Since the 1930’s, the idea that a family, a home, opportunity, money and security being available to everyone in the US has been the “American Dream.” Unfortunately, in reality this dream isn’t really available to everyone, not then and not now. The idea of an “American Dream” is examined throughout Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin in the Sun as the theme of the play surrounds itself around Langston Hughes’ poem, “Harlem” where Hughes examines if dreams shrivel and dry up like a “Raisin in the Sun.” Throughout the play, all the characters express their own dreams for their lives. The idea of the American dream is analyzed to the point that at the end of the play, although this dream isn’t available to everyone because of racial, gender and class discrimination, the most important aspect the Youngers find out of it is the uniting of the family.
Every character in the book has their own idea of the American dream. Mama and Ruth dream of owning their own house and getting the family out of their current living situation while Beneatha dreams of getting an education, becoming a doctor and not being dependent on a man for anything. Walter, although he wants to support his family, has his dream of buying a liquor store to raise money for his family. He finds more pride in proving himself successful. Walter, although with a capitalistic way of thinking, sticks to his own dream and come off as a frustrated character throughout the play.
He takes out his frustration about not having money on Ruth, “You tired, ain’t you?…So tired-moaning and groaning all the time, but you wouldn’t do anything to help, would you?” (32). At first his frustration is because of the family’s financial situation, but it just grows with Ruth’s pregnancy. Eventually, he realizes that his dream of the liquor store isn’t feasible when he actually has the insurance money and he deals with its loss. He realizes that money was not the only barrier keeping him from his dream. Walter learns that what everyone else is hoping foe, the home, is the ultimate goal he should also be supporting.
Beneatha on the other hand, has the American dream of getting an education. During the time period of the play, not only was it unusual for a woman to go to medical school but also it was even more rare of a black woman. Beneatha faces many obstacles on her way to achieving her dream; she constantly faces discrimination because of her race and class and especially because of her gender. Even with hard work and persistence, she would have a lot more difficult time achieving her dream. For example, for white males to be going to medical school at that time was very common. They did not have to face gender or racial discrimination. Beneatha, not only has to provide money for her education but also deal with society’s disapproval because of the path she chose to pursue. She doesn’t even get support from her own brother.
Walter continuously belittles her dreams and says that she should “just get married and be quiet.” (38). Walter, along with society at that time, believed that a woman’s place was to stay at home, cook, clean and take care of the children. Although Mama and Ruth support Beneatha’s individualist attitude, they do not understand it. When Beneatha mentions that she is “not worried about who [she’s] going to marry yet-if [she] ever get[s] married,” (50) they are horrified at the thought of a respectable young woman not being married. However, as the play progresses, Beneatha realizes that the dream of owning a house is the dream of the whole family and that she must stand united with them against people like Carl Lindner.
Throughout the play, Mama and Ruth’s dream of securing the family’s future through the idea of buying a house stays constant. They also face many obstacles in trying to achieve this idea in the “American Dream.” Carl Lindner, from the “welcoming committee” of the all-white Clybourne Park residence area, sees their race and tries to persuade and eventually bribe them into not purchasing their dream house. Mama, however, does not give into this obstacle and goes through with the purchase of the home. After Walter deals with the lost insurance money and Beneatha deals with the loss of money for her education, they start to accept the idea of uniting to pursue one dram for the whole family. They realize that the happiness that they get from fulfilling the dream of the entire family is much more important to them than fulfilling their own dreams. Individually, they all have many hurdles but when they stand united as a family, they can get through them all.
Just as the Youngers faced obstacles on their path to the “American Dream,” most people in today’s society face similar problems. Whether it be the dream of education, a house or opportunity, people face discrimination every step of the way. As much as the society would like to believe that everyone has equal opportunity to succeed in life, it is just not true. Race, gender and class discrimination creates barriers for people trying to achieve their dreams of success. Much improvement is needed in the mindset of society before everyone truly has equal opportunity to achieve his or her version of the “American Dream.”