There are many essential elements that authors should consider when writing a novel or a stage play. They should build the plot carefully, offering the readers action and mystery, and develop the characters, showing their distinct personalities and motivations. This essay will consider Octavia Butler’s Kindred and Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and the literary elements used for plot and character development and symbolism in these works.
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Plot development is a crucial tool for any work of literature. In Kindred, the readers are introduced to the main characters, Dana, Rufus, and Kevin, and the central conflict in quick succession, as Dana is transported back in time and space (Butler 13). However, the story’s rising action lasts for most of the book, with the climax of Dana killing her ancestor, Rufus, and losing her arm set in the penultimate chapter of the book, circling back to the prologue. The resolution is quickly introduced and explored, with Dana and Kevin ready to begin a new life together, with no ties to the past. Thus, all the decisions characters make in the book are informed by the events before the climax.
In A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry spends more time on the exposition and falling action and less on rising action than Butler. The turning point in this work is Walter learning that Willy stole his family’s investment money, and all subsequent actions of the main characters are informed by this development (Hansberry 127). Overall, the climax affects the characters’ motivations, leading to the eventual resolution at the end of the story.
The main events and conflicts inform the character development in the discussed works. In Kindred, Rufus and Dana are the two characters that change most in the story. Thus, Rufus becomes callous and cruel as he gains more power and becomes a slaveowner. For example, he sends his children with Alice, his slave, away, telling her he sold them and leading to her suicide (Butler 249). Meanwhile, through her time travels to the South, Dana develops a better understanding of her ancestors’ experiences. She accepts that her husband, a white man, despite all his imperfections, is nothing like Rufus, and they have a chance of building a life that Alice never had (Butler 264). Similarly, the Younger family in A Raisin in the Sun learn to accept their heritage and are prepared to fight for their place in society. Walter agrees to move into an all-white neighborhood, refusing a buy-out offer, while Beneatha decided to marry a Nigerian man, who encourages her to learn more about her African heritage (Hansberry 149). Overall, the characters in the two stories change significantly due to the conflicts they endure.
Family is a common motif in both Kindred and A Raisin in the Sun. Dana travels back in time to ensure her direct ancestor, Hagar, Rufus and Alice’s daughter, is born. Despite Rufus being a cruel man who abuses Alice and is unnecessarily cruel to his slaves, Dana is compelled to help him. In the penultimate chapter, she loses her arm in the place where Rufus clang to it, symbolizing the lasting affect one’s family can have (Butler 260). Contrastingly, the Younger family unites because of their misfortune and decides to claim their place in society together, realizing the dream of owning a home (Hansberry 148). Thus, the motif of the importance of family and its influence on one’s life runs through the plot of both stories.
In summary, Kindred and A Raisin in the Sun are excellent stories exploring the theme of the family from different perspectives. Dana is confronted with her ancestor being a cruel slaveowner but is forced to help him to secure her own existence. Meanwhile, the Younger family is united through their troubles, with Walter making a conscious decision to realize the dream of being homeowners in a respectable neighborhood. Overall, the characters in both works are changed by their families and are motivated by them.
Butler, Octavia E. Kindred. Beacon Press Books, 2004.
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Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. Signet, 1988.