotional aspect of the film. In many scenes, they would zoom into the faces of characters to capture their facial expressions and emotions.
    All these moves make for a very touching film that can easily resonate with many people. It does well to truly represent the experience that many low-class black people have to go through daily.

    The play Raisin in the sun (1958)

    In the play, Lorrain Hansberry does well to capture the everyday life of a working-class black family in Chicago. She does well to use dialogue to touch on topics such as race, classism, and identity.
    From the way that each character spoke, Hansberry gives the audience an idea of identity, education, and history. Lena uses speech that seems to be from an older generation compared to Beneatha who is younger and perhaps more educated than her. Asagai also speaks differently in a way that tells the audience that he is not from the same region as the Youngers. Overall, the speaking styles are important to provide an idea of the historical and perhaps social setting of each of the characters.
    The play, through the use of dialogue, also tells you that the theme is about dreams. Each of the characters has their own dreams and the way they interact with each other, as well as their mood, is related to how they will pursue these dreams. However, it appears that the one common dream they had was the house. This dream is always reminded to the reader throughout different experiences such as cleaning their existing house or the shared bathroom dynamics etc.

    Personally, I enjoyed reading the play more because the dialogue is more descriptive and immersive. The film does well to visualize the play but the reductions and questionable acting at some moments do not resonate as much.

    “Black Lives Are Shorter in Chicago. My Family’s History Shows Why.”

    Reading this article reminded me of the Just-Cause/Just-World Fallacy. It is a cognitive bias or belief that people deserve what they have or that the world is fair and those who do good will be reward and those who do not will be punished. This is a fallacy that explains a lot of the hate and lack of remorse that people have towards struggling social classes, and particularly black people, as described in the article. The article explains that historically, there are many social and public policies against black people that explain the inequality today. People of color are not disadvantaged because they did something wrong or “they deserve” to be in a lower social class. This is a great example of the Just-Cause fallacy.

    • Oliver Hadi

      Farai, I think the cognitive bias is a great point. I agree with all your comments. Sometimes, however, the same just comes out of plain ignorance. I believe that learning about the history and the implied strategies that powerful white people used to oppress several generations of African-Americans can actually overpower some people’s biases. However, I think we can see the point this reached today. Even if we were to convince everyone to overcome their biases, there is a faulty system that needs reconstruction before it could work for everyone.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Farai:
      Excellent work here, including on the Extra Credit. I believe you already have the makings of a very powerful Project 1, if you’d like to focus on housing, dreams in Raisin, and gentrification. I especially appreciate your point about these policies not being relegated to a particular place but to a biased thought process and flawed thinking. What you’re bringing in here about meritocracy is incredibly important for Hansberry’s text and our own time— the division in the United States.

      One followup question: do you think Walter shares the dream of the home? What are the implications of Mama Younger purchasing the house?

      • Farai Matangira

        I think to some extent he does share the dream of the home with his family, but he dreams for more. He dreams of owning more than just a home but houses, businesses, cars, yachts, and some power. In the play and the film, he mentions his admiration for people his age doing million-dollar deals while he works as a server to people he wants to be at the same social and financial level with. Mama Younger buying the house to Walter feels like a consolation prize for his failure after he was scammed. He has no choice but to be happy. But I feel that he will start becoming frustrated again in the long run unless he has some sense of self-progression financially and socially. This need for self-progression is what Ruth was describing when in a conversation with Lena she said “something is happening between Walter and me. I don’t know what it is—but he needs something
        —something I can’t give him anymore.” This implies that even if his family is satisfied and living in a happy home, he still has ambitions further than a happy home. He wants an empire.

        • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

          Very astute points here, Farai. Hansberry tackles this tension well, I think, and you just did a great job pointing to Walter’s frustrations with the lack of options. His desire for financial access and success is tied to issues of masculinity and race in the play.

    • kezia king

      I loved everything you said especially how you talked about how the author touched on dialogue so much. I agree with this so much. Their was so much coming from the monologues it self and getting to see it really play out in the film was beautiful. I also agree with you about how the acting could’ve been better. I think that mamas role was full of passion and drive and then when P diddy did his scenes I found myself looking away cringing. Haha let’s just say he’s not the best actor. But otherwise the film was well done especially by the lady who played mama

  13. Oliver Hadi

    A Raisin in the Sun – Play (1958)

    Hansberry, the author does a great job to show the everyday struggles and overall values of an average black family living in Southside Chicago. I personally enjoyed the play, it had expressed all emotions such as depression, anger, disappointment, sadness, helplessness, happiness, joy, empathy, etc. It felt almost like a roller coaster ride through the three acts of the play. I really enjoyed refreshing moments like when Walter Lee came home drunk and started dancing on the table while Beneatha was dancing and chanting to Nigerian music. It was a scene that got highly cut and modified in the 2008 movie adaption. The scene in particular didn’t seem to offer anything solid to the main storyline but acted as a break from all the stress and anticipation of drama as I was reading through. Another scene similar in form and attitude was when Travis got involved in rat chasing on the street. Overall, it was a great play written to perfection.

