University of Alberta
Department of English and Film Studies
ENGL 122: Texts and Contexts
Essay #2 (Research Essay)
Date Assigned: October 16, 2013
First Draft Due: November 18, 2013
Peer Editing Workshop: November 22, 2013
Final Draft Due: November 25, 2013
With reference to “Is the American Dream Over?” by Cal Thomas OR/AND “The
American Dream: Dead Alive, or on Hold?” by Brandon King, write a research
paper on one of the following topics on Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun
Choose a topic that enables you to come up with a clearly articulated thesis
The thesis statement should be articulated in the introductory paragraph and should
specify the ways in which the central argument will be supported or investigated
throughout the essay.
The body paragraphs of the paper should be focused, and should unambiguously
support the thesis statement in the terms outlined in your introduction.
1. Lorraine Hansberry prefaces her play with a poem by Langston Hughes. How does
the poem’s theme reflect Walter Lee’s character? Does Walter’s dreams ever
become destructive, a substitute for action, or is it absolutely essential for him to
keep his dream alive?
2. Through most of the play, Walter is shown in a state of arrested development. Do
you think Lena Younger is to blame for the deficiencies in Walter, because for many
years she refuses to relinquish the position of head of the family to him?
3. How does American society, with its strengths and weaknesses, shape both
Beneatha and Walter?
4. Lorraine Hansberry is often viewed as a visionary because of her ability to predict
many of the relevant issues to the AfricanAmerican community today. Identify
some of these issues and carefully examine how they are the same or different from
how Hansberry portrays them. 2
5. Critically examine how power and authority switch between characters in the play.
6. Although Travis does not have many lines, his character is significant. Critically
analyse Travis' importance to some of the prominent themes throughout the play.
7. Family is the most important relationship to members of the Younger family.
Critically examine how the experiences of Walter, Ruth, and Travis relate to the
theme of family and the American Dream.
8. Three women reside in the Younger household, each possessing a different political
perspective of herself as a woman. Discuss how their views reinforce or challenge
traditional masculine ideologies.
9. Noting Lorraine Hansberry’s unique writing style, compare Walter Lee’s imitation
of a subservient, stereotypical begging “darky” (the heart breaking speech he plans
to deliver to Lindner in order to regain the lost money) with the speech that Walter
Lee actually gives when Lindner arrives. How are they different in language? What
is Hansberry’s point of having Walter Lee practice one speech and then say
something completely different?
10.How is Walter Lee’s masculinity (re)shaped or (re)constructed as a result of the
generational gap in the Younger household?
You must formulate a thesis that argues persuasively and coherently and
you must support your thesis with solid examples drawn from the play. The key to
the success of any close reading is in the strength of the clarification of specific
moments within the text. Take a careful look at places in your chosen work that
seem especially important to the text and explain what makes them so. What is
being said, how do you know? Of what importance is this specific moment to the
whole of the work? How does this point build upon what has come before, and how
do subsequent moments relate to it? You’ll want to draw a reader’s attention to
specific points in the text through selective quotation and citation, but remember
that a quote can’t explain itself and that you must explain why each moment is so
You must structure your argument in a way that makes sense and helps
make your case. Give some thought to the way that your major points fit together
to make a whole. Does each successive point build upon the last? Can a reader
follow the progression of your argument from beginning to end and understand why
it looks the way that it does? Remember that a successful argument is able to
incorporate a variety of different points and examples into the framework of a larger
claim in a way that is logical and persuasive. Make sure each example in your
argument adds something to the whole and has a place in the whole that make