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Writing an Analysis Essay of A Raisin in the Sun
Writing an analysis essay can seem like an overwhelming task, because there are innumerable ways one can break down and examine a literary work. Once you understand how to critically examine a text, however, you can apply the principles to anything. The goal is to read closely and critically some particular part or aspect of the work in order to help understand it as a whole. It’s a continual process of going back and forth between a part and the whole. The part can be a theme (in the case of A Raisin in the Sun, dreams, family life, racism, the “American Dream” among others), a character, a phrase or passage (“Eat your Eggs”), or a setting (the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago), among others. Train yourself to notice patterns, and to ask what they mean. Why does Mama’s plant figure so prominently? It becomes evident in the context of the whole play that it symbolizes her attitudes toward her own dreams and aspirations, and the kind of care she exercises toward them.
A successful analysis essay requires 3 things:
- Taking good notes: Underline passages, as you’ll be using them as evidence for your thesis.
- Brainstorming: Write down all of your ideas, and then narrow them down to the best one.
- A solid thesis: you want to make a specific claim and provide evidence from the text to back it up
Here are some ideas to get you started analyzing A Raisin in the Sun:
- The title comes from a Langston Hughes poem called “Harlem,” also known as “Dream Deferred.” What are all the deferred dreams in the play? Read the Hughes poem and see what else in the poem might be relevant to the play.
- What are the attitudes of different characters toward race and the American Dream?
- What does Asagai mean by “I live the answer”?
- Mama and Walter disagree over whether life was always about money, or whether “freedom used to be life”? Does the play as a whole answer this question, and how?
- What is the significance of money in the play? Note all the instances of a character speaking about money and their attitudes toward it. Contrast different character’s attitudes, or the difference between one character’s attitude and their actions.
- Note the mentions of “house” or “home.”
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