    A Raisin in the Sun – Movie (2008)
    I found the movie alright. I appreciated that the screenplay was adapted almost word to word because it helps to compare and contrast between the two mediums. In addition to the text, in the movie, the director was able to emphasize more on the specific emotions and experiences, such as the relationship between Ruth and Walter Lee. The majority of the conversations that went down in between the two of them, hardly ever held eye contact, while even showing their backs towards each other. Like when Ruth was preparing breakfast and was operating around the kitchen sink looking away from Walter while they had a conversation. The conversation itself suggests a disconnection between the two, but the camera setup is definitely highlighting those effects.

    A comparison between Play and Movie:
    Both the play and the movie showcased the racism and everyday struggles of the African-American communities that were focused in Chicago but could have been projected to other big cities with similar trends such as New York and Los Angeles.
    The play was written for theatre and was therefore limited in the spaces used for each scene. All of the play went down in the Younger’s living room that acted as the focal point and main stage for the story. In the movie, this was changed and the director introduced some new scenes such as the bar, some of the surrounding streets as well as the newly purchased house.
    As far as the main character, if I was asked under the first impression on who would be the lead character and focal point of the written play, I would choose Ruth. A black mother and wife who works full time, does the chores at home, and raises their kid Travis, while after all this, she is a subject not just of racism, but sexism as well. In contrast, the movie decides to shift more focus on Walter Lee, and the inner struggle of a man who thinks he deserves more from life, and is having issues with his pride and ego. This shift and recognition was through adding more additional scenes to Walter between the original play scenes to explain his own story better and deeper than all the other family member’s.
    One gesture that both the play and movie expressed quite well was a metaphor I found in Lena’s struggling plant. Both in the play and the movie starts out with the plant, and how it may not make it to the next year with that little sunlight they had. This plant can directly reflect the relationship of Ruth and Walter Lee, as well as the lives of the Younger family in general. At their current place, tensions were rising quickly between all members. Mother-daughter, mother-son, brother-sister, and husband-wife relationships were all tested. As a silver lining, it was their new home that represented a bounce back and a chance for a normal life with the right amount of “sunlight”. And in both the play and movie ending, a recognition was paid to the plant as one last thing to take from the apartment. (however, I liked it more when Lena took the plant in the play, rather than Walter in the movie)

    Black Lives Are Shorter in Chicago… The New York Times article:
    I found this article a great anecdotal piece with the right amount of studies incorporated to explain the relationship between the health of people and segregation. There is a direct connection between segregation and poverty, as well as between poverty and health. Redlining was a trend for white-controlled banks to split up the map into areas, and decide who will have access to money to invest in their neighborhood. As we know, this segregation of the areas lead to the misallocation of money and resulted in disinvestment into all colored neighborhoods. This disinvestment then leads to the degradation of schools, parks, infrastructure, and even businesses.
    I learned about the “contracts” to trap African-American owners for the first time. On the other hand, I’ve been doing research on “gentrification” and more specifically “eco-gentrification” and learned that this same trend of redlining and segregation left many neighborhoods in Chicago and New York susceptible to gentrification. The disinvestment into low-income and colored neighborhoods allowed private investors and developers to buy up property and completely change the fabric by building parks and apartments that are no longer meant for low-income but rather for the more affluent. This new completely “legal” trend is hurting the people and displacing them at a higher rate than ever.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Oliver,
      Outstanding work here. I’ve noticed your film adjective “alright”— what do you think would improve the film? I especially appreciate your description of the play as a roller coaster. Hansberry quite deftly alternates between moments of despair and joy, pressure and relief, claustrophobia and escape. Leon leans a bit more heavily toward the hopeful, I would say, in his musical scoring and softer version of Walter. Even the fire escape contributes in the release of the pressure valve.

      Excellent points about redlining. We see the aftermath in our own city.

