Dreams possess great importance in A Raisin in the Sun, with the play’s name coming from a 1951 Langston Hughes poem titled Montage of a Dream Deferred. In the poem, part of which serves as the play’s epigraph (a quotation at the beginning of a book that elaborates on its major themes) the poet asks, “What happens to a dream deferred?” pondering whether it shrivels up “like a raisin in the sun” or explodes. Hughes’ open question forms the basis of Hansberry’s work, with the intertwined and conflicting ambitions of the Youngers driving the play’s plot. Each character clings to distinct dreams, which have long been deferred due to socioeconomic limitations placed on the family by racism. The persistence of these dreams lends the play a pervasive sense of hope, despite the conclusion’s foreshadowing of coming struggles for the family in Clybourne Park.
Mama and her late husband Big Walter’s dream of owning a home forms the crux of the play. Clinging to a dream deferred for nearly 35 years, Mama recalls Big Walter’s statement that it seems “like God didn’t see fit to give the black man nothing but dreams,” linking the postponement of her dream to racial inequality. Ironically, it is Big Walter’s death, with its resulting $10,000 insurance payment, that makes the realization of Mama’s dream possible by the end of the play. Like Mama, Ruth clings to the dream of a home, which generates conflict with her husband, Walter Lee, who dreams of becoming a self-sufficient business owner. Similarly, Walter’s dream of owning a liquor store (one of the few business ventures open to an African-American man in mid-century Chicago) stands in stark contrast to his sister Beneatha’s dream of becoming a doctor. However, by the play’s end Walter’s lost investment places both his and Beneatha’s dreams in jeopardy, casting a shadow over the play’s semi-hopeful conclusion, which centers on Mama’s actualized dream. With the insurance money gone, Walter’s and Beneatha’s dreams for the future appear in danger of further postponement, recalling broader struggles with social forces beyond the characters’ control.
Show MoreA Raisin in the Sun - Dreams
The play A Raisin in the Sun demonstrates the hardships and successes of the members of a black family living in the south side of Chicago during the 50’s. For the Youngers, dreams are life. They are what bring the family together and pull it apart throughout the play. Each member of the family has a particular dream, and each of those dreams is like a wall being built between its owner and various other members of the family. Everyone’s dream straddles the line between selfishness and goodness for the family; however, some, like Walter’s, seem to be pulled more by the gravity of selfishness. Both Mama and Ruth share the same dream, but each has a slightly different reason for her…show more content…
The only thing he sets himself up for, however, is failure.
Mama also has her dream: a new house. Her late husband worked his entire life to move his family up in the world, and Mama intends to fulfill her husband’s dream for his family. When the insurance check comes, Mama immediately puts the down payment on a house. Walter’s response to this is to get angry and leave. At this time one might ask if Mama was wrong to pursue her own dream and leave Walter’s like she has done for her son’s entire life. However, when Willy runs off with the money that Mama gave to Walter, the reader learns that, at least this time, Mama made the right decision in not giving all the money to
Walter. As in the poem Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes, Mama’s dream has sagged “like a heavy load” for her whole life, and now that the resources are available to her, she wants to drop her burden and start anew. Mama’s dream is less selfish than her son’s, and in the eyes of a virtue-seeking society, this makes her the better person.
Of the entire family Ruth has the most selfless dream of all. Hers is that the family can be whole and happy. When Mama buys the house, Ruth is overjoyed because it is a new start, and it represents the hardships that the family has and will overcome. Mama