Notions of masculinity and femininity are woven throughout the play. Walter, in particular, feels his socio-economic situation much more strongly given that he’s supposed to be the "man" of the family. He uses manhood as an argument for why his wife should support him, why his mother should give him money, and why he needs a better career. The play also represents various women: the traditional Mama, the supportive Ruth, and the progressive Beneatha, who are alternately praised or demeaned for their adherence or disobedience to traditional feminine standards.
In 1961, a film version of A Raisin in the Sun was released featuring its original Broadway cast of Sidney Poitier , Ruby Dee , Claudia McNeil , Diana Sands , Ivan Dixon , Louis Gossett, Jr. and John Fiedler . Hansberry wrote the screenplay, and the film was directed by Daniel Petrie . It was released by Columbia Pictures and Ruby Dee won the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress. Both Poitier and McNeil were nominated for Golden Globe Awards , and Petrie received a special "Gary Cooper Award" at the Cannes Film Festival .
Despite the championing of the play by James Baldwin and other prominent writers, criticism of A Raisin in the Sun ranged from those who found it too radical to those who called it conservative. Nelson Algren disparaged it as “a good drama about real estate.” Poet and playwright Amiri Baraka originally described the play’s subject as “middle class—buying a house and moving into white folks neighborhoods.” But he later said that its themes “are actually reflective of the essence of black people’s striving and the will to defeat segregation, discrimination and national oppression.”