What Does Music Symbolize in A Raisin in the Sun: Exploring the Significance of Music in Lorraine Hansberry’s Classic Play

Music has always been a powerful tool to express emotions and tell stories. In literary works, music is often used as a symbol to convey deeper meanings and insights about the characters and their journeys. Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” is no exception. In this acclaimed play, music is a multi-layered symbol that represents not only the African American culture and history but also the struggles and aspirations of the Younger family.

The music in “A Raisin in the Sun” is not just background noise or a filler for scene transitions. It is a crucial element of the play that helps to create the right mood, tone and atmosphere. From jazz and blues to spirituals and gospel, each musical style used in the play highlights a different aspect of the Youngers’ lives, dreams, and beliefs. Throughout the play, the characters express their emotions and thoughts through singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments. These musical moments are not only entertaining and heartwarming but also symbolic and revealing.

Furthermore, music in “A Raisin in the Sun” serves as a connecting force between the characters and their heritage. As they struggle to overcome poverty, discrimination, and social injustice, music becomes a source of comfort, pride, and identity. The characters use music to remember their roots, to celebrate their triumphs, and to find hope in challenging times. Whether it is Beneatha playing African rhythms or Mama singing church hymns, music brings the characters closer to their culture, their ancestors, and their humanity. In this way, music symbolizes not only joy and sorrow but also history and legacy.

The Role of Music in African American Culture

Music has been an integral part of African American culture since the days of slavery. It was a means of communication and a way for slaves to express their emotions and tell their stories. This tradition of using music to convey important messages has continued to this day and can be seen in Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin in the Sun.

In the play, music represents both the struggles and the triumphs of the African American experience. It serves as a reminder of the community’s collective history and the strength that comes from facing adversity together.

  • One of the most notable examples of music in the play is the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” This song, also known as the Black National Anthem, is sung by the characters as they move into their new home. It serves as a symbol of hope and a celebration of the family’s achievements.
  • Another example is the mention of the blues, a genre that was born out of the pain and suffering of African Americans. The character Walter Younger mentions that his father used to listen to the blues, highlighting the connection between music and the struggles of the past.
  • The final example is the use of jazz music throughout the play. Jazz, like the blues, has deep roots in African American culture and represents the community’s creativity and resilience. It is often used during moments of tension and conflict, highlighting the importance of music in bringing people together even in difficult times.

Overall, music in A Raisin in the Sun symbolizes the rich history and ongoing struggles of the African American community. It serves as a reminder of the past and a source of hope for the future, a testament to the power of music to inspire and unite people in the face of adversity.

The significance of jazz music in the play

In the classic play “A Raisin in the Sun,” music plays an important role in highlighting the themes and emotions of the story. Among the various genres that make an appearance in the play, jazz music takes a special place due to its connection to the African-American experience.

  • A symbol of cultural identity: Jazz music emerged out of the fusion of African and European musical traditions in the early 20th century and became a hallmark of African-American culture. In the play, the younger family listens to jazz on the radio and discusses the identity politics that are tied to it.
  • An expression of the struggle: Jazz music is characterized by improvisation and experimentation and reflects the struggle of African-Americans to find their voice in a society that often silences them. Similarly, the characters in the play are fighting against systemic racism and poverty in their own ways, and jazz provides a way for them to express their dreams and frustrations.
  • A catalyst for change: In the climax of the play, Beneatha – one of the younger family members – performs a spontaneous dance to a Nigerian folk song, breaking away from the more traditional music that has been playing. This gesture represents her rejection of assimilation into white-defined culture and her affirmation of her African roots. Jazz music, with its roots in African-American culture, serves as a symbol of this larger cultural and political struggle.

Overall, the inclusion of jazz music in “A Raisin in the Sun” amplifies the themes of the play and emphasizes the cultural and emotional identity of the characters. It showcases the unique creativity and resilience of African-Americans in the face of adversity.

