Posted December 15, 2014 by in New Reads

Best Play Taught in High Schools (Results)

Last week we posed a question, and you responded.  I’ll go ahead and ask it again, though—what’s the best play you read in high school?

Guess what?  We have a four-way tie.


Your Choices:

Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun

Susan Glaspell’s Trifles

Thornton Wilder’s Our Town

Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie


Tiebreaker/My Choice:

I guess the tiebreaker goes to me.  Oh, the pressure.  Well, here goes…

For my money, the best play that I read in high school has to be A Raisin in the Sun. Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 classic is so relatable, both then and now. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to read it, allow me to give you a brief summary. A Raisin in the Sun is about an African-American family living in Chicago. They don’t have a lot of money, but they make enough to get by. The family consists of five individuals. There is Mama, the obvious matriarch of the Younger family. She is moral, religious, and loves her two children. The first child is Beneatha, a progressive woman who very much wants to become a doctor. The other is her son, Walter, who is angry at life because he works as a chauffeur for wealthy people. Walter wants so much more out of his life. He demands respect from his wife, Ruth, and son, Travis, although Walter isn’t really someone who deserves their respect.

When the play opens, we learn that Mama’s husband recently passed away and that the family is waiting on his life insurance check. With the hope for money, the Youngers develop a set of dreams of what they would like to happen.

Walter concocts the most elaborate plan. He wants to take the money and invest in a liquor store business. He wants respect from the rich men for whom he works. He believes the only way to gain such respect is by becoming rich. He isn’t a man who understands how life really works—at least not yet.

Walter sets his plan into motion, which is against the advice of everyone else in his family. Just before he can go through with his decision, Mama goes out and spends a chunk of the money on what she wants for her family.

Ideas collide, and Walter does something that betrays everyone. The Youngers have to decide if they can forgive Walter and stay a strong family or if the money will tear them apart.

While A Raisin the Sun is, on the surface, about familial disputes, what it says less explicitly is what makes Hansberry’s play so profound. The play touches on race, gender expectations, family values, and, most poetically, dreams.

Everyone has a dream for his or her own life. Seeing other people work to make their own come true is inspiring. At the end, we know that if we want something bad enough, maybe we can have it if we work toward it. Isn’t that a message that all students should hear? I certainly think so.

Bradley Sides

Bradley Sides holds an M.A. in English. His fiction appears in numerous print and online journals. He is a staff writer for Bookkaholic and a frequent contributor to Drunk Monkeys. He resides in Florence, Alabama, with his wife, and he is working on securing a release date for his debut novel, Leaving Today.