      You have a lot of material here to work with for Project 1– –

  14. Daniel King

    I want to make a correlation between the end of Langston Hughes’ poem Harlem and the play A Raisin in the Sun; both the screenplay by Lorraine Hansberry and the film directed by Kenny Leon. Specifically, the last line in the poem “…Or does it explode?”.

    On page 129 of the play by Lorraine Hansberry, Mama beats her son Walter senselessly in the face after finding out that he never went to the bank and lost all of the rest of her insurance money that was leftover after she put the down payment on the house. In this moment, part of Mama’s dream to support her family after the loss of her husband and also Beneatha’s dream of going to school to become a doctor are deferred. Her reaction is explosive, as if she had been trying to deal with the pressure that had been building while dealing with Walter’s falters with the investments and his constant hunger to be more in life.

    In the play A Raisin in the Sun 2008 at timestamp 1:17:30 Walter feels his dream has been deferred when mama announces she bought a home in Clybourne Park. His emotions are explosive like the end of Langston Hughes’ Harlem. Walter says “…so what do you need me to say you did right for? So, you butchered up a dream of mine, you always talking ‘bout your children’s’ dreams.” and he storms off in a fit. He spends the entire night at The Green Hat to cool off and even returns after sunrise. Walter constantly feels as though no one believes in his larger aspirations of becoming a small business owner and once again the pressure from this continues to build until something pushes him over the edge. I found it interesting but also understandable that the film left out the violent moment between Mama and Walter later in the film.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Daniel,
      Interesting observations here. Thanks for bringing in Hughes. In the film, one of the few violent moments comes in Beneatha’s declaration of secularism- one of the generational tugs-of-war we have in the play.

      A question for everyone: what are the different dreams that have been deferred in the play? And how can we put this into dialog with the NYT article?

  15. Wilmer U. Chavez

    A Rising in the Sun
    This story is about a Black-American family, who lives in the South Side of Chicago in 1950. Consequently, it is interesting the development of their characters because most of them change their viewpoint while the story is passing or the contrast that exist between characters. Walter lee as the men of the family that at the beginning was frustrated with his social status always making comparison between his economic condition and trying to put pressure on his wife, mother, and sister but when finally he got the money and he lost it in an investment he changed and we can see him at first disturbed and at the and with clarity of what he has to do as the men of their home. On the other hand, Ruth who is Walter’s wife at the beginning we saw her as the housewife and trying to support her husband and submitting to him but then she changed her mind and tried to stop her pregnancy. Beneatha in the story she kept the same defending her viewpoints and wanting to be a doctor but after her brother Walter lost the money she did not want to do with her life, and she thought that she not became doctor. Then, Mama, she keeps the same in the story because she always demonstrated her love for her family and trusting on them even when she got frustrated when Walter lost the money.

    The contradictions that we can find in the characters that most probably the writer wanted to show us how things would be from the two different viewpoints. First, we can see the difference between Mama, Ruth, and Beneatha because mama and Ruth were married woman, being a housewife. On the contrary, Beneatha was a single feminist woman that do not know if she wants to get married but instead, she prefers to study and subject, and she would love to become a doctor. Second the difference of Walter and Beneatha dates because Walter is a married man and blindly wants to get Mama’s money. On the contrary, Beneatha dates have more knowledge and one of them is a professor and the other one is a guy who comes from a rich family.

    The difference of the movie and the play is that the play is more descriptive about what the characters are doing or what they are wearing. Absolutely, I can write that it is not the same of reading than seeing because I could imagine all the feelings that Ruth was feeling while she was trying to abort her baby but it is not the same trying to seeing her in the movie so stressful not knowing what to do and shaking, it is more impressive the reaction that conveys to the viewer, Or even with the pressure that Mama puts on Walter when she was telling him that he has to do what is right and I thought even I do not know what I could do if I would in his shoes.

    On the other hand, while I was reading, I was more able to pick more details that I did not notice while I was watching the movie as for example that Ruth had a job and also before Walter spoke with her mother about his investment idea Ruth spoke with her.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Wilmer,
      Very important point about Ruth’s experience with abortion being visualized in the film. In the play this very difficult issue is gestures towards but not expanded upon. We get a lot more of Ruth’s interiority in the film.

      Excellent contrast of gender roles in the various characters.

  16. Justin Pope

    A Raisin in the Sun (1958)

    In the play, there are more details present than Kenny Leon’s adaptation, but I feel the same is also true the other way around as well. The play also allows you to use your imagination more, and some of the characters have changed. In the 2008 movie, the audience can meet Willy’s character, whereas you do not in the play. The play also has another character named Mrs. Johnson, who is not in the 2008 movie. The play also has more limitations than a movie such as the set. In a movie, characters can easily move to another location, whereas in a play this would be more difficult, so the characters stay in the apartment. The movie gives in illustration of what the characters do outside the home such as Walter at his job, Lena at the grocery store, and Ruth attempting to get a sketchy abortion.

