A Raisin In The Sun: A Dream Deferred Essay
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“What happens to a dream deferred?” (Hughes l. 1) Langston Hughes asks in his 1959 poem “Dream Deferred.” He suggests that it might “dry up like a raisin in the sun” (Hughes ll. 2-3) or “stink like rotten meat” (Hughes l. 6); however, at the end of the poem, Hughes offers another alternative by asking, “Or does it explode?” (Hughes l. 11) This is the view Lorraine Hansberry supports in her 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun, in witch she examines an African-American’s family’s struggle to break out of the poverty that is preventing them from achieving some sort of financial stability, or the American Dream. It focuses on Walter’s attempt in “making it,” or “being somebody.” She also analyzes how race, prejudice, and economic insecurity…show more content…
that ain’t anything at all. Mama, I don't know if I can make you understand” (73). Walter is not able to provide for his family by American standards, and as a result, his family lives in poverty.
The predicament that Walter finds him-self in motivates him to want to invest in a liquor store in order to grasp some type of financial freedom. He doesn’t just want to have enough money to provide for his family, but he tells his mother, “I want so many things” (74). He is obsessed with earning a lot of money. At the beginning of the play Walter is waiting for Mama's check from the insurance company as if it was his own, and Beneathea has to remind Walter that, “that money belongs to Mama, Walter and if is for her to decide how she wants to spend it” (36). Here we see how he is searching for his identity with money. Much of Walter’s dialog is about making money or who has money. When his wife Ruth mentions that his friend Willy Harris is a good for nothing loud mouth, Walter retorts; “...And what do know about good for nothing loud mouth? Charlie Atkins was just a good-for-nothing loud mouth too, wasn’t he! He wanted me to go in the dry-cleaning business with him, and now he’s grossing a hundred thousand a year. A hundred thousand dollars a year! You still call him a loud mouth!” (32) The idea of making a hundred thousand dollars is what he had most on his mind, and to Walter the liquor store is how he will achieve that. The liquor store represents an
Many characters in A Raisin in the Sun have dreams, personal goals that may or may not be feasible goals. Some of these dreams only really affect one person, while others would impact many people. Mama’s dream is to buy a new house for her and her family to live in. Of all of these characters with dreams, Mama has a dream that would most significantly impact the family for the better. Her dream will bring the family together, allow her to financially help others attain their dreams, and emphasizes important themes such as the significance of dreams and the importance of family. Mama’s dream of moving into a new house is not meant to benefit just her, but to benefit her whole family. Mama only wants the best for her family, and she knows that the apartment that they are currently living in, where Travis doesn’t even have his own room, is not the ideal place for them to live. When she puts the down payment on the house, she is very excited for her family to find out. Everybody but Walter is excited about the house.
Ruth: So you went and did it!
Mama: (Quietly, looking at her son with pain.) Yes, I did.
Ruth: (Raising both arms classically) Praise God! (Looks at Walter a moment, who says nothing. She crosses rapidly to her husband.) Please, honey – let me be glad… you be glad too. (She has laid her hands on his shoulders, but he shakes himself free of her roughly, without turning to face her.) Oh, Walter… a home… a home… (591). Although it means that Walter cannot use the money to invest in a liquor store, the house will bring the family together.
Mama’s dream of a new house will not only benefit the whole family, but there will be enough money to help out with other peoples’ dreams, such as Beneatha’s dream of becoming a doctor. Since Beneatha is still in school, she still needs money to help pay for it. Mama can easily keep up on the house payments and set aside some of the insurance money for medical school. Mama tries to be as supportive as she can of her children’s dreams. Although she can financially help Beneatha, she cannot do all that Walter is asking of her financially. He expects her to just give him all $10,000 of the insurance money. As much as she would like to, she knows that it is not what is best for the family.
Mama: Walter – what you ain’t never understood is that I ain’t got nothing, don’t own nothing, ain’t never really wanted nothing that wasn’t for you. There ain’t nothing as precious to me… (595).
Mama only wants to do the right thing. Her intentions are not to tear up Walter’s dreams or force him to live a simple life. Although she could not provide Walter with everything that he needed to invest in the liquor store, she did the best that she could, for both Walter and Beneatha.
The fact that Mama dreams of buying a house for her and her family to live in, and her reasons for aspiring to live in a house, emphasize the theme of the story, which is that the dreams most likely to come true are those that benefit many people. As we have already determined, a new house would benefit the whole family. Mama’s dream also helps emphasize the theme that family is the most important thing. She strongly believes in the importance of family, and she tries to instill in them these values, as she struggles to keep them together and functioning. In her mind, moving to a new house, a house that belongs to them, would bond them together and give them a fresh start. Eventually, the entire family realizes that the dream of a new house is in fact the most important dream, because it is the one that will bring them together.
Even Walter eventually comes around. Walter: What I am telling you is that we called you over here to tell you that we are very proud and that that is – this is my son, who makes the sixth generation of our family in this country, and that we have all thought about your offer and we have decided to move into our house because my father – father – he earned it. (Mama has her eyes closed and is rocking back and forth as though she were in church, with her head nodding the amen yes) We don’t want to make no trouble for nobody or fight no causes – but we will try to be good neighbors. That’s all we got to say (615).
When the entire family starts to put the family’s needs before their own, they realize that the good of the entire family is more important than realizing their own personal goals, and understand the importance of Mama’s dream. Mama’s dream is a key factor in bringing the family together. A new house is exactly what they need to become closer, have a place that they can call their own. Mama only wanted what was best for her family, and if she could help out with personal dreams (such as Beneatha’s wanting to become a doctor) she would definitely do it. Family is very important to Mama, and her aspirations of moving into a new house help emphasize the themes of the significance of dreams and the importance of family. Although the other characters’ dreams were not unimportant, Mama’s dream played an essential part in bringing the family together.