Throughout the play, A Raisin in the Sun, the Younger family struggles to come together as a family. One of the main impediments in their unity is their differing views on the world. Each character has their own dream and is unwilling to sacrifice that dream for anything. They are afraid of having their dream deferred. Their dreams, especially Walter Lee’s, break the family apart, and it is only when they unite their dreams together that they unite the family. Most of the members of the Younger family have some kind of individual dream.
Beneatha wants to be a doctor; Ruth wants to move into a home that is her own; Mama simply wants to keep the family together; and Walter wants to be able to provide comfortably for his family. All these differing dreams and goals cause rifts in the family from time to time, but none more so than Walter Lee Younger’s dream. Walter is a pivotal character in the play. His actions shape the plot unquestionably, and it is because of his strong will and perseverance towards his dream that the plot progresses as it does. He believes that his way is the best for the family and he will do anything to achieve it.
After feeling closer to his dream than ever before he tells Travis, “Just tell me what it is you want to be- and you’ll be it…. Whatever you want to be – Yessir! You just name it, son… and I hand you the world! ” (Hansberry, 109). This reinforces the idea that Walter thought that his dream would save his son. In her book, Worlds of Pain, Lillian B. Rubin writes, “For the child – especially a boy – born into a professional middle class home, the sky’s the limit; his dreams are relatively unfettered by constraints… For most working class boys, the experience is just the reverse” (Rubin, 38).
The life of a child in a professional middle class home is exactly what Walter wants for his son, and he would do anything to get it. He thought that once he achieved financial security, he could save his son from a working class life. The main issue for Walter, however, would be that his quest for financial security, and ultimately his dream, would come between him, his family, and his marriage. Ruth senses this and tells Mama, “Mama, something is happening between Walter and me. I don’t know what it is – but he needs something – something I can’t give him anymore.
He needs this chance, Lena” (Hansberry, 42). The chance that she refers to was his first step into an investment towards financial security. He put his dreams and ambitions in front of everything because of his strong will. This led to somewhat of an apathy towards any other affairs to the house. Nowhere is this more apparent than when Walter finds out Ruth plans on getting an abortion. After Mama tries to force him to talk things over with his wife, the stage direction states, “(WALTER picks up his keys and his coat and walks out…” (Hansberry, 75).
This all-consuming dream of Walter’s gets in between Walter and his family and causes tension throughout the plot. Walter lives the poem A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes throughout the play. Once Mama has bought a new house with the money he wanted to use for his investment, Walter says to her, “you butchered up a dream of mine – you – who always talking ‘bout your children’s dreams…” (Hansberry, 95). Here he feels like his dream has been deferred and his dream begins to “stink like rotten meat” (Hughes, 6).
Even though most of the people around him could not see his dream like he did, his attitude reeked of unfulfilled expectations. His deferred dream “fester(s) like a sore…” (Hughes, 4) and the pain starts to stretch his sanity. He says himself, “I want so many things that they are driving me kind of crazy… Mama – look at me” (Hansberry, 73). It is this madness and this dream that causes the conflict within the household. The true test of unity for the family came with the second arrival of Mr. Lindner.
It is then that Walter has to make a decision that will either bring his family together and place him as head of the household or break them all apart. Ultimately, he puts his family first and even Mama remarks, “He finally come into his manhood today, didn’t he? Kind of like a rainbow after the rain…” That day he put his family before his dreams. He realized that moving into their own home and standing up for themselves would be the best thing for his family. With this single act, he reinforced himself as the head of the household. Once everyone, especially Walter, come together towards Mama’s dream, they come together as a unit.
They no longer act individually but act for the good of the household. They see that their future is dangerous and they must stand together if they are to oppose it. There is no longer talk of abortions or money; they speak more often of the family. This dream of owning their own home is exactly what the family needed and once it was achieved, the Youngers became stronger and closer. Though Walter had to sacrifice the most, mainly his dreams and ambitions, once he did, he led the family through to their unity. His selflessness allowed the family to live in harmony.
Professors Bahr & Bahr of Brigham University wrote in their article, Families and Self-Sacrifice: Alternative Models and Meanings for Family Theory, “We draw from the disciplines of economics, history, philosophy, literature, sociology, and from life as lived by everyday people in making the case that self-sacrifice is a powerful and a essential part of social life generally, and family life in particular” (Bahr, 1231). Self-sacrifice is essential for the family to work together as a unit. An individualistic approach to family life leads only to discord and disunity.
Walter Lee Younger made this revelation, perhaps even subconsciously, when he decided to refuse the money that Mr. Lindner offered that was necessary to realize his aspirations. Only once this was achieved could the Youngers be a cohesive family unit. English historian Thomas Fuller once said, “The darkest hour is just before the dawn. ” This famous quote is thoroughly applicable to A Raisin in the Sun. Though the Youngers had severe familial problems, they pulled through it stronger than ever before, thanks to the unifying dream that lit the way through the night.