In the play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry you go back in time to when segregation was still aloud. In this play you meet a cast of people with dreams of a better life. The American Dream, to be specific. This dream is portrayed differently for each character, all of which impact the play. Two of these character`s are Walter Lee Younger and Lena Younger. In Raisin in the Sun Mama and Walter’s American dreams conflict and impact the family through materialism and desire to be the ideal American family in society.
Mama and Walter both desire to provide for their family. They both look at money as success. When the $10,000 insurance check comes along, Mama sees it as a chance for her family to finally live up and be more like the rest of the American society. She aspires to look after her family, by giving them a house, a car, and most of all- happiness. Walter on the other hand becomes obsessed with his dreams of business, which he believes will result in financial independence to provide for his family.
He feels ashamed when he can’t give money to his son. When Travis asks for fifty cents and Ruth tells him they don’t have it, Walter gives him fifty cents anyway. “In fact, here’s another fifty cents… Buy yourself some fruit today- or take a taxicab to school or something”(12) He yearns for his son Travis to look up to him. He adds another fifty to make this more real or true. This also shows how Walter looks at money as success. Walter believes this will be true if he has his dream of owning his own business or all in all- wealth.
Success to both them means that they no longer have to struggle, and live up to what people perceive. Mama distinguishes herself from Walter when it comes to materialistic matters. The first thing mama does when she gets the insurance money is buy a house for her family. This shows how the capitalistic society is having a materialistic effect on Mama. Mama’s dream consists of a house and happy family. Mama’s plant is a perfect indication of her dream. It symbolizes her family in a way. When the family is down, the plant is down.
Mama is constantly in protection of the plant, in hopes of holding on to her dream. Walter in comparison is always looking to be somebody and make it in life. Walter sees wealth as the only solution to this. He longs for financial support. He becomes corrupted by society -to find his identity through money. Walter tells his mother, “I want so many things”(60). This shows his greediness. All in all Mama and Walters dreams both involve money. Mama shows us her longing for the acceptance of society when she immediately buys a house in a white neighborhood, to provide for her family.
Walter shows us his desperation to be a valuable human being when he steals money in hopes of starting his liquor business. Walter wants to be respected and live a happy lifestyle for this family. He longs to be the head of the household. Walter see’s himself with a liquor store as having power. It isn’t till the end until he rethinks the values of himself and his family’s future about how there is more to living than just having material riches. Mama only yearns for her family to be respected and live up to what society perceives.
No matter what you perceive The American Dream to be, it is possible to attain it and be successful. The American Dream is whatever your dream of success perceives to be. Hansberry shows how hard it was for colored people to find their identities during segregated times. Walter and Mama learn that money doesn’t possess much when it comes by itself. In Raisin in the Sun Mama and Walter’s American dreams differentiate and impact the family through their wanting to be accepted in society and live in peace. Anyone in this country can undertake happiness and success if they work at it.
Courtney from Study Moose
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