Objective: Help students revise their essays for transitions.
Standard: 11.12.2 Provide transitions to link paragraphs
Materials: Students need to bring in a copy of their essay cut up paragraph by paragraph. Also, you need to make copies of the sample essay titled, "From Rat's to Riches: Travis' Lessons in Life" and cut it up by paragraphs.
Time: One class period
Activity: Each student should receive a copy of the sample essay cut up by paragraphs.
Have them shuffle the paragraphs so they are out of order.
Reading only the first and last sentence of each paragraph put the essay back in its original order.
Go over the order and discuss the excellent use of transitions in the sample essay.
Next, students should take out their own essays cut up by paragraph. Students shuffle their paragraphs and trade them with a partner. Without getting help, they should try to put their partner's essay in its original order by only reading the first and last sentence of each paragraph.
If there are any difficulties, students should tell their partner where they had trouble. What paragraphs didn't seem to connect? Chances are good that these are the paragraphs that need better transitions.
Students should trade with another partner and repeat.
When finished, have students read some of the better transitions to the class
Sample essay for a Raisin in the Sun: Rats to Riches: Travis’ Lessons in Life
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” As Americans, we are asked at a young age this very question time and time again. You can guess that not many people say, “ A bus driver”, but in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, that is exactly how Travis Younger responds. Like many young men, he wants to be like his dad when he too becomes an adult. It’s all part of the American experience: work hard, put in your time, pay your dues and you can be anything you want to be. But Travis is a child, and he learns an important lesson in ARaisin in the Sun: Everyone has dreams, but there are many factors in our daily life that will determine which dreams will be realized, and which will be deferred.
The limitations of dreams are shown at the outset of the play where Hansberry is specific in her description of the apartment. We learn that “The Younger living room would be a comfortable and well-ordered room if it were not for a number of indestructible contradictions to this state of being” (23). These contradictions become evident in Travis’ life: he is a young school boy, and like any young person is beginning to establish hopes and aspirations for himself based on his environment and the world to which he is exposed. But that world is tenuous. There is an active stagnancy around him—a sense of “don’t give up, but don’t be too optimistic.” Coupled with this is the fact that he is not alone in having needs; there are many others with needs of their own. The first thing said to him, by his mother, is “Come on now, boy, it’s seven thirty! I say hurry up, Travis! You ain’t the only person in the world go to use a bathroom!” (25). It is the first of many reminders for him that you must keep the needs of others in mind when you work to meet your own needs.
Travis’ own needs are modest, but still seem to be too much for the family to accommodate. Travis reminds his mother, Ruth, that he needs to bring fifty cents to school. Ruth in turn reminds him they don’t have the fifty cents. This is a source of tension throughout the play; the Youngers have more needs than they have resources. Travis is willing to work for the money at a local grocery store, but the working world is a place Ruth is not yet ready for Travis to enter. Instead, his father, Walter, gives him the fifty cents, as he wants to show Travis that the man of the family is a provider.
Travis’ family is well aware of the lessons he is passively being taught by example. As Walter says in Act 1, “I’m thirty-five years old; I been married eleven years and I got a boy who sleeps in the living room—and all I got to give him is stories about how rich white people live” (34). This disconnect between black families in mid-century America and financial security reminds us of the play’s historical context-- “the good old days” before the civil war when the black people were passive and “happy”. After the civil war blacks were seen as aggressive, unkempt, even animal-like. It was the beginning of warping the American fabric to show that there were clear rules for how blacks would live and be perceived, and how whites were entitled to live. The stereotype was reinforced by blacks allegedly taking jobs from whites, and upsetting the status quo. The fears of many whites worked to keep blacks in the same subservient place they had always been, perpetuating an overt and casual racism.