    A Raisin in the Sun (2008)
    I believe Kenny Leon’s adaptation of the play is successful because the film is well acted, well directed, and well shot. One of the most emotionally impactful moments in the film is when it turns out that Walter was scammed by his friend Willy, and he is forced to tell his mother about it. The acting here was great because you realize how hard Walter’s father worked for the money and how much it means to the family, and their emotional responses caused me to feel their pain. The director has good camera work by focusing more on the characters and using close ups during the emotional moments such as Bobo telling Walter that Willy took off with money, or when Asagai is explaining to Beneatha that her dream of being a doctor should not suddenly be gone just because Walter gave away the money. The scene I found the most compelling is near the end of the movie when Walter decides not to sell the house that his mother Lena bought to Mr. Linder as he is persuaded by his mother to live in Clybourne Park and tells Mr. Linder that his father earned the money for them to buy the house as a laborer. Shortly after, Lena says to Ruth that Walter has come into his manhood today.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Hi Justin,
      Thanks for bringing up Mrs. Johnson. Who is she, and what purpose do you think she serves in the play? Does it affect our understanding of the plot to have her role excised?

  17. Jeffrey Shor

    A Raisin in the Sun – Film (2008)

    I very much enjoyed this film and the fact that emotions were displayed all throughout and very easy to identify. Everything from the facial expressions to the emotions that the characters were going through was something that whoever is watching the film can relate to and understand. It was very clear from the setting that this was a lower-income working-class family as you can tell by the hopes and dreams and their place of residence. The film identified struggles that some families still experience to this day. Sacrifice was a big theme all around as well.

    A Raisin in the Sun – Play (1958)

    The play written by Lorraine Hansberry was very detailed and full of emotion, just as portrayed in the film. I feel that the emotion could be felt more in the play just because the reader is able to imagine and resonate with what is actually happening. From reading the play, the reader can get a sense of how the living situation was as well as the social inequality that existed. The hopes and dreams of careers and owning land, a better living situation, reading these scenes made me think about people who are similarly struggling and hope to better themselves. This felt relatable. I believe that this was a very well written play.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Thanks, Jeffrey. Was there a particular scene that stood out to you in the play, in terms of the writing?

      • Jeffrey Shor

        Hi Professor,

        The scene that stood out to me in the play was the same one I decided to adapt into a film for Project 1. It is the scene in the beginning where Travis is asking Ruth for the fifty cents he needs for school and his mama was not having it. Then he ended up getting the fifty cents from Walter, saving him from excessive labor after school. When reading this, I found this scene to be very relatable to many modern families where the children are always asking each parent for something until one of them says yes. I have been thinking about the scene after I read it, which is why I decided to choose it for Project 1.

  18. CindyNicole

    A Raisin In The Sun (Film)

    I’ve read the play in high school but never had the privilege to watch the movie. I’m really glad I did. The movie was dramatic, theatrical, whimsical and emotional. The way that you fall in love with the characters and they display real and raw emotions is not often shown in movies anymore. I enjoyed the director’s use of close-ups and setting up the audience for dramatic moments and conflict between the characters by using sound effects. The director also used the film’s score to heighten the film’s emotion and make scenes more gut wrenching and powerful. A scene that stood out to me was when Walter told his mama that the money was gone; the director executed it beautifully by focusing on mama’s reaction and Walter on his knees almost begging for forgiveness. The angles he used to capture mama’s sorrow and anger while doing close-ups of the rest of families bewilderment made the scene that much more powerful. This is the scene that made me cry like a baby.

    A raisin in the sun (play)

    This play will always be my favorite to read. It is much more detailed than the film and allows us as the audience to really capture the message Lorraine is trying to send. She is so in tune with social injustices that still exist to this day. Racism, gender inequality, discrimination and the pay disparity between genders and races are just as real today as they were in 1959. My only takeaway is that the betrayal between Walter and Willy Harris was as gut punching and shocking in the movie as it was in the play but I definitely enjoyed the played more.

