Running head: Differences and Similarities
Differences and Similarities in the Film and Play
A Raisin in the Sun
Tulsa Community College
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry surprised me, both the play and film. I expected it would be good but not extraordinary. Since I did not grow up in the United States and did not finish high school here, I was not required to read certain books, plays, films, and other works created by amazing American writers. I grew up in a then small Brazilian community in Boston and never developed a taste for American literature. Everything I did was mostly in Portuguese – all my friends, family, church and even the markets I went to – everything was in Portuguese. English literature and superb vocabulary are coming to me gradually as I am developing a need and a want for it. I watched the film A Raisin in the Sun written by Lorraine Hansberry and produced in 1961 by Columbia Pictures Corporation and I also read the play. Although similarities between the play and the film exist, I have also found distinctions which allow each of the versions of A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry to stand on its own.
Differences and Similarities Differences and Similarities in the Film and Play A Raisin in the Sun
In the play, the entire story happens in the Younger’s living room, in Chicago’s Southside, where in the 1950s it was the home of poor, black people. The film, in contrast, had different sets: Walter’s and Ruth’s bedroom, Beneatha’s and Mama’s bedroom, the bar, Walter at work, and the new house. The different sets in the film make it more interesting, because it shows how their real life is outside their little living room.
The play illustrates the apartment as being small and that “weariness has, in fact, won in this room” (pg.23), meaning that the room is old and in poor condition. In my opinion the film shows the living room as small but it does not show it as worn or raggedy as the play implies. Although these living conditions are considered poverty, the film presents the room as, though small for the whole family, well kept and does not appear worn out.
Some characters’ facial expressions in the film were exactly as I had visualized in the play. It was easy to compare Walter’s, Mama’s, and Beneatha’s facial expressions from the play. Walter, played by Sidney Poitier, was perfect in showing the emotional side of the character and his concerns with the family’s living conditions as described in the play. The scene he appears drunk and dancing in the kitchen was exactly how I had pictured it. Beneatha, played by Diana Sands, was a strong determined woman for the time. Beneatha knows what she wants and has a different belief in what God’s role among humanity is, although that causes a conflict between her and Mama when she says to Mama that she gets “tired of Him getting credit for all the things the human race achieves through its own stubborn effort” (pg. 51), meaning that she is not in agreement that God is thought of as the one who does something good while it is through human’s efforts that things get accomplished. Both the play and the film show the exuberance of Beneatha’s character. Ruth, played by Ruby Dee, on the other hand, did not appear to be as angry. In the play, every time she would say to Walter to leave her alone, I pictured her as being mad and fuming but in the film she seemed to be annoyed by Walter but not mad.
The $10,000 life insurance money coming their way has put the family in a hopeful situation for a better life but it has also put the family in discord and has caused them to fight amongst themselves. When Mama receives the check, Walter again tries to talk her into opening the liquor store. Mama, being the devout Christian she is, states she will not put her money in that type of business because she does not want that on her “ledger this late in life,” (pg. 42) meaning she does not want the liquor store written in her book of life when she goes to meet God, and she does not “aim to have to speak on that again” (pg. 70), meaning she does not want to speak on this subject again. In the play, this discussion takes place in the living room but in the film, this discussion takes place in Mama’s bedroom.
Another difference is the bar Walter frequently attends. In the film the bar is called the Kitty Cat while in the play the bar is called the Green Hat. In the film, Mama leaves the apartment to go get Walter out of the bar. While in the bar, Mama gives him $6,500 rolled up in a big roll and tells him “to be the head of this family from now on” (pg. 107) like he is supposed to be, which means that from that point on he would make all the major decisions for the family. In the play, this entire scene happens a little different. Mama gives him the money in an envelope inside the apartment, just after she turns off the radio.
Walter is a man full of dream and lives in a world out of reality. He has dreams of becoming a business man and giving a better life for his family. His dreams makes him become irresponsible, because he fails to show up to work for three days in a row and he puts all the money Mama had given him in the hands of a man by the name Willy, played by Roy Glenn in the film, who promises to go get their liquor license to start their business but disappears with the money. Towards the end of the story Walter does something noble and unexpected: he tells Lindner, played in the film by John Fiedler, he and his family have made a decision and they are going to move to their new house.
In conclusion, I have found that the play and the film are excellent. However, I liked the film better because it allowed me to view the actors’ emotions better. The added scenes were used to bring the play into reality and show, for example, Walter’s way of life at work and at the bar. I also thought the scene that the family goes to the new house was an important part of the film because it shows how much the family was longing to have their own house and move from the filthy place they lived in. In addition, the part where Mama raises her arms to strike Walter was a powerful scene, one that words alone could not explain better than seeing the actors perform it.
Hansberry, Lorraine (1987). A Raisin in the Sun. New York, New York: Penguin Group.
Columbia Pictures Corporation, (Producer). (1961). A Raisin in the Sun [Film].