Sometimes a dream does get deferred. Maybe because of the color of one’s skin or one’s financial situations. The purpose of dreams are meant to be a reality, not to be condemned. For the Youngers family, dreams are essential. They are what brings the family together after all. In Raisin In The Sun Act 1, Hansberry uses the yearning theme of unfulfilled dreams that each character encounters to build the social commentary that dreams are just illusory and never achieved. There is symbolism that ties to the insurance payment.
Each character clings to distinct dreams, which have been deferred due to the socioeconomic barriers placed on the family. One of the prominent protagonists, Walter, his dream is to own a liquor store and start a business. Beneatha, her dream is to become a doctor but struggles to determine her identity as a well-educated black women. Lena, known as “Mama”, wants to live in a luxurious house with a backyard to fulfill her dream for her family to move up in the world since they are poor. Ruth’s dream is to build a happy family and believes one step toward this goal is to own a bigger and better place to live. Travis is clearly treated with love the most in the family from the fifty cents his teacher has told him to bring to school. Asagai has a strong sensational love for Beneatha and hopes that she will return to Nigeria with him. We see that the Youngers family struggled to attain these dreams and much of their happiness and depression is directly related to their attainment of, or failure to attain, these dreams.
However, for all the characters in the play, these dreams also involve money and are rejected because the lack of it. The family received a $10,000 insurance from Mr. Younger’s death which to them is expensive. Mama is a great example to begin with. Her dreams gets deferred first when she moved into the small apartment in Chicago that the Youngers family stay in. She also could not fill her dreams since she did not have enough money to do so. Ruth, who has the same dream as Mama’s, gets deferred when the family are forced into the crowded apartment. Ruth and Mama both have dreams that include amounts of money. In Raisin in The Sun, For the Younger’s, a division of the money of who gets to have authority makes it extremely difficult because they live in squalor. Money provides a constant source of division and preoccupation in the Younger household. Although the Younger family seems isolated from predominantly white cultures, they value the same materialistic dreams as the rest of American society. We see that living in a society where the fulfillment of dreams is based upon material wealth, the Younger family strives to overcome their hardships as they search not only happiness but prosperity in the African-American culture.
As money has never been a way of life for the family, the insurance check’s arrival becomes a symbol that brings each person to see the chance that their own dreams can become reality. Also, the insurance payment epitomizes the hope and nobility of the Younger family. Unfortunately, Walter does not the skills and work ethics to achieve his financial goals. Ruth hopes the money might mean some kind of stability and flourishing success for her family. Rather than gamble it on a liquor store, Ruth wants the money to actually mean something for the family as well. Beneatha, wants to use the insurance payment for medical school. She wants to exceed her family circumstances and redefine herself and her place in the world.
- How do Ruth and Beneatha’s attitude toward Mama’s money contrast with Walter’s, and what do these attitudes reveal about each character?
- Do dreams ever become destructive, a substitute for action? Or is it absolutely essential to keep a dream alive?