    EXTRA CREDIT
    The article black lives are shorter in Chicago by Linda Villarosa is a story about generational trauma and systemic racism in Chicago. This article brings to light the decades of abuse that minority groups have had to endure and the damage it’s done. She highlighted all the lynching, redlining, racial terrorism and gross negligence that’s deep rooted in our history. Linda points out that the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the racial disparities in infections and deaths from COVID-19. She calls out the city for not doing enough to help their people and calls out government-sanctioned policies that systematically extracted wealth from Black neighborhoods and just left them to practically fend for themselves.

  19. Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

    Excellent work, CindyNicole, including with the extra credit. The version of the play we read has additional scenes not usually included- do you feel they changed your perspective of the play at all, since you encountered it before?

  20. Chris Del Castillo

    I have not been to many plays but in the Spring of 2019 I was able to watch a play named “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark”. This play really made me realize how powerful the intimacy of a play can be. There is something that happens when you are watching someone perform live versus watching a pre-recorded and edited best final shot. Even your standards change whether you realize it or not. As I was reading the play for “A Raisin in the Sun” I was trying to put myself back in the seat of that theater and envision the play. I did watch the movie first to get some kind of context but in reality so many things could have been different that might change the way I felt or understood something. Besides that, there is one major thing that stood out from the play for me. It was all done in one setting.
    The benefit of shooting a movie is that you have the freedom to film at multiple settings and blend them. This allows, I would even say forces, for the director to give context to situations and emotions. For example in the movie version of this play, you get to follow Walter and see him at the pub drinking after finding out his mother used the money to buy a house. With the use of editing and scene setting you can tell he spent days at the pub. So when the phone call comes from Walter’s employer you have the context of where he has been. Meanwhile in the play, when the phone call comes in there is not context, your mind starts to wonder if he really has been cheating. Film can also make this happen but in some ways every scene is like that in a play because of the limitations of a live stage. In my opinion the great plays know how to use this limitation to their advantage and keep the audience drawn in with suspense and anticipation.

    • Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

      Excellent points here, Chris. I like what you’re saying about capitalizing on the potential of the stage limitations. Leon takes liberties with Chicago and expanding the set, as it were. We know from the stage directions that Hansberry really wanted the play to be somewhat claustrophobic for the audience, too. It strikes me that the ending is a pressure release, as the family exits for the new home, but in reality there are significant questions about what kind of situation that will be for them.

  21. Al Saffie

    I enjoyed the film version of A Raisin in the Sun more than the play. I feel the film does a great job of emphasizing the actual circumstances Walter and his family experience. I can feel the crampiness of the tiny apartment in the film more than reading about it in the play. For someone raised in another country, experiences of minority families in the United States during this era are unfamiliar to me. I believe there is a significance to this piece of literary marvel that can only be grasped through the visual medium.

    I love that most of the scenes in the film are cut from eye level. I think this gives the viewer the perspective of someone present in the scene. It allows you to interact more with what is happening in the scene. Also, the music, sound effects, lighting, and setting around the film just adds a more dramatic effect to the story. I believe there is much to be appreciated of the film that cannot be captured in the play.
    I stumbled upon the 1961 film starring Sidney Poitier and Claudia Mcneil, which I happen to enjoy a lot better than the newer version. I enjoy older films, as I believe the acting from the yesteryears is a lot better. However, I believe the camera technology available during that time does not compare to what is available now. The camera angles from the newer film are a lot better.

  22. Caroline Chamberlin Hellman

    Interesting, Al. Thanks for this. Poitier’s Walter is very different, right? What about the acting or the film did you find more engaging? Can you share a particular quote/ Act and scene perhaps to compare and contrast?

    • Al Saffie

      “Damn all the eggs there ever was…” has to be my favorite line. This same line stood out to me in both the newer and older film. I think we all come to a point of heightened motivation, and it starts with a quote. When I decided to return to school, after 10 years, I blurted out, “Damn, it’s gonna be hard, but I’m no sucka!!!” This is not nearly the same thing, but I can see the motivation that lies within Walter to succeed.
      The acting in the older film is much better in my opinion, I’m a really big fan of Sidney. I feel I can relate more to seeing the emotion in the character better. I take more away from the film than I do reading the play.

    • Al Saffie

      “Damn all the eggs there ever was…” has to be my favorite line. This same line stood out to me in both the newer and older film. I think we all come to a point of heightened motivation, and it starts with a quote. When I decided to return to school, after 10 years, I blurted out, “Damn, it’s gonna be hard, but I’m no sucka!!!” This is not nearly the same thing, but I can see the motivation that lies within Walter to succeed.
      The acting in the older film is much better in my opinion, I’m a really big fan of Sidney. I feel I can relate more to seeing the emotion in the character better. I take more away from the film than I do reading the play.

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