The use of blues music in the play to convey emotions

Music plays a significant role in “A Raisin in the Sun” as it sets the tone for the play and enhances the emotions portrayed by the characters. One particular style of music that is predominantly featured is blues music. Blues music is a vital component of African American culture, and it is used in the play to convey the following emotions:

  • Sadness: The lyrics of blues music often deal with the pain and struggles of life, making it the perfect choice for conveying sadness.
  • Frustration: The use of a slow and melancholy blues piece can accentuate the frustration that the characters feel in their struggles against societal norms and injustices.
  • Hopelessness: The blues has a way of expressing the darkest emotions, such as despair and hopelessness. When played in the play, it underscores the feeling of hopelessness and despair among the characters.

The utilization of blues music in the play creates sympathy in the audience. The music soothes and elicits emotions permitting the audience to fully engage in the different emotions conveyed. In addition, blues music is a perfect response during moments when the character dialogue may be lacking in giving meaning or context and showcasing the emotions at play.

One of the most poignant blues moments in the play happens when Beneatha sings a mournful blues tune after the loss of her husband. Her voice is quavering with sadness as she tries to cope with her grief. This moment highlights the somber mood of the play and highlights the idea that everyone has their moment of mourning.

Overall, the use of blues music adds depth and richness to “A Raisin in the Sun,” allowing the audience to feel and understand the emotional journeys of the characters.

“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

The impact of traditional African music on the play’s soundtrack

One of the most striking aspects of “A Raisin in the Sun” is its use of traditional African music in its soundtrack. This music not only adds depth and texture to the play, but it also plays a significant symbolic role in the story. Here are four ways that traditional African music impacts the play’s soundtrack:

  • Emphasizes the characters’ roots and heritage: The use of African drumming, chanting, and singing throughout the play connects the characters to their African roots. The music serves as a reminder that their heritage is something to be proud of and cherished.
  • Highlights the importance of family and community: Traditional African music often involves group participation, with call-and-responses and communal dances. These elements are reflected in the play, where the characters’ sense of community and family is integral to their survival and success.
  • Expresses the characters’ emotions in a universal language: Traditional African music is known for its ability to communicate emotion and feeling through rhythm and melody. This is reflected in the play’s soundtrack, which often features music in moments of high emotion and tension.
  • Serves as a symbol of resistance and protest: Throughout African history, music has been used as a tool for protest and resistance against oppression. This theme is reflected in the play, where the characters face discrimination and injustice at every turn. The music serves as a symbol of their resilience and determination in the face of adversity.

Overall, the use of traditional African music in “A Raisin in the Sun” is a powerful symbol of the characters’ heritage, community, and resistance. The music adds depth and texture to the play’s soundtrack, and it serves as a reminder of the rich cultural heritage that informs the story.

The Contrast Between the Different Music Genres Present in the Play

The use of music in A Raisin in the Sun plays a significant role in portraying the different characters and their emotions. The play features various music genres that reflect the African American culture and its history.

  • Gospel Music: Gospel music is a significant genre in the play and is used to showcase the strong faith of the Younger family. The hymns they sing reflect their hope for a brighter future and their trust in God. It also functions as a form of communal expression, bringing the family together during moments of hardship and joy.
  • Jazz Music: Jazz music is associated with the character of Walter Lee and his internal conflicts. The lively and improvisational nature of jazz reflects Walter Lee’s restless spirit and his desire for something more out of life. At the same time, jazz also reminds him of the cultural contributions of African Americans, reinforcing his sense of identity.
  • Popular Music: Popular music is used to represent the dreams and aspirations of the Younger family. The family members listen to popular music on the radio and express their desire for material comforts and a better life. The contrast between popular music and gospel music also highlights the generational differences within the family.

The contrast between the different music genres in the play represents the diversity within African American culture and the various ways that music reflects their experience.

Additionally, the music in A Raisin in the Sun also serves as a means of coping and healing. For example, when Beneatha plays the African folk song on her guitar, it symbolizes her connection to her African roots and her desire to reclaim her identity. The music creates a sense of community and comfort in a world that often feels isolating and oppressive.

