Money Is More Than Just A Number

Money is an object, but would one ever think about it as something more? In Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, money is much more than a thing, it means something different to every character in the play. To this family money seems like it is a little more than just money and that it represents something they want in life. The family does not have a lot of money, but they will soon receive a life insurance check, in which they all have their own ideas on how to use it. Along with the ideas from each character, there is symbolism to the money.  

To start with the ideas that each character brings up during the first act of the play, three of the characters have their very own, unique things they would want to see the money go toward. Mama would like to use the money to pay for Beneatha’s medical school funds, while Beneatha herself would like for her mother to keep the money and use it for an extravagant trip or vacation. Beneatha’s brother, Walter had his own idea of where the money should go that would only be beneficial to him. He would want to take the money and open a liquor store, which he believed would help make more money for the family, but he can not be positive on that thought. This leads into the more symbolic representations of the money. The ideas of where the money should go reflect the character’s personalities as well as show the symbolism of money specifically to each character.  

For the actual symbolism and representation of money by each character Mama is a good example to start. Given that she wants to help her daughter go through medical school, money symbolizes hope for her daughter, and frankly herself. She believes in her daughter and that if she wants to do something, she will do it which is why she wants to give her daughter the money. She knows that if her daughter becomes a doctor one day, she will probably help her mother with money. This explains why the money represents and symbolizes hope for Mama. Money also symbolizes love for Mama. This is because the mother is focusing on her children before herself which is symbolic of her husband’s love for his children. It was stated that he loved his children beyond words and Mama was just following that love from her late husband. For Beneatha, the money is symbolic of help for her mother. She knows how much her mother went through and she wants to give her the best life possible. Beneatha believes her mother should keep the money because it will help her mentally and help her feel more stable in life and their current situation, whether she uses it to go on a trip or keeps it for further use. Walter is the character that seems the most greedy with the money. It does not seem like he wants the money to help anyone but himself. For him the money symbolizes happiness. He believes that he needs money in life to be happy and have a great life which is why he is trying to open a liquor store with the life insurance check. 

For all the characters money represents freedom and security at some level. The freedom comes from the ability to do a lot with the money. In the play, it is talked about that the family could get a new home, one that is bigger and more fit for the family. The family will be able to do more than before because of the increased funds in the household whatever way it is used. The money is also representative and symbolic of security for the family. Money usually represents security for many people but for the Younger family specifically, it means more. They do not have a lot of money and the addition of the check to their bank account would allow the family to feel more secure, especially Mama. Money is something that does not mean a lot from the surface but the true symbolism of money emerges when put into deep thought.

Do the symbolic meanings of money foreshadow anything to the readers about the Younger family? 

How does the money symbolize a connection to other symbols throughout the play, more specifically through the rest of act one, such as Mama’s plant? 

14 Replies to “Money Is More Than Just A Number”

  1. Hi Lily! I think that your view on money as a symbol was super insightful and I agree with your point that “[f]or all the characters money represents freedom and security at some level.” One quote
    that I believe supports and furthers this statement is when Mama explains, “[o]nce upon a time freedom used to be life- now it’s money. I guess the world really do change…” (page 74). This comment was necessary for Mama to make to Walter because Walter is insistent that money is life. Mama wholeheartedly disagrees with this point, taking pride in the nonmaterial, such as her plants and the family that she raised. She becomes disappointed with Walter when she realizes how money crazed he is.

  2. Hi Lily! I am interested in the point you brought up about the character Walter having a greedy attitude towards money. Please consider some evidence I found to support this. Through analysis we can see that most of the characters’ attitudes towards money have to do with the fulfillment of their dreams. Walter, on the other hand, approaches money differently. In response to Mama asking him why he talks so much about money he states “Because it is life, Mama!” (Hansberry 74). This passionate response by Walter demonstrates how he sees money as a game of life. If he is able to play his cards correctly, money will help him advance to the next level of life. He is often critical of other African Americans that do not share the same view as him “Walter Lee say colored people ain’t never going to start getting ahead till they start gambling on some different kinds of things in the world” (Hansberry 42). Walter sees nothing wrong with his greedy approach to money, and hopes others will follow his lead.

