The foreshadowing in A Raisin in the Sun functions to develop an atmosphere of uncertainty regarding the fate of the Younger family. The Youngers are a family of dreamers who strongly desire upward mobility and improved life circumstances. Walter wants to own his own business. Beneatha wants to pursue a degree in medical science. Mama and Ruth want out of the South Side slums. And yet, as a Black family in the United States, significant obstacles stand in their way.
When Walter inadvertently loses the insurance money due to his misplaced trust in Willy, it comes as no surprise. The audience senses from the beginning that Walter lacks good business sense. Ruth clearly doesn’t trust him or his friends. Neither does Mama, whose religious aversion to Walter’s plan to run a liquor store is compounded by her disappointment with his personal drinking problem. Walter’s impulsive nature doesn’t help instill confidence either. Aside from Walter’s general incompetence, there are two specific events that foreshadow his loss of the insurance money.
The first event occurs in the opening scene. When Ruth refuses to give Travis fifty cents for school, Walter overcompensates and hands his son a whole dollar. After Travis leaves, however, Walter realizes that he’s given all his money away and has to ask his disapproving wife for a handout. The second event occurs at the end of Act II, scene ii, when Walter tells Travis about his vision for the future. Walter confides, “After what your daddy gonna do tonight, there’s going to be offices—a whole lot of offices.” Taken together with his unlucky history with money, Walter’s words foreshadow the loss of the insurance money.
Much of the play’s foreshadowing functions to give the audience a sense of what might happen to the Younger family if and when they decide to move to their new house in the Clybourne Park neighborhood. When Mama explains that she made a down payment on the new house, Ruth and Beneatha respond to Mama’s news with suspicion. Walter reacts with hostility: “So that’s the peace and comfort you went out and bought for us today!” Thus, there is already uneasiness in the air when Mrs. Johnson stops by and mentions that a Black family’s house in another predominantly white part of town was recently bombed.
Mrs. Johnson’s news foreshadows the event that occurs in the next scene, when another visitor drops by the Younger residence. Karl Lindner, who represents the Clybourne Park Improvement Association, comes to communicate the objections the members of that community have to a Black family moving in, and when he parts ways with the family after a second visit, he says ominously: “I hope you people know what you’re getting into.” All of these events foreshadow what might happen after the play ends.
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