Mama's Christian Love in A Raisin in the Sun
By Betsy Lizotte
While Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun has been noted as an enduring work because it denotes the societal ills of racism and segregation, it also endures because Christian values lace the play and these values appeal to its audiences who either believe in God, are predominantly Christian, are guided by Christian ideals or a combination of any of these principles. In Hansberry’s own words, “…it is a play that tells the truth about people[…]people who are the very essence of human dignity” (Nemiroff 91). While Mama’s children, Beneatha and Walter Lee, struggle to find their human dignity throughout the play, the matriarch, Lena Younger (Mama), exudes this quality. According to Christian teachings, human dignity derives from God – every human being was created in God’s image and so by their very existence they have inherent value and worth (The Holy Bible, Gen 1.27-8; Groody 111). Mama is sure in her faith in God and she uses her faith knowledge to teach her children. Because of this, A Raisin in the Sun sets an enduring example of how all people should support, get along with, and love each other. In a “Raisin in the Sun,” Mama Younger is a Christian who sets an example of how family members should love one another.
Since its opening, A Raisin in the Sun has been acclaimed by critics and audiences alike for various reasons. In 1959, Brooks Atkinson, a New York Times theater critic, stated that Lorraine Hansberry had brought up “some serious problems, but has not tipped the play to prove one thing or another” and “told the inner and out truth about a Negro family in the Southside Chicago” (1). James Baldwin, award-winning African-American writer and poet, notes that “Never before, in the entire history of American theater, had so much of the truth of black people’s lives been seen on stage” (Nemiroff – xii). The play has won numerous awards including the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award in 1959, the Cannes Gary Cooper Award (for most social and human significance) in 1961, and a Tony in 1974 (Wilkerson 1; Perkins, Loren 1, 4; Tony Awards)...