Term Paper: African-American Struggles

Pages: 5 (1894 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Topic: Family and Marriage  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. Specifically it will discuss the play's message about dreams and how they can become a reality, analyzing each character's dreams. "A Raisin in the Sun" tells the story of the Younger family, including Walter, Mama, Ruth, Beneatha, and Travis. This black family all live a hard life due to poverty and lack of opportunities for blacks at the time (the 1950s in Chicago). Mama receives $10,000 in insurance money for her husband's death, and with that money, she hopes to buy a real home in the suburbs, so her family can leave the tenement apartment they have lived in for years. However, the other characters all have their own dreams, and they do not always coincide with Mama's plans. Walter wants to invest the money in a liquor store, Beneatha wants it for tuition for medical school, and Ruth dreams that she and Walter can grow to love each other again like they once did. Each character has their own hopes and dreams, which form the backbone for this play, and it shows that with hope and courage, some dreams really do come true.

The title of the play comes from a Langston Hughes poem, "Montage of a Dream Deferred." He writes, "What happens to a Dream Deferred / Does it dry up / Like a raisin in the sun? / or fester like a sore- / and then run? / Does it stink like rotten meat? / or crust and sugar over- / Like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags / Like a heavy load / or does it explode?" (Hughes). This preoccupation with dreams continues throughout the play, and each character harbors their own dreams and hopes for the future. Ultimately, some of the family's dreams will indeed have to be deferred, but some of them really do come true.

Walter is the main character of the play, and the one who causes some of their dreams to be deferred. Walter is a chauffer, married to Ruth, and Travis is his son.

He is one of the biggest dreamers in the play, and his dreams are extremely grand. He not only wants a home in the suburbs, he wants servants, a big car, and respect from those around him. He tells Travis about his dreams, "You wouldn't understand yet, son, but your daddy's gonna make a transaction... A business transaction that's going to change our lives (Hansberry 92). Like most parents, he dreams of giving his son more than he has had growing up. He wants him to have a good education at one of the finest schools, and he wants enough money to keep the family in style and comfort. In other words, he wants it all, but like many young people, he is not willing to wait for these things to occur. He is impatient, which is why he wants to invest in the liquor store, he wants to "get rich quick," and of course, that is the last thing that actually happens.

Walter learns from his mistakes, and learns that there is no real get rich quick scheme that will work; it is mostly hard work and patience that pay off in the end. He helps his family by continuing to work, and for standing up for them after they have put a down payment on a house in an all-white community. He learns that he loves his family and that he has the ability to be strong, even when facing diversity. Mama says of his standing up to Mr. Lindner, "He finally came into his manhood today, didn't he? Kind of like a rainbow after the rain..." (Hansberry 135). Unfortunately, throughout most of the play, Walter has let his dreams die, and has become so hopeless he will even allow his wife to have an abortion. He becomes bitter and angry with the world, all because he has lost his ability to dream and to hope for the future. He angrily accuses his mother, "So what you need for me to say it was all right for? So you butchered up a dream of mine - you - who always talking 'bout your children's dreams..." (Hansberry 79). He ultimately learns there is hope, and that he has the strength to carry on, when he stands up to Mr. Lindner.

Mama is the one that is just about ready to give up her dreams by the end of the play. She feels they cannot move, there is just too much adversity against them, and says, "Sometimes you just got to know when to give up some things...and hold on to what you got" (Hansberry 124). Mama is also the one who has set the dreams of a home in suburbia in motion. She is tired of the cramped apartment, where Travis sleeps on the sofa and they have to eat in the living room. She has always dreamed of having a garden, and a house in the suburbs will make more room for her family and provide her with her dream garden as well. She wants to invest the money in the family's future, while Walter wants to invest it in a business. However, Walter's idea may be sound, even though Mama does not approve of it because it involves drinking, but his judgment in business partners is far less sound, and the $6,200 he gives to his friend disappears with no investment. Mama will not let that deter her dreams; she has put a down payment on the house, anyway. Mama is the pragmatic member of the family that wants what is best for the rest of the people she feels responsible for, but she is also a realist who can see when the odds against them may seem too great.

She is ready to give up her dream, but Walter finally stands up for the family and his own dreams when he tells Mr. Lindner they will not take his bribe to stay out of the neighborhood. Walter has finally become a real man, and in doing so, has helped Mama attain her dream of a home in the suburbs, where the entire family can exist in more comfort. The play ends in disarray, and it is clear the future will not be easy, but if this dream can come true, then other dreams can come true for the family, too. That gives the audience hope that the family will finally be together and more secure than they ever have before. Mama learns that dreams really do come true, but more than that, she learns that her son has the ability to stand up to adversity and truly become a man, and that is an important dream realized, as well.

Beneatha is several years younger than Walter is, but she is becoming very similar to him, in that she begins to become hopeless and fearful the future will not turn out the way she wants it. She has always wanted to be a doctor, ever since she saw a friend suffer from a childhood sledding accident and then return from the hospital almost as good as new. She tells her boyfriend, "No - I wanted to cure. It used to be so important to me. I wanted to cure. It used to matter. I used to care. I mean about people and how their bodies hurt..." (Hansberry 117). Her dreams have died when Walter loses the money, and her hope has died as well. She does not have as much time to grow bitter and angry as Walter, however, and by the end of the play it seems that she may have the chance to practice medicine after all, with her boyfriend in Africa, although that is implied. She is the one in the play who still has the most hope for her dreams and her future, and indeed, the future is wide open to her. She is already in school, she has the chance to travel, and to make a difference in other people's lives, and by the end of the play, she has learned that her dreams could come true, if only she works hard and never stops believing. She has also learned more about herself and her fears, and has come closer to being a woman, and attaining her feminist dreams. Perhaps she will attain her dreams without the support of a man, creating a sense of well being and attainment in her that will carry her through her life.

Ruth is Walter's wife - a cleaning woman who discovers she is pregnant as the play progresses. She is so worried about the future and Walter's ability to take care of them that she contemplates having an abortion, and Walter does not attempt to dissuade her. She stands up for her man, however, even when she might not believe he is making the right decision. She says, "Mama, something is happening between Walter and me. I don't know what it… [END OF PREVIEW]

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