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In the readings of American ethnic plays, it has been discovered that the context of Spirituality has been dealt in diversified ways to derive insights into human nature and cultures. This paper looks into the aspects of spirituality and lack of spirituality in the writings of Clifford Odets' 'Awake and Sing' (first published in 1935, republished in 2008) and Lorraine Hansberry's 'A Raisin in the Sun' (first published in 1959, republished in 2001).
The approach is to compare the spiritual declarations made by these author's in the selected writings. The paper also looks into the similarities and the dissimilarities considered by the playwrights in dealing with the essence of Spiritualism. A comprehensive approach has been followed to investigate these two Jewish American and African American Plays. The investigations are all made to understand the thematic spiritual content of these plays. Emphasis has been led over the collection of contextual realization of spirituality in these plays. The consequent status of realizing a condition under the 'lack of spiritualism' is also integral to the analytical process. The approach related to the term of 'lack of spirituality' has been understood through the 'feelings of isolation' within the characters of the plays.
Concept of Spirituality
According to the elaborations of Cousins (1992) the basic concept of spirituality gets understood under the influence of human insights towards his existence in society. This state also gets identified as immaterial reality that helps in the process of exploring personal values. Added to this concept is the determined declaration of Sheldrake (2007), who is very specific about the provisions of inner path. Inner path that is insight gets enabled for a person, in order to discover the available essence of being. The feelings of in-depth moral values are a part of it. In accordance to socio-cultural contexts, these ideological approaches of understanding spirituality gets diversified definitions and conceptual entities.
The diversifications of dealing with the conceptual derivations of spiritualism have been also marked in the narratives like Clifford Odets' 'Awake and Sing' and Lorraine Hansberry's 'A Raisin in the Sun'. The approaches are very much related to the cultural and social beliefs followed by the playwright. Odets is more concerned about the values and the entities of getting identified by religious terminologies, whereas Hansberry offers a more carefree attitude towards the process of adopting spirituality. Both the authors are very particular about demonstrating the context of dream as a substitution for spiritualism. Odets talks about an impoverished Berger family and demonstrates their generation-gap conflicts. There is a sense of suppression led over the children by the parents and that shatters the children's dreams. On the other hand, Hansberry is more concerned about the state of deferred dream of a black family from Washington Park Subdivision of Chicago's Woodlawn; that eventually dries up like 'raisin in the sunlight'. The essence of spiritualism is discovered in these playwrights but with different level of elaborations. The initiations led by Odet are towards frank display of instincts, but Hansberry is more into the process of understanding the confusions related to spiritualism and covers it through family love.
Elements of Spirituality
The elements of spirituality in Odets and Hansberry are well recognized by the use of the characters and the narrative techniques. It is through the use of the concept of using dreams that both the writers elaborate the essence of spiritualism in human life. Odet describes the conditions of conflicts between parents and children and demands for sustainable considerations in their temperament. For him these relationships are confusing and contradictory. Imposition of individualized dreams on each other loses the element of compromise and sensibility. The element of spiritualism can be realized in this plot through the descriptive elaborations of economic ravages that took place in 1930s, New York. The author demonstrates the demands of managing with the element of 'respectability' among three generations, represented by Grandpa, Myron, Bessie, Ralph; and in this process he shows how the social conditions of 1930s need to perceive for a balanced lifestyle. From the hardships of 1930s, the author makes the point of tolerance and 'let go' as the favorable modes of dealing with human relationships.
The elements of spiritualism used by Hansberry in 'A Raisin in the Sun' are represented through the characters like Walter Lee and Beneatha. Both these members want to devote the insurance money of $10,000 into different perspectives for the welfare of the family. One of the instances can be depicted through the following lines of Walter-
Walter: You wouldn't understand yet, son, but your daddy's gonna make a transaction . . . a business transaction that's going to change our lives...
There is a sense of service and devotion in their approach and that offers them with the ground of celebrating the bliss of spirituality. The narration of Hansberry is very abrupt in making some of the specialized illustrations about the situational option of deferring with the dreams by the family members, for being into the family. As the African-American family moves into the new apartment there is the addition of optimism in them to support each other for the happier side of life. This is the essence of spiritualism that has been utilized by the author to show the better side of life.
Lack of Spirituality
Lack of spiritualism is more dominant in the writing of Odets than Hansberry. The characters selected to represent all the three generations in 'Awake and Sing' are more bold and determined than the characters of 'A Raisin in the Sun'. The feelings of isolation are a more saturated state of mind for the characters of 'A Raisin in the Sun'. Though the characters of this play are independent in their thoughts, yet they preferred to defer with their dreams to be in the family. These characters are more likely to offer support and enjoy spiritual side of togetherness, that to get into the state of 'isolation'. On the other hand, the characters of 'Awake and Sing' demonstrate the individualistic touch in the Jewish family and make static declaration of conflicts between them. The dominance of Bessie, the mother over the other members of the family is depicted with the sense of frustration and turmoil. Odets seemed to be more demonstrative than Hansberry in providing a vivid picture of 'Lack of spiritualism' among the character. This approach is rather closer towards practical situations that demands for ultimate spiritualism. The conceptual dealings of understanding life with 'Lack of spiritualism' by the characters of Hansberry are farfetched. These members do not even attempt to go for a life without spiritualism. Though there were few elements of conflicts between them, yet eventually they were all under the same roof with partial satisfaction and extreme optimistic about their dreams.
The essence of spirituality is a state that is inclusive of includes introspection. It has got the room to demand for developments related to an individual's inner life. This sense of inner life has been well experimented in Clifford Odets' 'Awake and Sing' and Lorraine Hansberry's 'A Raisin in the Sun'. The most common grounds of analyzing the socio cultural conditions under spiritualism by these playwrights are exposed through economic hardships. These narrators picked up two different families, from different cultural backgrounds; yet dealt with same kind of socio-economic conditions. Both the families are poor and expect a lot from their lives. However Odet hardly leaves any space to compromise, and Hansberry offers optimism through compromises. Hansberry is closer in dealing with the demands of being in the family, whereas Odet is clear about personalized needs. Odet is clear in demonstrating the Jewish spiritualism of assessing God through the means of 'His presence and purpose' (Kushner, 2001). He manages to add the elements of purpose to human existence and showed the turmoil due to the lack of spiritualism of gaining peace. Hansberry rather insisted in his African spiritual sense of considering family members as the source of 'traditional healers' (Mwadiwa, 2006). As Odet demanded for the importance spiritual aspects in human life, he adds it in the words of the Grandpa, for Ruth as "LIVE! Rejoice in thy youth, young man!" (11:9). On the contrary, Hansberry claimed for the indispensable essence of it for peace of mind and togetherness.
Eventually, it can be concluded that the reflections of Jewish and African cultural importance of spiritualism have been realized well through these narrations. On the one hand the Jewish family craves for peace and spiritualism, built never compromise with personalized demands. On the other hand, the African family is clear about the way to live together and for that even decides to defer with their individual dreams. In a way, through a diversified view, Odet's declarations are more practical and the conditions illustrated by Hansberry seemed to be impractical. However, their persuasions of spirituality have been illustrated through some terms to be maintained within a family, rather than any economical conditions. From the reading of these plays, it can be concluded the art to understand spiritual bliss remains with every individual. To consider it as a kind of replacement for economic stability is a myth. Economy can offer options to have a comfortable life, but to have spiritual addition to the life, deformation to individualized preference is more necessary than anything else. There should be a sense of sacrifice for the better living conditions. To be more specific it is appropriate to follow the following declarations made by Mama-Mama: There is always something left to love. And if you ain't learned that, you ain't learned nothing.