Musical Genre Character Symbolism
Gospel The Younger family Hope and community
Jazz Walter Lee Restlessness and identity
Popular The Younger family Aspirations and generational differences

The contrast between the different music genres in A Raisin in the Sun reflects the diversity within the African American experience and serves as a means of coping and healing. The music represents the aspirations, struggles, and hopes of the Younger family, highlighting the universal human experience of striving for a better life.

The use of music to underscore the play’s themes of identity and heritage

One of the noteworthy elements in A Raisin in the Sun is the use of music to highlight the play’s themes of identity and heritage. Hansberry employs music to emphasize the cultural and emotional struggle of the African American characters as they confront societal barriers and strive to define their identities.

  • African Music: African music serves as a powerful symbol of cultural identity. The play opens with the tune of “Poor Little Black Sheep” that Mama sings while she waters her plants. This song represents the roots of African American culture and Mama’s connection to her heritage and ancestors who endured slavery and oppression. Furthermore, African music is also present in the character of Joseph Asagai, who comes from Nigeria and brings with him the Yoruba language and traditional Nigerian music.
  • Bessie Smith’s song “Gimme a Pigfoot (And a Bottle of Beer)” is central to the play and is referred to by several characters. The lyrics of the song reflect the struggles of black women and their desire for freedom and empowerment. More significantly, the song captures the spirit of Mama, who determines to buy a house for her family with the insurance money. The song represents the hope and aspirations of African Americans to rise above poverty and discrimination.
  • Lena’s hymn singing with the lyrics “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” repeatedly contrasts and blends unexpectedly with Beneatha’s singing of “Gone with the Wind”, the name of Scarlett O’Hara’s plantation, which was a symbol of wealth, privilege, and racism. Lena’s song is a representation of black religion, a legacy of slavery that survives and inspires hope, while Beneatha’s song is a symbol of cultural assimilation and the adoption of white values, which leaves behind black identity and heritage.

    Aside from the songs, music is also used to establish the atmosphere of scenes and highlight the emotional state of characters. The music underscores the moments in the play where characters face choices about their identity and heritage. An example of this is when Walter is conflicted about selling his family’s pride to invest in a business and ultimately decides not to do so, the music rises to a crescendo that emphasizes the importance of his decision.

    Song Artist Significance
    Poor Little Black Sheep Traditional Symbolizes African American cultural heritage
    Gimme a Pigfoot (And a Bottle of Beer) Bessie Smith Represents the aspirations of African Americans to overcome poverty and discrimination
    Swing Low, Sweet Chariot / Gone with the Wind Lena and Beneatha Contrasts black religion with cultural assimilation and the adoption of white values

    Overall, music serves as a meaningful tool for conveying the themes of identity and heritage in A Raisin in the Sun. Its presence adds depth to the characters, creates a mood, and articulates the play’s message about the enduring power of African culture and identity in the face of oppression and adversity.

    The Lyrics of the Songs Used in the Play as a Commentary on the Story’s Events

    The use of music in A Raisin in the Sun is significant as it provides a commentary on the events taking place in the story. The lyrics of the songs used in the play convey the mood, emotions, and struggles of the characters and add depth to their stories. They provide a glimpse into the characters’ lives, their hopes, and their dreams.

    • The first song that is used in the play is “Blue Monday” by Fats Waller. The song is played as the Younger family is packing and preparing to move into their new home. The song’s lyrics provide a contrasting tone to the joyous occasion, as they talk about the struggles of the working-class and the difficulties of making ends meet.
    • Another song that is used in the play is “Beneatha’s Blues” by Judd Woldin and Robert Brittan. The song is played during a scene where Beneatha is struggling to find her identity and purpose. The song’s lyrics talk about the challenges of being a black woman in a white-dominated world and the need to find oneself.
    • “You Oughta Be Here with Me” by Benny Carter is played during a scene where Walter’s sister, Beneatha, is hummed the song by George, her date. The song’s lyrics talk about the yearning for a loved one’s presence and the feeling of emptiness when they are not around.

