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Dreams in A Raisin in the Sun Essay


"A Raisin in the Sun", written by Lorraine Hansberry, follows the life of a small black family's difficult struggle to keep their dreams of from tenants to owners alive and see them through to culmination. These dreams, as well as coming to terms with the dreams that are out of reach, are the focus and driving force behind this story of every persons struggle to attain goals that aren't always consistent with societys thoughts or ideas on a persons place in life. The internal difficulties within the family and the personal struggles battled by each of the individual family members are the major underlying theme(s) within the play.

As the play begins a husband, Walter, and his wife, Ruth, are seen having a fight over Walter's dream to become a 'mover and shaker' in the business world by using an incoming insurance check for his mother as a down payment on a radical adventure. Walter tells his wife that, "See-I'm trying to talk to you 'bout myself and all you can say is eat them eggs and go to work"(Hansberry 34), which is the first sign of Walter's recurring feelings that if someone in the family would just listen to him and put forth their trust his dreams would come to fulfillment. Following this argument Walter goes off to his job as a chauffeur which is the job he so longs to be done away with because he would rather "be Mr. Arnold [his employer] than be his chauffeur(Hansberry 34).

This episode illustrates a major conflict throughout the story. As Walter dreams bigger and bigger he seems to leave the 'smaller' things such as his family behind. This movement away from the family is against the furtherance of the values and morals of the family. Where in the past his father would have been happy working for another man and caring for his family, Walter is more concerned with becoming self-employed or at least in a management position without really thinking about the consequences which may be imposed upon his family by his incessant need to 'elsewhere'. As seen later in the story Walter learns that for the overall good of the family he needs to set his dreams aside and get his 'head in the game' so that all may succeed.

Later in the morning Beneatha, the younger sister of Walter, starts yet another internal conflict by speaking in an unacceptable manner about God at which point her mother slaps her because of her disrespect to values that have been taught to her since childhood. This event shows yet another time in which a family member threatens to ruin the inherent stability of the family structure by trying to build in a manner which is completely incompatible with the rest of the structure. Beneatha, although believing to be bettering herself, is leaving an important part of herself and her heritage behind. Beneatha's speech about God is her attempt to show her independence and uniqueness within the world, but when she asserts herself in an area that is extremely sensitive to the family heritage and structure, she threatens to wean herself from the only guaranteed support group in life, the family. Once again, as with Walter, Beneatha realizes later in the story that it is the furtherance of long-standing family values and morals which give the foundation upon which to build a wonderful life.

These examples illustrate just a few of the many ways in which different family beliefs and goals among the family group do not always benefit and are sometimes a source of dissension amongst the group members in addition to the fact that the larger group goals are sometime lost because of the incessant race for individual goals.

In contrast, the story's ending presents a view of how standing by long term family goals, values and beliefs provides a sense of unity that can surmount any obstacle and keep the pride of the family alive. Once the insurance money is received by Mama, Lena Younger, she believes that the best thing to do with it is buy a new house for her family and help to pay for the cost of Beneatha's schooling. At first she is very adamant against giving any of the insurance money to Walter because she believes that his uses for the money will not benefit the family. But, as time progress Lena sees how downtrodden her son his because none of the family members will support his dream, so she decides to give him the money left over after buying the house to spend on his dream and "be the head of this family from now on like you supposed to be"(Hansberry 107). Walter's deal falls through though and he is faced with an even more 'pride deflating' task of talking with the head of the white 'Welcoming Committee' of their new neighborhood and pretending to be the stereotypical subservient black, so that the 'Welcoming Committee' will buy the family's new house and the family can then use that money for Beneatha's schooling and existence. But, as the time draws near for Walter to put his pride away he realizes with the help of the family that no amount of money can make up for the loss of pride and that it is sometimes better to sacrifice the goals of one for the good of many, so he tells the gentleman from the 'Welcoming Committee' that they "decided to move into our house because my father-my father-he earned it." This bold and unselfish move helps to propagate the family's long standing ethics, values, and pride.

A Raisin in the Sun displays a great recurring theme in life that many times the good of the few has to be sacrificed through the needs and propagation of the group. This play also powerfully illustrates the idea that sometimes to hold on to ethics, values and pride is the harder thing to accomplish, but is the most fulfilling and helps to make facing the next challenge easier and more rewarding.

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