Fictional Analysis of “A Raisin in the Sun”
Lorraine Hansberry was born in Chicago to the Republican and well-to-do couple Carl and Nannie Perry Hansberry. On their daughter’s birth certificate, they crossed out the word “Negro” replacing it with “Black” – a testament to the Afrocentric ideology.
During the Great Depression, the Hansberrys remained upper middle class and considered “rich” by most Chicago blacks. Hansberry was never comfortable with her “rich girl” status, identifying instead with the “children of the poor”. In her plays, Hansberry focuses on the class of black people whom she loved.
Politically active, Carl, Hansberry’s father challenged a Supreme court decision against integration and won his right to buy a residence in a exclusive Chicago neighborhood where no other blacks lived. This met with hostile reactions from the whites. This probably inspired Hansberry to write her play “A Raisin in the Sun”.
This play narrates the tale of the Youngers, a poor black family’s struggle to attain middle-class status. At the start, Mama, the sixty-year old matriarch awaits the insurance check for $10,000 from the death of her husband, Big Walter.
The son, Walter Lee Younger, wanting to be a better provider, would like to invest the whole sum in a liquor store; however Mama objects for the reason that she is firmly opposed to the idea of selling liquor.
Mama decides to use almost half of her money as down payment on a house in a white neighborhood. Her conflict with Walter escalates until she is forced to entrust Walter Lee with the rest of the money. Walter Lee secretly invests the money in the liquor scheme, but his business partner runs off with the money.
The financial tragedy tests the mettle of each family member. Despite this “financial reversal, the Youngers decide to continue with their plans to move. The story ends on a note of hope. Act Four tells the readers that in due time, the family will be accepted by the residents of the white neighborhood. Strangely enough, the little plant of Mama will be instrumental towards this happy ending. The little plant has come to serve as a symbol for the human spirit that thrives in a deprived atmosphere and serves as inspiration to survive despite the struggle.
Characterization in “Dreams Deferred”
The main protagonist in the play is Mama, a woman in her early sixties, full-bodied and strong. Her eyes are lit and full of interest and expectancy. She is a beautiful woman who has adjusted to many things. Her carriage is noble and precise as her speech is somewhat careless. She intends to slur everything, but her voice is soft. As a matriarch, she loves her family devotedly and wants the best for them. When she explains to Walter her act of buying the house at Clybourne Park, she says: “Son – I just tried to find the nicest place for the least amount of money for my family (p. 85, Act 2 Scene I), Her frustration comes as a result of her family’s inability to appreciate her efforts.
Ruth Younger is the wife to Walter Lee, sister-in-law to Beneatha and daughter-in-law to Mama. She used to be a pretty girl – somewhat beautiful even, but life has been so disappointing, her face has come to look much older.
Walter’s words to her and about her spells the reason for Ruth’s dissatisfaction with life. He tells her: “You tired, aint you?” Tired of everything. Me, the boy, the way we live this beat-up hole – everything. Ain’t you? So tired – moaning and groaning all the time, but you wouldn’t do nothing to help, would you? You couldn’t be on my side that long for nothing, could you?” (p. 14, Act I Scene I). Still another deferred dream of Ruth is her problem of whether to keep the baby in her womb or have it aborted.
Walter Lee Younger is Ruth’s husband. He is a lean, intense man in his middle thirties, inclined to quick nervous movements and erratic speech habits and always in his voice, there is a quality of indictment.
Walter Lee is the type who would rather accuse the people around him for the ills of the world than himself. Here, he accuses his wife for expressing her opinion regarding his friends: “Anybody who talks to me has got to be a good-for-nothing loud mouth, ain’t he? Charlie Atkins was just a good-for-nothing loud mouth too, wasn’t he? When he wanted me to go in the dry cleaning business with him, and now he’s grossing a hundred thousand a year.” (p. 13, Act 1 Scene 1).
His deferred dream lies in that Walter he is – so desperate to be a better provider for his growing family but no one seems to listen to him and the money he would like to invest in the liquor business belongs to Mama. When she decides to leave him the balance of the insurance money, he loses the money instead and he doesn’t know what to do next.
Walter’s sister, Beneatha, is about twenty, slim and intense like her brother. Not as pretty as Ruth, she has an intelligent face. Her speech is different from that of the rest of the family in so far as education has permeated her sense of English. Perhaps the Midwest has finally won out in her inflection. Her deferred dream is to be a doctor and her problem is that her brother and sister-in-law oppose her. Walter says this to her: “Who the hell told you to be a doctor? If you so crazy ‘bout messing round with sick people – then go be a nurse like other women – or just get married and be quiet…” (p. 20, Act I, Scene 1).
Dreams Deferred is an original title which means “thwarted ambitions”, but this writer would like to add the idea that in the play itself, the dreams are just postponed. Given the courage, intelligence, experience, attitude and hope of the family members, things are bound to get better.
When moving day comes and goes, the Youngers settle down to their usual routine of everyday living. The people in the Clybourne neighborhood discovered that the Youngers’ lifestyle was similar to their own and proceeded to really welcome them. Mama achieves her dream of satisfying her family and of having white friends and a garden of her own.
Ruth decides to keep her baby so her first-born, Travis can have a younger sibling to love and protect. Walter becomes more responsible, quits his job as a driver and sets up his own grocery store. Beneatha becomes a doctor and breaks up with her boyfriend, George Murchison after discovering him to be a pampered college boy, a “phony”. She finally accepts Asagai, a fellow Afro-American who promises to care for her always. She accepts his offer to return to Africa and help his people. So, all’s well that ends well.