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Erin Foltz

BALL STATE UNIVERSITY

PATTERNS IN MY LIFE: A CRITIQUE OF A RAISIN IN THE SUN

A CRITIQUE PAPAER
SUBMITTED TO
DR. TRACEY CHESSUM
AND
DR. MICHAEL OHARA
IN CANDIDACY FOR THE DEGREE OF
PASSING UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT
IN THE DEPARTMENT OF THEATRE AND DANCE

BY
ERIN FOLTZ

MUNCIE, IN
22 FEBRUARY 2015
Pattens in my life: A critique of A Raisin in the Sun

Erin Foltz

Honey you never say nothing new. I listen to you every day every night and every morning and
you never say nothing new.- Ruth Younger
Humans are inexorably attracted to patterns. Patterns are everywhere in life, from our
DNA to the bus route used to get from class to class. They give us a sense of familiarity and
comfort. Its a sure fact that when everything in a persons life goes wrong the patterns and habits
that got him into his rut will not help him get out. Spontaneity keeps the mind and body young
and agile. By contrast, patterns dig us into our grave because they allow no outlet for creativity.
A perfect example of this situation is the Younger family in A Raisin in the Sun. The family let
the detail and patterns of daily stop them from seeing the happiness in simplicity. The specific
use of receptive music, looped blocking and a worn down set all helped portray that patterns are
nearly impossible to break, destructive, and contagious between family members.
The moment the show starts, the theme of patterns is introduced. The first thing heard
when the show started was a repetitive metronome in 3/4 time. The song set up the repetitive
nature of the rest of the show. Once in the rhythm of the music, one cannot break out of the
pattern he or she is grounded in. This musical choice served as a precursor to the family dynamic
that was soon portrayed on the stage. Suddenly, the song morphed into a jazz melody. The
detailed ornamentation of jazz music slipped in the foreground, yet the metronome rhythm from
the start of the show remained under the melody. This musical example showed that change can
be perceived to have happened but it really is just a facade. True change comes from an honest
place, almost as if the rhythm or heartbeat needs to change. More instruments and
ornamentation could have been added to the song but that would not have changed the most
basic elements of music, the time signature and melody. To fully change the song those simple
aspects of music most be revamped. The easiest way to perceive change would be to switch the

Erin Foltz

instrument playing but no real change has occurred because it is still the same song. The song
has to be scraped and started over with a whole new musical structure. This is difficult to do but
necessary in order to create a new song. Just as change in the Younger house hold was difficult
and hard but necessary for them to live happy productive lives.
The next production choice of A Raison in the Sun that established a sense of pattern
was the blocking using the couch in the center of the stage. Every member of the family sat on
the stage left side of the couch when his or her character felt uncomfortable or threatened. The
first family member to sit down in that specific spot was Travis Younger, the son of Ruth and
Walter. The couch in the living room is Traviss bed, when he woke up on it in the beginning of
the show he sat on the stage left side of it. Traviss bed is in the middle of the house very close to
the kitchen where Walter and his friends liked to meet and talk. The placement of Travis's bed
near the kitchen forces him to hear the things his father talks about late at night with his friends,
things a 10 year old most likely should not hear. The heated talk of money, alcohol, and
gambling the men talk about would make travis uncomfortable because there is conflict and
tension the child does not understand, The next character to sit on the stage left side of the couch
in times of trouble is Beneatha Younger. She sat there during Act 2 Scene 2 when George tried to
put a move on her. She sat on the stage left side, completely still, in an attempt to get George to
get away from her. Beneatha at the time, was terrified and unsure of how the night will end
causing her distress. The left side of the couch was utilized for the final time during the last
scene of Act 2. Mama sat there when Walter found out Will Harris conned him out of the money.
Mama lost control and collapsed on the couch asking for God to give her strength. These three
family members, utilizing the same spot on the couch to deal with negative emotions further
explains the theme that patterns are contagious. Humans copy in order to feel safe, one person

Erin Foltz

can fall into a negative spiral and affect every other family member whether he or she intended to
or not.
The patterns of the familys daily life are also seen in the set. The set looked old and worn,
realistic like an apartment during this time in the Chicago slums. The family put the furniture
and accessories together in a way that, when it was new, would have looked very nice. For
example, the wood used in the house had a nice dark toned wash that pulled together the fabrics
of the chair and couch. Unfortunately the Youngers never bought anything new for the house.
The wear was obvious. The family rusted the refrigerator exactly where they put there hands and
the chair was sagging in the middle from people sitting on it. The whole apartment looked as if
it had been used one too many times. The Youngers wore the life out of their apartment. They
never added or changed anything in their home. The family did not want to be this way. They
needed a fresh start to have the ability to change which is not always a luxury given. For
example, Ruth went out and bought new drapes when she heard the family was going to move.
Ruth wanted a change but was too deep in her pattern she concocted for herself that change
didn't seem possible. They had the ability to change small things in the house but to Ruth,
buying new things for the apartment would have meant staying there and never breaking the
pattern set down by many generations. It was not all Ruths responsibility, the family as a whole
never chose to deviate from the pattern, showing how entrenched they were.
By the end of the A Raisin in the Sun the Youngers were out of their pattern. They left
the apartment and moved to start fresh. So many variables like money and racial prejudice tried
to keep the Youngers from moving away from their pattern but the family was able to persevere
through it all. The set, blocking, and sound choices represent the pattern the Youngers had fallen

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into; these production choices made the final break of the pattern much more profound. By
moving out, the Youngers broke their cycle and also the cycle of the neighborhood they were
going to move into. The pattern the residents at Clybourne Park had made for themselves was
about to come crashing down, and the Youngers couldn't have been happier.

Works Cited

Hansberry, Lorraine. "A Raisin in the Sun." My Teacher Pages. 1 Jan. 1951. Web.
21 Feb. 2015. <http://www.myteacherpages.com/webpages/tpalacios/files/
ela11araisininthesun.pdf>.

Erin Foltz