A Raisin in the Sun
“A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry is a play centered around an African-American family on the Southside of Chicago set after World War II. This groundbreaking play was the first of its kind revolving around the race relations of the middle of the twentieth century. This play has won over many hearts and minds with its intense drama and relevant storyline. This play’s title is off the poem “Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes, where Mr. Hughes contemplates on what happens to a dream deferred “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
This play’s main theme is dreams of each of the characters.
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Each character has their own version of how they want the future to be. Also each dream is centered on how the role of money is going to get them there. This essay will establish commentary on how the dreams of each of the characters is related to the title of the play and also the role of money affecting each of the characters. “A Raisin in the Sun” is about a family on the verge of receiving a $10,000 payment from the insurance company after the passing of the former head of the household Walter Sr.
The family consists of Walter Lee, his wife Ruth and son Travis, Mama, Beneatha (Walter’s sister). They all live together in a cramped apartment with Travis sleeping on the couch. Each of them have a plan for the money but not everything happens on point as they would like to. Mama wants to buy a new home to complete a dream she had with with her husband. Walter Lee believes that they should buy a liquor store and that would put them out of poverty. Ruth also shares a dream with Mama but she really just wants a better place for Travis to grow up in.
Beneatha really just wants for Mama to spend the money on whatever her heart desires, but knows that Mama’s desire is to help pay for Beneathas medical school. With everybody having their own version of a dream, soon they start clashing over their competing dreams. Then after Mama goes out, she puts a down payment on a home in a good neighborhood. She then gives Walter some money to look after and to help pay for Beneatha’s school. He instead gives the money to his buddy and he runs off with the money. To add insult to injury, the head of the neighborhood welcoming committee comes bearing an offer.
He tells them that they would be willing to buy them out on the home because they are unwanted. Walter quickly devises a plan to accept the offer from the man but has a change of heart when Mama forces him to do it in front of his son. He gives an eloquent speech and refuses the offer. Then in the ending of the play, they all move. The play opens with Walter Lee waking up and arguing with his wife. Walter is trying to convince his wife Ruth to envision his dream. Which is to enter a joint partnership with his friends to open a liquor store.
Walter works as a chauffeur for a wealthy white man and is tired of seeing the extravagant lifestyles of the rich. Walter is agitated by the fact of their poverty and wants to get out of the predicament he’s living in. Ruth is especially mad at the fact that Walter is having friends over late and calls his friends “loudmouths”. Walter rebuts and tells her of how his other friend was considered a loudmouth and now is grossing over a hundred thousand dollars a year in the dry cleaning business that Walter failed to enter in. Later on, we see Walter making a verbal contract with his friends for the $10,000.
Once Ruth tells Mama about Walter’s dream to get out of being poor by opening a liquor store, Mama quickly refuses to agree with him. His mother tells Ruth that they were not meant to do business or even selling liquor. After Mama refuses to side with Walter, he throws a tantrum and walks out. Eventually he finds out that his mother decided to pursue her dream to buy a house. She hands Walter $6,500 and to look after only $3,500 because the other $3,000 would be for someone else. Walter decides to take all of it and invest it into the liquor store.
He believes that it would propel his family into another way of life and he would become the hero of the household. But then slowly like a raisin drying up in the sun, his dream is slowly sucked out of him. He finds that one of his friends hustled the other two and ran off with their money. He lost all of the money which he was responsible for. He quickly devises a plan after a visit from the neighborhood association to take the money for the new home and run. Walter really believes that money is the only thing that would make everyone happy. Mama: Son– how come you talk so much ’bout money?
Because it’s life, Mama! Hansberry 1317). He eventually has a change of heart and “instead of accepting the money, Walter declares his pride in the six generations of his family that have lived in America” (Frank ardilino 181). Soon his dream is suddenly shifted into keeping Mama happy and providing a roof over his families head. Mama is a humble character. She is the care giving mother of the entire household. She doesn’t really express her dreams to anybody and doesn’t pressure anyone to follow her. She realizes that she is entitled to the money that came from the death of her husband and rightfully does what she pleases.
Mama early in the play hates the idea of opening a liquor store. She cant really fathom the fact that she is receiving $10,000. Ruth suggests that she take a trip to Europe or South America. Mama replies by saying she’s going to put some money away for Beneatha’s medical school and find a two story home so Travis can have a nice place to play in the summer time. What really bothers Mama is that she is having a hard time making decisions and adjusting to living without Big Walter. She talks of how he was a great father figure and how when she had a miscarriage he basically worked himself to death.
