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Afro-American Culture

Sandra Seaton offers a comprehensive analysisto a wide range of literary criticism to the Hansberry’s play “ARaisin in the Sun”. Among the prominent critics,whoseliterary works she analyses and evaluates, are Harold Cruse and C. W. E. Bigsby. Although Cruse and Bigsbycriticize Hansberry’s work, Seaton applauds the dramatic styles used in the play to depict the true nature of Afro-Americans. Being a Black Nationalist, Cruse maintains that the play is not a true representation of the ideas and real life experiences of the blacks,but that of the whites. On his part, C. W. E. Bigsby feels that the play fails to address the plight of the Negros at all, as purported by the playwright.

Amidst all of these disagreements, Seaton admits a number of objections raised by Cruse in the articleconcerning historical accuracy of the play. For instance, the play erroneously presents the Negro family to be dual-sided at the same time: “working class” and the “middle class”. This discrepancy is overruled in the interactions between Walter and Mr. Lindner as it emerges that the family is a “working class” in the play. This is supported by Mama Younger’s statement “We ain'tno business people, Ruth. We just plain working folks” (17).To his surprise, Cruse wondered if this family is truly a middle class, given the kind of life they live. They live in ghetto and yet they have an insurance policy of $10,000.  Additionally, their daughters study medicine, while their son, a taxi driver (chauffer), has a political connection that enabled him to acquire a credit to open a liquor store. This is an outright double standard. Although Cruse considers the historical and sociological concept of racism in determining social and economic class, Seaton dispels this misleading belief and further clarifies that dramatic plausibility of the play surpasses its sociological accuracy. As much as the Youngers think of themselves as the working class, the play depicts them as workers of the white middle class, as does their emulated lifestyles.

Additionally, Seaton praises Hansberry for her intermittent use of working class and middle class in such a way that it does not incriminate the lifestyle and culture ofthe Afro-American families. According to Seaton, the objection advanced by the critics is a clear indicator of Hansberry’s success in “creating characters, whose complexities are both true to life and the demands of art. She argues that Hansberry is able to display her conscious and skillful use of dramatic irony; thus she is not ideologically confused as her critics think of her.Concerning C. W. E. Bigsby’s critics that the play is all about “merely parochial” narrow outlook accompanied by unexpected resolution, for instance,when the insurance money acts as a dues ex machine, Seaton terms this a dramatic givens of the play. Nonetheless, some critics praise the play for the universality of its message.Rather than explicitly sticking to the topical issues about the Afro-Americans, the play presents other themes such as honesty to God.

Most importantly, Seaton is categorical that the main point in the play is not who the characters are, but the message that has to be relayed to the audience and readers since anyone can act any given role. Borrowing examples from O’Neill’s play, “Ralleigh”, Seaton explains her theme of “religion-Blasphemy”. She points out that the dualism of religion-blasphemy is most apparent in Tyrone family just the same way Mama Younger’s children challenged her faith, protestant Christianity with blasphemous denials.

In conclusion, despite objections raised by Cruse and Bigsby, Seaton’s essay is very important in the understanding of the play “A Raisin in the Sun”. Not only does it bring to fore the historic reality surrounding the black cultures, but also various artistic techniques employed in the play. 

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