    The use of music in A Raisin in the Sun helps the audience to better understand the characters, their struggles, and their desires. Through the lyrics, the audience can feel the emotions of the characters and connect with their stories on a deeper level. The songs provide commentary on the events taking place in the story and add layers of meaning to the play.

    How music serves as a form of expression for the Younger family

    In Lorraine Hansberry’s play “A Raisin in the Sun,” music serves as a powerful form of expression for the Younger family. Through their love for music, the characters are able to express themselves and communicate their emotions in ways that they cannot through spoken words alone. Music plays an integral role in their lives, and it symbolizes their hopes, dreams, and struggles.

    • Music as a way to cope with the struggles of poverty:

      The Younger family lives in poverty and struggles to make ends meet. Music offers them a temporary escape from their daily struggles. For example, in Act I, Scene 1, Ruth sings a gospel song in the kitchen while she prepares breakfast. The song provides her with a moment of comfort and peace, even as she worries about how to pay the bills.

    • Music as a symbol of the family’s heritage:

      The Younger family is proud of their African American heritage, and music plays a significant role in this. Mama reminisces about her family’s “big old Baptist church” and the hymns they used to sing there. Ruth and Beneatha both express their love for African music and dance. Through their appreciation of music, the Younger family celebrates their cultural identity.

    • Music as a way to rebel against societal expectations:

      The Younger family faces many societal pressures and expectations, particularly concerning race and gender. Music serves as a way for them to rebel against these expectations and express their individuality. For example, Beneatha’s interest in African dance and music is seen as unconventional and even controversial by some characters in the play. However, she refuses to conform and instead embraces her love for these art forms.

    Furthermore, music is used to reinforce the themes of the play. Throughout the play, the characters struggle to achieve their dreams and escape the poverty that plagues their lives. Music symbolizes the hope they hold onto, even in the face of adversity. The play’s title itself, “A Raisin in the Sun,” is a reference to a Langston Hughes poem that likens unfulfilled dreams to a raisin drying up in the sun. Like the raisin, the Younger family’s dreams may wither and die, but music serves as a reminder of the hope they hold onto.

    Character Song/music referenced
    Ruth “Good Mornin’, Jesus” (gospel song)
    Mama Hymns from her “big old Baptist church”
    Beneatha African music and dance

    In conclusion, music is a powerful tool for expression in “A Raisin in the Sun.” It serves as a coping mechanism, a symbol of cultural identity, a way to rebel against societal expectations, and a reminder of hope. Through their love for music, the Younger family is able to communicate their emotions and desires, making it a crucial element in the play’s themes of hope and perseverance.

    How music serves as a source of hope and motivation for the characters in the play

    In A Raisin in the Sun, music is more than just a form of entertainment. It serves as a powerful source of hope and motivation for the characters, helping them to endure their difficult circumstances and pursue their dreams. Let’s explore some of the ways music plays this role in the play:

    • Music as a reminder of heritage: For Mama, African American spirituals and hymns serve as a reminder of her family’s history and cultural heritage. Through music, she is able to stay connected to her roots and pass down those traditions to her children.
    • Music as a form of resistance: Throughout the play, Beneatha expresses her dissatisfaction with the limitations placed on women and African Americans. Music serves as a form of resistance for her, allowing her to assert her identity and voice her frustrations. For example, when she does the “be-bop” dance, she is taking ownership of her body and expressing her freedom.
    • Music as a way to cope with hardship: The characters in A Raisin in the Sun face numerous challenges, from poverty to racism to housing discrimination. Music helps them to cope with these difficulties and find moments of joy amidst the struggle. For example, when Ruth sings “Green Pastures” in Act I, she is able to briefly forget her exhaustion and find comfort in the music.

    Overall, music symbolizes the resilience and perseverance of the characters in A Raisin in the Sun. It represents their hope, their dreams, and their determination to overcome the barriers that stand in their way.