Laws and customs separate the Youngers not only from the world of man, but seemingly from the natural world as well. Travis has a need to interact with nature, but his exposure to nature is skewed at best. He longs to play downstairs when he finishes his chores and chastises Beneatha’s spraying of insecticide. “Leave them cockroaches alone, they ain’t bothering you none!” (55). When speaking of the roach spray, Mama says “Well, little boys’ hides ain’t as tough as Southside roaches” (55). There’s more wisdom in this statement than she realizes, as Travis will learn. Later, Ruth is appalled that Travis was playing with a rat in the streets:
“Mama, you should of seen the rat… Big as a cat, honest! Gaalee, that rat was really cuttin’ and Bubber caught him with his heel and the gamitory, Mr. Barnett, got him with a stick—and then they got him in a corner and – BAM, BAM, BAM!—and he was still jumping around and bleeding like everything too—there’s rat blood all over the street—“ (59).
Like any child, Travis dreams of playing with friends but in Travis’ world this means hitting rats in the street with a stick. So much for respecting life. Travis, like the other Youngers, believes the money from the insurance check will help his family achieve their dreams. But Mama helps Travis understand the price of money. Travis is surprised that Mama doesn’t appear to want to be rich. All around him has been a constant reminder that a perfectly valid dream for yourself is to have a lot of money. But he does not fully realize that the $10,000 check that has been the center of attention for all the play’s characters came about because of his grandfather’s death and therefore the newfound abundance is bittersweet. It’s yet another lesson that is slowly making itself known: everything has a price. When Mama says that she has put some of her money toward a house, he responds that he has always wanted to live in a house. She says to Travis, “Now when you say your prayers tonight, you thank God and your grandfather—‘cause it was him who give you the house—in his way” (91). Everything has a price.
Through the example of Walter, it is now time for Travis to start to crystallize his own dreams. His father is a passionate man, himself always dreaming of a better life. But this has lead Walter to drinking at times, as life does not always allow us to realize our dreams. Now, with the money and Mama’s trust, Walter feels ready to become the man of the family and help them all achieve their dreams. Travis mistakes his father’s optimism for being drunk at first, but through their late-night conversation, Travis says initially that his dream is to be a bus driver. No doubt, when looking at the historical context of the play, this is a job that Travis sees is an option for a black man to aspire toward. But Walter tells Travis that the dream should be bigger. Perhaps this is the first time that Travis has heard from his father that you don’t have to put off all of your dreams—some dreams, with hard work, can be attained. Even if you’re a black man in Chicago in the middle of the century. Travis later admits that he dreams of being like his dad. And Travis does, like so many young men, want to be like his father. And his father perhaps realizes that the model he has set forth thus far, a man with little power who drinks too much and talks of dreams but takes no action, just perpetuates this history of his people. We learn by example. Just as Walter has learned from his father’s example, Travis learns from Walter. Whether it is Travis formulating dreams based on his father’s life, or giving his grandmother a hat as a gift because it’s “Like the ladies always have on in the magazines when they work in their gardens” (124), these are models to be followed in Travis’ eye—and examples become some of the factors that will determine our dreams. Travis dreams of being like his father. When the family believes that Walter intends to accept Lindner’s offer to buy them out of the house, Ruth tells Travis to go downstairs. Mama, however, tells Travis to stay, so that Walter can make Travis understand what Walter is doing; this is an example of where their five generations have come to—it is a moment in history that will influence yet the next moment. Just as Walter’s father almost beat a man to death once because this man called him “a bad name or something” (147), there are certain things a man must do to keep his pride, and how he will be viewed in his son’s eyes. And Walter calls Travis over to his side as he says, “This is my son, and he makes the sixth generation our family in this country. And we have all thought about your offer…And we have decided to move into our house because my father—my father—he earned it for us brick by brick” (148).
Work hard, put in your time, pay your dues and you can be anything you want to be. Travis has learned by example that this is still an option for him. Many things in his life will appear as opportunities to defer his dreams: lack of money, social mores, or even betrayal by friends. Perhaps he will become a bus driver—there’s no shame in that. But if he does, he will do so because it was a choice he made for himself, not because society decided that was the best option for him.