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An individual’s identity is comprised of one’s qualities, beliefs, personality, and expressions. It portrays a sense of a self-image, individuality, and self-esteem. When disappointment occurs, people can begin to slip away from others and themselves. These ideas are further explored in A Raisin In The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. The story depicts an African American family attempting at their chance at a better life when an insurance payout is given after the death of their father. In a small two bedroom apartment on the south side of Chicago lives Walter and Ruth Younger, their son Travis, Walter’s Mama and sister Beneatha, as the family seeks to improve their lives, situations occur.
When overwhelming circumstances occur, dreams can be deferred and cause disappointment in one’s identity and surroundings.
Disappointment can lead to inner struggles of individuals and their dreams. At the end of Act I Scene II, we see Mama asking Walter why he is always thinking about money and saying money is the answer for everything in life when she says, “ Oh– so now it’s life.
Money is life. Once upon a time freedom used to be life-now, it’s money. I guess the world really do change… while Walter responds, “No- it was always money, Mama. We just didn’t know about it”(Hansberry 74). Throughout time, money has been seen as a symbol of luck, status, and power. Walters ideology of describing that money is a solution to all problems and has installed a different mindset to him.
Walter has been fighting to provide for his family but struggles to do so. This causes him to become a disadvantage to his family and begins to distance himself from them. Mama describes how the world has changed and how one’s views are shaped differently throughout the many generations that progress. While freedom represented a longing to be oneself, Walter believed he could do more with it. Life means more when the focus is not on money but Walter has created a lifestyle where he believes it’s the answer for everything because he came from such a disadvantaged background.
Walter’s main goal is to become wealthy and own a liquor store with the money he has saved. Furthermore, it is individuals who seek more in their lives to find themselves. Beneatha, whose long-term goal is to have a career as a doctor is limited to reaching that goal based on the family’s current situation. At the beginning of Act I Scene I, Beneatha is often criticized by her brother, Walter says, “Have we figured out yet just exactly how much medical school is going to cost?” Who the hell told you that you had to be a doctor? If you so crazy ‘bout messing ‘round with sick people- then go be a nurse like other women- or just get married and be quiet.”(Hansberry 36). Walter states that they can not afford any type of school for being a doctor. Beneatha, which her name includes the word beneath, is set to a low standard. Because she is a woman, he told her to become a nurse like every other woman and just be quiet and marry a rich man. Women were viewed as having goals not that high and just live a life beneath men. Walter says this because he wants to do what is best for his sister, but also to make the right decision with the money that he will soon have with him.
On the other hand, when difficult circumstances take place, identity can be shown throughout the actions of Walter upon George. The Younger family has longed to provide themselves with money and a new home to start living in. In Act II Scene I, an argument breaks out between Beneatha’s love interest George and Walter when George tells him he is wacked up with bitterness. Walter responds and says, “ And you-ain’t you bitter, man? Ain’t you just had it yet? Don’t you see no stars gleaming that you can’t reach out and grab? You happy?- You contented son-of-a-bitch- you happy? You got it made? Bitter? Man, I’m a volcano. Bitter? Here I am a giant- surrounded by ants! Ants who can’t even understand what it is the giant is talking about” ( Hansberry 85 ). Walters thoughts and actions towards George tells that he has had enough with being bitter throughout his life and his dead-end job that he currently holds. He tells him don’t you ever have days of no stars gleaming, this suggests that Walter has bad days. He describes himself as a volcano, ready to burst and explode because he has been struggling to make things right for himself when his dreams do not become attainable. Walter says he is a giant surrounded by ants who can’t understand the giant.
He places himself as an individual who seeks to make his big plans and priorities first, which places him to be in superiority like a giant. The ants who can’t understand the giant refers to his family because they don’t see his goals. They are just seen as things running around and being invisible to what he is trying to obtain in his life. Furthermore, The difficult situations the Younger family goes through financially does not get to Mama’s head. Instead, Mama herself had become stronger through the family’s current state. In Act I, Scene 1, She explains the dreams and aspirations of her life when she says, “ We was going to set away, little by little, don’t you know, and buy a little place out in Morgan Park. We had even picked out the house, looks right dumpy today. But Lord, child, you should know all the dreams I had about buying that house and fixing it up and making me a little garden in the back– and didn’t none of it happen”( Hansberry 53 ).
Mama reminisces on her dream that was deferred and put off. She put up with the issue she had and fought to make something better for herself. The garden she wants to create in the back implies about plants, plants that struggle to grow just like her dreams, but through nurturing, she hopes to change things. As soon as her husband’s passing occurred, she was able to make it come true, only without him. Mama’s sense of going through issues is of patience and faith. Being the head of a household with a big family in a small room was important to her. The insurance payout that will come will make her have decisions that will help her family and the dreams she has always wanted.
In addition, one’s surroundings can create a sense of false hope between themselves and others. In the 2015 article ,“ A Letter To My Son” from the Atlantic Magazine Ta- Nehisi Coates argues about the false hope that comes with an individual when they are of color when Coates says towards the middle of the article, “ I did not tell you that it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay. What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me: that this is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within all of it”(Coates). In the article, he describes the current conditions under which a person of color must live through. Despite their appearance, they must find their place in the world.
This implies to A Raisin In The Sun when they are surrounded by the false hope of having not much in their lives. The family must work through the hardships of being colored individuals and hurdle over the obstacles of not having much money. The dreams and aspirations that the family shoots to obtain are included with consequences as soon as they get the insurance payout from their deceased father. This conflicts with how the money should be spent and how to live with so much. The Younger family begin to speak of their many dreams with the money they received, but even with so much, false hope stills occurs within the family, because of Walter prioritizing his goals above the rest of his family. Therefore the rest of the family’s goals are set to a lower standard based on Walters ideology.