Yes, a fine man—just couldn’t never catch up with his dreams, that’s all”(Hansberry 1304). she decides to take it upon herself to fulfill their dreams. Her dream was differed and put aside for the family. “Mama’s Christian response to a lifetime of oppression could be read as “a syrupy sweet,” as the sugaring over of present realities with the crust of faith and prayer. Hansberry’s characters carry the existential load voiced in Hughes’s poem; yet, while these responses on their own are self-destructive” (568 Matthews). While she doesn’t care much for money as her son does, her idea of everything is freedom.
Freedom to do whatever one wants. Eventually in the end she collects her fragile little plant just like her family and takes it to the new house to flourish. While Walter and Mama both have reasonable dreams to do whatever with the money. Beneatha is so far the most interesting character in the whole play. She is the younger sister of Walter and is living with the family. Beneatha’s dreams is not so much so dependent on the money but more of a cultural dream. She is a student at a local college/university studying to be a doctor. She has riffs with her older brother just like how typical siblings always fight.
But what makes the fighting different is how Walter doesn’t see too much value in her future as a doctor. Beneatha is constantly at odds with her being in an American family that doesn’t know their heritage. She is dating two men, one is George Murchison and Joseph Asagai. George is the well off suitor of Beneatha. He has a rich family and he is pretty much blind to the race relations of the day. He is constantly acting better than everyone around him. Joseph Asagai on the other hand is a humble Nigerian in America. Beneatha is constantly trying to have George reject her and he repeatedly berates her. Look honey, we’re going to the theater—we’re not going to be in it… so go change, huh? ”(1320 Hansberry). Beneatha really wants to be with Joseph and embraces his culture.
For example, when Joseph come bearing gifts, she soon starts to embrace the Nigerian culture. She hates “assimilationist Negroes” but is partly one. To her money isn’t everything and all she wants is to find her identity. Unfortunately “The corpses of Beneatha’s various moves to express her self are littered about the Younger family’s collective consciousness, and they “stink. Beneatha herself often causes a stink if her means of expressing herself is not applauded by all”(Matthews 568). She can’t catch a break just as when Walter says that the NAACP even takes a break sometimes. Her dreams aren’t necessarily “A Raisin in the Sun” but instead stinks like rotten meat. Her views are outrageous and unrealistic.
She doesn’t end up finding her self and she must continue on to find herself. Out of all the characters, Ruth most resembles the title. Ruth is the wife of Walter Lee and has a son named Travis. She works as a laborer in other peoples homes. The play describes her as about thirty. We can see she was a pretty girl, even exceptionally so, but now it is apparent that life has been little that she expected, and disappointment has already begun to hang in her face” (1293 Hansberry). Throughout the play she talks about how life isn’t always what it seems. It seems as if she has given up. She is tired settled woman. When she is asked about her dream by her husband, she brushes it off. When Mama asks, she sides with Mama buying a new home. One thing that Ruth is confronted with is the pregnancy. She goes out later and puts a five dollar deposit down for an abortion.
When accidentally revealing that information, Beneatha quickly starts badgering her about whether it was planned and suddenly Ruth starts feeling sick. She is now confronted with the thought of the baby living with them in an apartment and if they had a home they would be fine. Ruth has lived in the poverty for a long time and her having a child would be either her struggling more or not. Ruth has not been analyzed much even though she has some part in almost all the scenes. What many don’t realize is that she is essentially the one whose dream matters the most.
She has taken the care giving responsibility from Mama, she cooks and cleans the house with barely any help from Beneatha, and she still supports her husband and son. While everyone is off expressing their dreams from Big Walter death , she is the only one who doesn’t parade around or fight about the money. She never gets her way only until Mama makes Walter realize that the family’s well being comes before his own.
Over all Ruth’s dream does come true without her worrying about the money even though her life previously dried up like a raisin in the sun. A Raisin in the Sun” is a play ahead of its time. It is the epitome of a play that doesn’t step too many boundaries but acknowledges that its there. Hansberry’s art of characterization propels the story. She does not present a black–white conflict per se, but it is always there lingering in the background without sentimentality or propaganda”(Saber 457). There are plenty of topics that push buttons such as abortion and segregation, but those problems dont interfere with all of the characters dreams. They collectively all have a dream for advancement but clash with regards to the money.
All of the characters resemble the poem from which the title comes from. Walter is festering like a sore over not advancing in business, Beneatha’s wanting her family to not assimilate and embrace Africa is stinking like rotten meat. Ruth has dried up with years of taking care of her family and working. Mama is the syrupy sweet that tries to put the good back into her family. We are left with the worry of how they will adjust to a new neighborhood and that thought sags like a heavy load but we wont know if it will explode.