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The American is defined by reaching the top no matter who you are or where you come from. In the ‘50s this dream revolved around materialistic values. This play focuses on a family with each member having a different dream and their journey as an African Americans. Walter, Mama's son learns the meaning of pride and keeping what his father has earned is more important than money. The play focuses on supporting each other through rough times and learning to love. In the end, they achieve their American dream despite the color of their skin.
A Raisin in the sun & The American Dream
The American dream in the '50s was close to materialism. The ownership of consumer goods was believed to bring joy into a family's life. This stereotypical view governs the dream of one of the main characters in Lorraine Hansberry's play. The title of the play is based on “Harlem” by Langston Hughes, a poem that raises a question about a dream that is deferred. “Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? ... Or does it explode?” (Rampersad, 1995, pg. 426) There are three main characters and all three of them of have dreams that have been prolonged for too long. A Raisin in the Sun is about the rocky journey they go through to acquire their dreams.
The Younger's family has just received a $10,000 dollar check for their dead father's life insurance policy. They live in a two bedroom apartment on the black side of town in Chicago. Racial prejudices against blacks in that era and a low income are the root of conflict in the family. Mama, deceased Mr. Youngers widow wishes to buy a house and fulfill the dream she once saw with her husband. Beneatha, Mama's daughter, hopes to find her identity through looking towards true African heritage. Walter, Mama's son, wishes to one day become rich. He wants to replenish his marriage and provide his son with all the opportunities he never had growing up.
Walter wants to invest money in the liquor business with a few of his friends. Although the idea appalls Mama at first, she trusts and supports her son with his decision. The night before making the investment Walter tells his son about the business transaction he about to make while tucking him into bed. He tells the little boy that their lives will change soon and paints an elaborate and vivid picture of the future. He tells his son that when he's seventeen years old he'll come home and park the Chrysler in the driveway. The gardener will greet him and when he's inside the house he'll kiss his wife and come up to his sons room to see him browsing through brochures of the best colleges in America. He then tells his son that he will give him whatever he wants. Although Walter is somewhat materialistic in what he wants at the core he just wants a happy family and a son who should have all the chances he never had. During this time Mama buys a house to fulfill the dream she saw with her husband; the only one she can afford is in a white suburban neighborhood. Mr. Lindner a man from the neighborhood comes to the Younger house trying to convince them to not destroy the white community. He offers a lot of money in exchange for their acceptance. Meanwhile Walter looses all the money he has invested in the liquor store because I friend has run away with it. When he looses the majority of their financial resources the entire family falls into a deeper level of depression. At this time, Walter decides to take the money the white man has to offer. The thought of selling away their right vexes Mama, Walter's sister and his wife. They detest Walter for dealing with his dead fathers money so easily and feel that he has lost his soul when he days we wants to be bought out by the white Mr. Lindner.
Ultimately, loosing everything they have unites them because at the last moment Walter changes his mind about taking money from Mr. Lindner. Walter tells him that they have moved into the house because their father earned it for them. He continues by saying that they don't want to disturb the neighborhood peace or protest for bigger causes, and that they'd be nice neighbors. He tells Mr. Lindner that he doesn't want the money. At this moment the entire family's spirits are lifted and they are proud of the decision Walter has made. This act of standing by your family to achieve the American dream of succeeding no matter who you are and where you come from unites them. They learn to support each other and put their families before their own. By owning a house, having a high morale, and the support of their family, each of them is on their way to fulfill their American dream.
Foulis, Rhona (2005, March, 14). A Raisin in the Sun. Retrieved March 8, 2008, from Culture Wars Web site: http://www.culturewars.org.uk/2005-01/raisin.htm
Potter , G and Struss, Joe. (2002, April, 02). Iowa State University. Retrieved March 8, 2008, from ISU Play Concordances Web site: http://www.public.iastate.edu/~spires/concord.html
Rampersad, A (Ed.). (1995). The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc..