The novel ‘A raisin in the Sun’ written by Hansberry Lorraine, is about the younger family, an African American family from 1950s South Side, Chicago. The story begins with the family receiving an insurance compensation of $10,000 from a life insurance policy of the deceased Mr. Younger (Weschler 2). The story revolves around the wishes and ideas each adult member has concerning this money and which ends up causing a conflict of views. This research is concerned with a character analysis of the supporting characters Willy Harris, George Murchison, Linder, Bobo, and Joseph Asagai, by looking at their significance to the development of the Youngers and the storyline. It is carried out since the characters Willy Harris, George Murchison, Linder, Bobo, and Joseph Asagai have a relationship in one form or another to the Youngers and affect how the family members deal with their predicaments.
The author presented these individuals as support characters with views, ideologies, and thoughts that shaped how the main characters Mama younger, Beneatha, Lena, Walter, Ruth, and Travis Younger interacted. Moreover, they are very influential in the development of the storyline. Joseph Asagai was presented by the author as a Nigerian student who is in love with Beneatha. George Murchison is a wealthy African American courting Beneatha, while Karl Linder is the only white man in the story. Bobo is an African American who assists Walter in his liquor store plan, while Willy Harris is a close friend and associate of Walter (Weschler 1).
Each of these characters presents a profound impact on the Youngers and the story. For example, Joseph Asagai gives the story a rich international perspective. Asagai is presented as an educated and learned young man, proud of his African heritage. The author develops the character from her pan-Africanism view as a changed black African who can lead to changes in African Americans, and which he achieves through Beneatha (Ingle 184). This character is also important for he assists in the definition of black masculinity and the position of African women in this role. Asagai achieves this by assisting Beneatha to define her sexuality, her own defined identity and eventually helps her emerge at the end of the story, as an African American woman celebrating her African heritage and blackness (Mafe 30).
This character is very influential in the development of the theme of self-definition in terms of African sexuality, pride, and ambition of women inextricably from the African heritage (Mafe 30). This is because he tries to teach and use his love for Beneatha to assist her in defining her heritage. The character continually criticizes Beneatha in the story as a means to assist her to define her heritage. Asagai criticizes Beneatha’s straightened hair that resembles Caucasian hair and he, therefore, encourages her to cut it to gain new strength and energy. Additionally, the character criticizes her lack of independence and identity as she pegs her dream of going to medical school on the insurance money and Walter’s investment plans. This criticism opens the eyes of Beneatha to her definition of her existence and personal identity. Moreover, the character assists readers and viewers of the plays and movies to critically analyze the definition of being an American with an African dissidence.
The same theme of African American self-identity and heritage is defined through the character of George Murchison, who is also casually dating Beneatha (Weschler 1). However, unlike Asagai, George Murchison is the representation of African American pride, as he is depicted as a wealthy businessman’s son. George is an arrogant African American, who has successfully assimilated the beliefs, ideologies, and culture of the white or western world. This character depicts a characteristic of African Americans during the 1950s society that was rich in cultural, social, and economic assimilation. The theme of assimilation is prevalent in the entire storyline, as George represents African Americans who have lost touch with their African dissidence or heritage. Asagai believes that having an African heritage is important while George sees it as a waste of time. George was approved by the Younger family as a suitable suitor for Beneatha for he was extremely wealthy and who was able to fit into the white society. He is the epitome of white supremacy as he challenges black feelings and thought through the flair and arrogance of intellectual competition. This difference is also seen in George’s rich American dialect which differs greatly from the Younger family’s African American dialect. For example, the younger’s use throughout the story words like ‘I don’t want anything’ which is repetitive negatives (Weschler 3). However, despite the strong support for George, Beneatha disagreed with this view, due to the influence of self-identity growing in her from Asagai (Weschler 2).
Additionally, characters have effectively promoted the theme of family generation through personal growth regardless of tough economic and social oppressions from the society and the theme of family lineage (Ardolino 181). Asagai depicts his strong African roots in his family lineage and heritage which he uses to assist Beneatha to define her personal growth. Meanwhile, George is the perfect example of African American family lineages and personal development from family inheritance as seen from the eyes of African Americans assimilated into the white culture. Through the character of George, Beneatha depicts African women who enjoy unbefitting middle-class luxuries despite the poverty within the family which also adds a flaw in her character. This can be seen as she follows George to enjoy white activities like guitar lessons, play-acting, and horseback riding (Mafe 30). The character of Lindner depicts white cultural supremacy that seeks to oppress African Americans to maintain their inheritance and heritage.
Another important supporting character is Lindner Karl who is the only white person in the story. The character represents white American negative and racial thoughts on African Americans as he makes an offer to the Youngers not to shift to his exclusive white district. At first, one can be deceived by the politeness in this representative of Clybourne park, as be depicts the need for people from different ethnicity and races to have dialogue as a means to solve problems. However, his exclusive white neighbors cannot accommodate the thought of a black family in their neighborhood and therefore, Lindner has to bribe the Youngers to keep off. The author effectively uses this character to represent the theme of racial segregation which was influential in the perpetuation of poverty among African Americans, 1950s American society heavily marked by the civil rights movement (Wilkerson 710).
The character Bobo is a friend to Walter Younger, who gets into business with Walter by assisting in the laying out of floor plans for a liquor store. In addition, the character Willy Harris is associated with Walter Younger. These characters represent the African American young culture of scheming and hatching plans in the hope of making money. They assist in the development of Walter Younger’s character since they offer insight into his personal growth and eventual pride in his family lineage (Ardolino 181). African American male roles in social contexts like crime, family responsibility, and poverty are depicted by these characters. As Willy convinces Walter to open the liquor store and runs away with his money. In the end, each character is a strong representation of African American society during the 1950s.
Ardolino, Frank. “Hansberry’s a Raisin in the Sun.” The Explicator 6.3 (2005): 181+. AcademicOneFile. Web.
Ingle, Zachary. “‘White Fear’ and the Studio System: a Re-evaluation of Hansberry’s Original Screenplay of A Raisin in the Sun.” Literature Film Quarterly 37.3 (2009): 184. AcademicOneFile. Web.
Mafe, Diana A. “Black women on Broadway: The Duality of Lorraine Hansberry’s a Raisin in the Sun and NtozakeShange’s for Colored Girls.” American Drama 15.2 (2006): 30+. AcademicOneFile. Web.
Weschler, Raymond. A Raisin in the Sun. Drama/Classic 1960.
Wilkerson, Margaret B. “Lorraine Hansberry: A Research and Production Sourcebook.” African American Review 33.4 (1999): 710. AcademicOneFile. Web.