  3. Hey Lily!! I really enjoyed reading your view on money throughout the play so far and I agree with you entirely. On the surface it may seem that money is just an object but once you analyze the text and each character involved the way you did, it becomes visible that it is much more. I found your point about Walter and how all he wanted from the money was happiness, which is the one thing you can never buy, very interesting and makes him seem selfish in a way and it is obvious Mama notices this as well. I think another important quote that coincides with this claim is when Mama says, “I’m looking at you. You a good-looking boy. You got a job, a nice wife, a fine boy and…”(page 75) It seems that Walter finds his life to be miserable and it is clear the only thing he doesn’t have is money, which is everything to him. Money may buy you nice things but Walter has an amazing life and he is taking it for granted.

  4. Hey Lily! I thought this post was very interesting due to the symbolism you found and depicted from the money in this story. To respond to one of your questions about other symbols within the text, Mama’s plant is clearly a symbol for her hopes. It is almost as if her plant represents her children, specifically the hopes and dreams she has for he children ****65****. Mama says, “Like this little old plant that ain’t never had enough sunshine or nothing – and look at it…” when referring to her children and how they turned out as adults (page 52). I love that line because it clearly is about how because they lacked having certain things, like money, growing up they resulted in being bitter and distant. Symbols seem to be a huge part of A Raisin in the Sun and the plant and money specifically add to the tensions between Mama and her children because she feels she did not do enough for them to turn out the way she had hoped.

  5. Hi Lily, I really enjoyed reading your blog post! I agree that money is not just an object in this book, to each character it means so much more than that. I liked the great detail of explaining each character’s ideas of how to spend the life insurance check. This check for the Younger family could mean medical school for Beneatha, a trip for Mama, a liquor store for Walter or Ruth’s want financial stability for her family. Money has taken over this family, it is all they talk about. It consumes them. A quote that stuck out to me was on page 36 when Beneatha states, “That money belongs to Mama, Walter, and it’s for her to decide how she wants to use it. I don’t care if she wants to buy a house or a rocket ship or just nail it up somewhere and look at it. It’s hers. Not ours- hers.” Beneatha wants her mother to be happy. Walter is nagging his sister because he is so obsessed with this check. He is so focused on him getting the money for his store he doesn’t want to see his own sister or mother happy.

  6. Hey Lily, I really liked how you chose to focus on the symbolic opportunity of the money in this play. It is obviously a driving force for all the characters and I think it would also be interesting to further your point on how it reflects their personalities and relationships. For example, when Ruth suggests on page 43 that Mama should “go on away and enjoy yourself some! Forget about the family … for once in your life.” This might tell us more about how Ruth sees vacation or an escape as the best use for the money. Ruth and Beneatha also support Mama deciding how to use the money and as you pointed out Walter is greedier. Where Mama and Beneatha also align is in their appreciation and value for education. It seems to be without further question that Beneatha will get her school paid for before anything else and this really shows how much the money symbolizes their opportunity for a better life.

  7. Hi Lily, I decided to comment on your blog post because your title was able to perfectly capture how I felt about Act 1 Scene 1, and I agree with the points you have made about A Raisin in the Sun. The Younger family perceives money as a gift considering they struggle every single day to live comfortably in their apartment and to put food on the table. This situation would make you think that receiving this amount of money would be a blessing to each of the characters but in reality, it is a blessing and a curse. To further your argument, I believe Walter is the most greedy with the money and the point in the story when I truly realize this is when Walter and Beneatha are arguing on page 38. Walter states “He was my father, too!” Beneatha replies with “So what? He was mine, too- and Travis’ grandfather- but the insurance money belongs to Mama. Picking on me is not going to make her give it to you to invest in any liquor stores-and I for one say, God bless Mama for that”. To me, this argument shows Walter has forgotten the main point as to why they are receiving this money in the first place, the death of his father, Beneatha’s father, Travis’ grandfather and Mama’s husband. Walter becomes so wrapped up in taking the money for himself he loses his sense of love and family, which should be the strongest entity keeping their family together throughout this entire situation.

  8. Hi Lily! I thought that your analysis of the symbolism with money was really interesting. I agree with how Mama views the money as a sign of love and hope, and I think that out of everyone, Mama seems the most connected to this money. Although everyone has their own opinion with what should happen, it seems like Mama has an emotional connection to this check because of her late husband. At one point, Mama says that Big Walter would say “‘Seem like God didn’t see fit to give the black man nothing but dreams- but He did give us children to make them dreams seem worth while’” (pg 46). Mama seems to remember this moment of her husband saying this so clearly, so I think that is why she mainly wants to put the money towards Beneatha’s education. She wants to make sure that her children get to live out the dreams that her and Big Walter couldn’t. However, I think that she doesn’t want to give the money to Walter because like you had stated, he makes the liquor stores seem like it would only be beneficial towards him.

