The Value and Purpose of Dreams

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.

  1. How do Ruth and Beneatha’s attitude toward Mama’s money contrast with Walter’s, and what do these attitudes reveal about each character?
  1. Do dreams ever become destructive, a substitute for action? Or is it absolutely essential to keep a dream alive?

10 Replies to “The Value and Purpose of Dreams”

  1. Hi Makense! This post was very well-written and I enjoyed reading your insight on the characters’ dreams. It’s important to note that while Walter takes advantage of his father’s inheritance, Beneatha and Ruth, although they have differing dreams, both acknowledge that the money should be spent wisely. Walter does not understand their values, as he is often frustrated at the two women throughout Act I: “Baby, don’t nothing happen for you in this world ’less you pay somebody off! (Hansberry 30). These differences in values not only create an overloading amount of tension, but it also unveils the nature of them. Beneatha is a strong, resilient woman that chooses to be independent. Ruth is a simple woman who just wants to maintain stability in the household. And finally, Walter reveals himself to be an intense, strong-willed man who chooses to take advantage of the money given to him. Eventually, these dreams could become self-destructive, as their worn-out house may represent themselves in the future.

  2. Hi Mackense, I really enjoyed your response! You were really able to dig deep and get me to think about how each of the characters in A Raisin in the Sun are effected by their own dreams that they have. A quote by Walter that stood out to me was “That’s it. There you are. Man say to his woman: I got me a dream. His woman say: Eat your eggs. Man say: I got to take hold of this here world, baby! And a woman will say: Eat your eggs and go to work. Man say: I got to change my life, I’m choking to death, baby! And his woman say – Your eggs is getting cold! (Hansberry)”. It is clear that Walter feels as if his dreams are not being validated by Ruth, or anyone else in the household. Since his dream of his store is now revolving around his fathers insurance check, this has created the tension which can cause issue. He is obviously incredibly frustrated and you make the great point in that it shows the value that the check holds, as well as the difference in that value varying on the family member.

  3. Hi Makense, I really liked how you chose to write your blog post about the different characters’ dreams, what the dreams say about them, and how the dreams can cause conflict between the characters because that is one of the major things I noticed while I was reading Act 1, too. One of the questions you asked was what the characters’ opinions on how the money should be used reveals about them, and I think that Walter wanting to use the money to start his own business and Ruth wanting to use it to help support the family shows that they have very different personalities. Walter is a big dreamer, and Ruth and Mama, though still having their own dreams in the back of their minds, are realists. An example to support this is when Walter was telling Ruth that he wanted to use the money to get a better job, but she made a joke out of what he was saying: “So you would rather be Mr. Arnold than be his chauffeur. So- I would rather be living in Buckingham Palace” (Hansberry 34). This quote from Ruth shows that she is trying to emphasize to Walter how ridiculous and unlikely his dream is. You were correct in your point that the insurance check allows the family to come closer to achieving their dreams, yet it also brings in a lot more problems for them in the form of conflict.

  4. Hi! I really enjoyed reading your blog post about your take on how dreams are portrayed in the play. I felt that you were on point when it came to analysis and I loved your second question about whether or not dreams can be destructive. To answer this question, yes I believe that they definitely can be. This idea is supported in the play through Walter’s reckless behavior in response to his dreams constantly being smothered. After being repeatedly put down when discussing his big plans for the future, he begins to drink constantly and even stops going to work. In act I scene ii, he says, “I want so many things that they are driving me kind of crazy… Mama – look at me” (222). This is the point in which even Walter himself recognizes the harm that had been coming from his obsession with his liquor store dream. I also agree with your thoughts on how money heavily influences the fate of the character’s dreams, especially in Walter’s situation. I look forward to your class discussion tomorrow 🙂

  5. I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I believe that we all have dreams that we wish to live up to. I can agree but also disagree that some dreams may be destructive. A dream can push us towards a goal and brings out the best in all of us. Dreams help us achieve goals but if we work too much or too hard towards those dreams they may consume us and that is when it may begin to become unhealthy. I agree dreams can become a substitute for action, just believing in a dream does not mean we are taking action towards it. I’m excited to discuss this in class! Thanks!

  6. While reading Raisin in the sun I realized that Ruth and Bennie see the money as something that Mama deserves while Walter sees it as an opportunity to help with his own dream. Ruth and Bennie see it with no selfish thoughts. Walter is selfish and wants it for his own selfish needs because then he thinks that it can fulfill his dreams, that he will be able to help the rest of his family, so it is not completely selfish.

    I feel like a dream should always be something that a person should shoot for, however, I do believe that a dream could be destructive in the way that it affects others around the person pursuing the dream with the help of others and if that person becomes dependent on others they will never reach their goals by themselves. I believe that any dream is possible to achieve by oneself if they have the right mindset and the dedication.

  7. Hey Makense! This post was really well formed, and it is surely true that everyone has dreams which they wish to fulfill, some being realistic and others not so much. In some ways a dream can be destructive, especially is it is unrealistic as an individual can try so hard to achieve this dream. However, by the time they finally realize that their dream is unachievable so much time and energy has already been wasted. For the check, everyone has their own ideas on how it should be used, but the greatest difference in thought comes between Walter and everyone else. Walter believes he should be able to use the full $10,000 check as a down payment on the liquor store. This shows the selfishness in Walter, as he wants to use the entire check on himself. Meanwhile, both Ruth and Beneatha agree that Mama should choose how the money is spent, but they do at least have dreams on how they could use the money if it was theirs. Walter is deadest on using Mamas’ money.

  8. Hi! Great blog post. It was very insightful and well crafted in my opinion. I think that if you talked more in depth about the “whys” to the characters dreams, that could make your point even stronger. For example, why does “mama” want a big house? It could possibly be because of her childhood? If someone never gets an expierance in life then they will spend their life wanting it. People want the things that they can’t have. To answer your second question about how dreams could either be destructive or essential, I think that dreams are essential if the person who is striving for the dream has the right mindset. For example, Benentha is working hard to be a doctor even though she didn’t come from money and is a woman in a time that is discrimatory against woman being doctors. Yet, she does not give up and ignores the crticism that she recieves. Great blog post though! I enjoyed reading it a lot!

  9. Your blog post was super well written and I really enjoyed reading it! Obviously all the members of the family have different dreams and aspirations, and the insurance check gives them a sense of hope, as you mentioned. Ruth and Beneatha have more selfless ideas of how to spend the money whereas Walter seems to be only thinking of himself. I am interested to read further and see how they actually choose to spend the money.

  10. Really awesome blog post Makense! Im a big fan of the idea that dreams are meant to be pursued. Just like we talked about in class I believe that Walter is trying to get the liquor store to create a better future for his family. If you give a man a fish he will eat for a day, however if you give a man a fishing rod he can survive forever. I think thats how he is thinking. Beneatha and Mama are trying to fix the way they’re living right away when Walter is thinking in the long term. I liked how you said the money was a symbol for their potential future. I also liked how each indivisual person had their own dream and own way that they wanted to spend the money. Each person has their own dream.

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