Furthermore, when dreams are close to being attainable, individuals lose the sense of themselves. In Act II, Scene II, Travis speaks to Walter on behalf of what he is doing tonight, which Walter explains to Travis that he does not understand, Walter says, “ You wouldn’t understand yet, son, but your daddy’s gonna make a transaction… a business transaction that’s going to change our lives… That’s how come one day when you ‘bout seventeen years old I’ll come home and I’ll be pretty tired, you know what I mean, after a day of conferences and secretaries getting things wrong the way they do” (Hansberry 108). Walter places attaining the money as the most important thing in his life because he strongly believes he can give his son a better chance in life, he places himself too high, which can result in giving his son nothing. The many years that pass by will cause Travis to keep on waiting only to realize there was not much, to begin with. On the other hand, Further in Act II, Scene II, Walters friend Bobo, tells him that Willy had taken all the money that Mama had given to Walter.
Walter says, “ Willy!… Willy… don’t do it… Please don’t do it… Man, not with that money… Man, please, not with that money… Oh, God… Don’t let it be true… Man…I trusted you… Man, I put my life in your hands… Man… THAT MONEY IS MADE OUT OF MY FATHER’S FLESH”(Hansberry 128). Walter’s disarray of holding onto the money has affected him deeply after focusing only on himself. His future and the life of his family was all included and that, Walter has caused a conflict within himself and his family. The money lost was the fresh flesh of his father. Flesh, which includes several different types of components such as tissues, fats, and muscles make it up. The money on the other hand also had different components which created his decisions, made himself to be self- centered, but also to have a different mindset for himself is what made up money. To be able to live, you must have flesh, and his flesh was always on the money Mama gave him.
Additionally, disappointment is furthered obtain when expectations are not presented. In the 2017 article, “ Family Disadvantage and Life Course Expectations” from the Journal article of Social Forces, Steven Hitlin and Monica Johnson argue that individuals are more focused on expectations being presented and not their own development, that instead of it becoming a reality, disappointment occurs when they say, “Most research on future expectations has focused on speciﬁc domains, such as educational, occupational, or fertility expectations, with less attention paid to the development of general life expectations that transcend or incorporate multiple life course domains. We know less about how people develop broader ideas about their future lives” (Hitlin et al). The ideas the family has to become something more is put as a far stretch from themselves. Because the Younger family placed their expectations to higher education, owning a business and other things, it placed them to not focus on the development of themselves as a person but instead what life has to offer.
When individuals do not know themselves, they do not know whether their dreams will become true. They begin to place their meaning of life on things that will not matter at the end of their lives. Instead, their lives should represent more than money and rather on one’s passions and happiness with one another. These ideas are furthered explored after Walter loses the money. In Act III, Walter states that everything will be okay and the white man will come and write a check for them, Beneatha responds by saying, “ Well- we are dead now. All the talk about dreams and sunlight that goes on in this house. It’s all dead now” while Walter responds, “ What’s the matter with you all! I didn’t make this world! It was give to me this way! Hell, yes, I want me some yachts someday!” ( Hansberry 143). Walter states that all will be fine with the Younger family, although all the money is gone because of him. Beneatha states the sunlight that was blooming onto them has turned to darkness and died out, like a plant that does not receive sunlight or water. Their dreams are far out of reach and Walter describes that it was not his fault for these types of things to occur.
Moreover, through all disappointment, Walter and his family find their happiness in their lives. In Act III, the final act of the play, Walter tells Mr. Linder they will move inside their new house despite being in a white neighborhood, Walter says “ What I am telling you is that we called you over here to tell you that we are very proud and that this- Travis, come here. This is my son, and he makes the sixth generation our family in this country. And we have all thought about your offer” ( Hansberry 148). Walter’s attitude towards how he sees life has changed when all the money’s gone. He addresses Mr. Linder how he is proud to be the person he is while raising his son in a country were many negative views were placed for people like them. Walter is also proud to move into their new house that his father built brick by brick from the insurance payout given.
It is clear that Walter had moved ahead into the future, and is ready for whatever that comes to a place in his life. In the 2017 article, “Happiness in Behaviour Genetics: An Update on Heritability and Changeability” from the Journal article of Happiness Studies Ragnhild Nes and Espen Røysamb speak upon how people mindsets change once they find happiness through their disappointment and flaws when they say, “By reﬂecting emotional and motivational responses, happiness constitutes an integral part of an ongoing functional process, a part of our biological makeup that serves ﬁtness-enhancing functions by mobilizing appropriate responses to immediate circumstances and events”( Nes et al). Through this, we see the ideas in Walter’s actions when his mindset on money changes at the end of the play. Despite their future being uncertain and living in a new place, they are facing forward, being happy, and optimistic about themselves. The plan to succeed in their own lives first begin with being there for each other and being positive about what the future may hold for all of them.
When overwhelming circumstances occur, dreams can be deferred and cause disappointment in one’s identity and surroundings. Disappointment can drive people into having a different identity when dreams are deferred. But when failure comes, individuals find themselves. The disappointment Walter and the rest of the Younger family had gone through by losing most of the money shaped themselves into different people. It matters when individuals build upon their weaknesses, to build upon their human nature and overcome the circumstances. Because disappointment is an emotion expressed every day by individuals, dealing with it will just create a life worth living every day.
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