  9. Hey, Lily! I really enjoyed reading your post and thought your viewpoint on the deeper symbolism of money was interesting. You make strong points on what this check means for each family member and I think it is important to note that both Beneatha and Mama have selfless feelings towards the money. Mama wants to use it for her daughter’s education and Beneatha wants Mama to do with the money what she pleases. Walter, on the other hand, wants to use it for his liquor store like you said and sees money as happiness. That was a vital thing you brought up because it shows family dynamics and how each person thinks. To me, the way Walter thinks is very sad. While you bring up the point of symbolism for each individual character, I would also like to present the idea of this check being a divider in the family. I feel that instead of bringing them all together, it might create a rift in the family relationship, contradicting Walter’s idea of money bringing happiness— it can actually do more harm than good, depending on the situation.

  10. Hi Lily! I enjoyed reading your blog post. You clearly explained what money represents for each character in the play. I agree with your statement that money symbolizes a connection to other symbols throughout act one. Mama’s plant is a great example of this. To me, mama’s plant represents her dream, which is to own a house with a yard. Mama is practicing her nurturing nature because she understands her family’s financial problems and she believes that having a comfortable space outside of their cramped apartment will help them grow. Although the plant is feeble, mama continues to take care of it which represents the persistent care that she gives to her family. On page 40 mama says “Lord, if this little old plant don’t get more sun than it’s been getting it ain’t never gonna see spring again.” This represents the fact that everyone in the family must find a solution if they want to achieve their dreams and live better.

  11. Hello Lilly, I think your take on the symbolic nature on the money was pretty much right on the nose. The check symbolizes different things to each character, even Travis. I would like to point out though that it was Ruth that suggested Mama take a vacation: “Ruth: You know what you should do, Miss Lena? You should take yourself a trip somewhere. To Europe or South America or someplace.”(pg.43). I believe that because it was Ruth who suggested the trip instead of Beneatha, leaves the symbolism of money to Beneatha a little more obscured. She is a very outspoken and still very young, which allows for the possibility that she does indeed want help with school, despite what she said to her brother about not caring what their mom does with the money.

  12. Hi Lily! I was honestly so excited when I saw that you analyzed the topic of money in your discussion post, because, from the very beginning of the book, I have been intrigued by that theme. I also find it very interesting how each character has a different idea of what they want to do with the money. Some of their intentions are selfish and some aren’t. Though some of them want to use the money for the good of their family, they are going about it in a way that is causing conflict among the family unit. I am foreshadowing that this check is going to tear the family apart. I think that sometimes money can do more bad than good, and we might see that in the book. Their family pay be poor, but that doesn’t mean they’re fundamentally unhappy. The money could mess with their family and potentially put them in a worse place than they started. The idea of money not buying happiness is an interesting one that I think will carry on throughout the book. Good job on your post, I was glad to see another perspective on the theme of money!

  13. Hi Lily, I loved your interpretation of the sense of money throughout Act I. Money is this one object that seems to have such power and hold on so many things in life, such as happiness, freedom, and one’s dreams. In A Raisin in the Sun money acts as a key to the door that leads to everyone’s dreams, but in this story specifically the money they have can only open one door. Each character has their hopes and dreams and what they would love to be able to do and achieve but unfortunately for them, they don’t make the final decision, Mama does. Mama would love to buy a house and move out of the cramped space they’re in now where they have to share a bathroom, which I truthfully also feel is the most practical decision to be made with the money. Mama has this plant that symbolizes her dreams to own a home, and which this plant could at some point become an entire garden. Not only does the plant represent her dream for the home, but also her care for her family. Mama can see the struggling her family goes through, and she wants to change that. On page 85 Mama says “Looks right dumpy today. But Lord, child, you should know all the dreams I had ’bout buying that house and fixing it up and making me a little garden in the back” this truly expresses her desire for the home and the happiness it will bring.

  14. Hello Lily, loved the blog! Money can really control how a family lives. In this situation it is on their mind all day everyday. They are living in a tiny apartment with no room. Not even enough beds to go around. They share a bathroom with another family which really complicates their morning as you see in the beginning of act one. The money problem complicates everything else and leads them to a struggling lifestyle. Its no wonder why they all have dreams and plans for what they want to do with the money.

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