A Raisin in the Sun is essentially about dreams, as the main characters struggle to deal with the oppressive circumstances that rule their lives. The author Lorraine Hansberry was born in Chicago the youngest of four children, got the title of the play from Langston Hughes a poem that he wrote about dreams that were forgotten or put off. He wonders whether those dreams shrivel up "like a raisin in the sun." The Younger family lived on the Southside of Chicago, in a neighborhood that was entirely black. Their Chicago apartment had two bedrooms. Every member of the Younger family has a separate, individual dream, Beneatha wants to become a doctor, and Walter wants to have money so that he can afford things for his family. The Younger struggle to attain these dreams throughout the play, and much of their happiness and depression is directly related to their attainment of, or failure to attain, these dreams. .
During this era, segregation, the separation of whites and blacks, was still legal and widespread throughout the South. Northern states, including Illinois, had no official policy on segregation, but were generally segregated along racial and economic lines. Chicago was a striking example, of strictly divided black and white neighborhoods. These conflicts were in direct contrast with the author who as a child, her family became .
one of the first to move into an all white neighborhood. When their neighbors rebelled, both with threats of violence and legal action, they defended themselves, and her father .
successfully brought his case all the way to the Supreme Court. Lorraine Hansberry wrote that she felt that she had to record her experiences. Ruth Younger, Walter Lee's wife and Travis's mother, tends the small apartment and works as a cook. Her marriage to Walter has faded, but she hopes to rekindle their love. She is about thirty, but in her weariness seems older. Walter Lee wants to be rich like his friends, Willy Harris in particular.