A Raisin in the Sun is a play that focuses on the “American Dream” and one’s conception of a “better life”. Each character in the play has their own view on what that dream is and what they perceive a better life to be. Hansberry focuses on the importance of achieving one’s dreams regardless of the various harsh struggles in life. Mama has dreams of providing her family with a better life she and her husband ever had. Mama said, “Lord if this little plant don’t get more sun than it’s been getting it ain’t never going to see spring again.” The plant symbolizes Mamas dedication to her dreams. Every morning she tends to her plant and explains that even though it doesn’t get the amount of sunlight that is needed the plant is still alive. This also symbolizes that even though her dreams have been deferred throughout her life she still keeps them alive and strives to achieve them. Mama decided to put a down payment on a house in a white neighborhood knowing that this would keep the family together.
This also shows her belief in achieving the ideal American Dream. Mama is the head of the household and always makes sure her children remember where they came from and to take pride in what they believe in. She wants them to respect themselves and to succeed while maintaining moral boundaries. Ruth has similar dreams as Mama does, she wants to build her own happy family and move towards a bigger and better house. Ruth said to mama, “So you went and did it! PRAISE GOD! Please honey let me be glad, you be glad too. Ok walter a home..a home.”
Ruth’s reaction to how happy she was when she found out Mama bought a house shows how much she does care for her family and wants that American dream as well. Ruth believes that ownership can bring happiness and that is the idea of her “better life”. Beneatha’s dream is to become a doctor and stand up against ignorance in racism. Beneatha’s dreams were deferred because she grew up in a society where people expected women to build homes rather than have actual careers. Also money was another issue that had been holding her back from becoming a doctor and pursuing her dream. Walter said to Beneatha,” Ain’t many girls decide to be a doctor.” Beneatha replied sarcastically by saying,” Forgive me for wanting to be anything at all.” This shows how Walter is close minded and agrees on the views of women and their role in society. Beneatha and Walter disagreed on what the “American Dream” was because they both had such different ideas on what they portrayed a better life to be.
Beneatha thinks that Walters dream of buying a liquor store is a waste of money, she doesn’t feel Walter has the ambition or ability to make a success of such a business and is thankful that her mother will not agree to the plan. Beneatha’s character explicates a determined woman; she is different from other women in her generation because her dreams and ambitions are contrary to what is expected in the cultural traditions. Walter is an example of a negative and positive character throughout the play due to his actions on trying to achieve his ideal American dream. Walter is striving for economic independence and wants to own his business/ liquor store. He wants to be the sole provider for his family and household. Walter said to mama,” A job mama, a job? I open and close car doors all day long, I drive a man around in his limousine and I say, “yes, sir, no, sir; very good, sir; shall I take the drive, sir” Mama that ain’t no kind of job, that ain’t nothing at all.”
This symbolizes how Walter is embarrassed of this job and how badly he wants to invest in the liquor company to become economically independent. His definition of a man is by measuring his success and ability to provide for his family. Walter goes through with trying to make his business happen by using some of the insurance money Mama had; he ends up losing his money to a con-artist and this is when he realizes the importance of his family’s dreams and where he came from. Mama said, “He finally come into his manhood today, didn’t he? Kind of like a rainbow after the rain.” This symbolizes how Walter went from being looked down upon by his family to becoming his family’s hero, when he realized that he had to step up and be a man. He now knows what his priorities are and that’s for him to stand by his family and face the future. In spite of all the problems the family had during the play at the end we see the Younger’s moving out of their old house into a new one. Mama is carrying her plant with her; this symbolizes how they still have their old “roots” even though they’re taking a brave step by moving into a white neighborhood and fulfilling the American dream that they’ve all been longing for.
Courtney from Study Moose