    The role of music as a unifying force within the African American community depicted in the play

    Music in “A Raisin in the Sun” is more than just a form of entertainment; it symbolizes the unity and strength of the African American community. Throughout the play, music is used to provide a sense of comfort, hope, and togetherness amidst the struggles of racial oppression and economic hardship.

    • Music as a representation of cultural identity: The characters in the play take pride in their African American heritage and use music as a way to express their roots and cultural identity. For example, Beneatha plays traditional African music on her phonograph, sharing her knowledge and appreciation of their cultural heritage with her family.
    • Music as a form of protest: The play takes place during a time of social and political turmoil, and music serves as a powerful tool to convey the African American community’s resistance against oppression and racial discrimination. The song “We Shall Overcome” is used as a symbol of hope and determination to fight for equal rights and justice.
    • Music as a unifying force: The Younger family faces several challenges, including financial troubles and personal conflicts. Yet music continuously brings them together, providing a sense of unity and togetherness. For example, when Walter and Beneatha’s arguments threaten to tear them apart, their mother Lena plays the piano, bringing peace and harmony back to the family.

    In addition, music is used as a metaphor for the play’s themes of dreams and aspirations. Just as music has the power to uplift and inspire, the characters have their own desires and dreams that sustain them through difficult times. In this way, music becomes more than just a background element but a vital, thematic component of the play.

    Song Title Artist Significance in the Play
    “We Shall Overcome” Pete Seeger Represents the Civil Rights Movement and the African American community’s fight for justice and equality.
    “I Wanna Be Loved by You” Betty Boop/ Marilyn Monroe Represents Ruth’s dream of a better life with Walter.
    “The Star-Spangled Banner” Francis Scott Key Represents Walter’s dream of financial success and the American Dream.

    In conclusion, music in “A Raisin in the Sun” represents the strength and unity of the African American community. It serves as a symbol of cultural identity, resistance, and hope amidst the struggles of discrimination and hardship. Music becomes a vital element in the play’s themes of dreams and aspirations, highlighting how these aspirations can bring people together and give them hope for a better future.

    FAQs: What Does Music Symbolize in A Raisin in the Sun?

    1. What role does music play in A Raisin in the Sun?

    Music is used throughout the play to set the mood and tone of scenes. It also serves as a symbolic device to represent the emotions and experiences of the characters.

    2. What kind of music is featured in the play?

    The play features a variety of music, including blues, jazz, and African tribal music. Each type of music represents different themes and ideas in the play.

    3. How does music contribute to the theme of the play?

    Music contributes to the theme of the play by representing the struggles and aspirations of the African American community. The music also represents the cultural heritage of the characters.

    4. How does music reflect the characters’ emotions and experiences?

    The music represents the characters’ emotions and experiences by mirroring the mood and tone of their situations. For example, when the characters are hopeful, the music is upbeat and lively.

    5. What is the significance of Asagai’s drumming in the play?

    Asagai’s African drumming represents his connection to his heritage and his desire to preserve his culture. It also symbolizes the importance of tradition and identity.

    6. How do the younger and older generations differ in their appreciation of music?

    The younger generation, represented by Beneatha, is more open to new and diverse styles of music. The older generation, represented by Mama and Ruth, prefer traditional African American music like blues and gospel.

    7. How does music tie into the play’s overarching themes of dreams and hope?

    Music ties into the play’s themes of dreams and hope by showcasing the characters’ aspirations and struggles. Music also serves as a source of comfort and inspiration for the characters during difficult times.

    Closing Thoughts: Thanks for Joining Us!

    We hope you enjoyed learning about what music symbolizes in A Raisin in the Sun. The play uses music to represent the characters’ emotions, struggles, and hopes, as well as their cultural heritage. Whether it’s the African tribal music or the blues and jazz, music serves as a source of inspiration and comfort for the characters in the play. Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back for more insights on literature and culture!