Themes of Dreams, Racism, and Struggle in A Raisin in the Sun
Themes Shaping Lives: Dreams, Struggles, Ambitions
A Raisin in the Sun revolves around many themes that are displayed throughout the story. Each character contributes to and portrays these themes in significant ways. The themes that are revealed are dreams, racism, poverty, money, and pride, and these themes revolve around the characters. The dream theme shows how each member of the Younger family has dreams they all want to accomplish. Poverty is also present as they live in a poor neighborhood in Chicago and experience racism from the white spokesman who tries to persuade the Younger family not to move to the district. Furthermore, the themes of money and pride create a lot of conflicts within the family as they bring forth hatred because everyone wants Mr. Younger’s insurance money for their own purposes.
Dreams are the main theme in A Raisin in the Sun, and dreams can save or destroy a person. In A Raisin in the Sun, each character is constantly struggling, and conflicts develop as everyone wants insurance money to achieve their dreams. Although their ambition drives them, money is a source of tension. For example, Beneatha and Walter may not achieve their dreams due to the money being scammed by Walter’s friend. As one literary critic notes, “The Younger family is tired from struggling and suffering and hope to grow and inherit something someday” (Ardolino, 181).
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In A Raisin in the Sun, the story also shows that Mama is willing to do anything to assist her family in fulfilling their dreams. Dreams give characters in the story something to strive for, such as Beneatha wanting to go to a university to study to become a doctor even though she is an African American woman, and that was unheard of. Lena Younger (Mama) and Ruth wanted to live in a bigger house and not one that they must share with other people. Walter wanted to invest in a liquor store, so he could be his own boss, not have to work as a chauffeur for a white man, and be financially successful. Each of the characters has a distinct dream, and these dreams have been deferred at first because of the family’s financial status. Poverty caused them to struggle and deal with unfair situations, which inhibited them from living a better life and attaining their dreams. Therefore, everyone was frustrated with life.
Hope, Dreams, Racism, Defiance
The death of Mr. Younger resulted in the family receiving an insurance check of $10,000, which made the family’s dreams possible and even generated new opportunities for them. Both Walter and Beneatha’s dreams were in jeopardy when Walter’s friend scammed him of the investment money, but a sense of hope was renewed when the family decided to pursue Lena Younger’s dream of moving out of the apartment into a nice house. Hansberry captures this sense of hope when Ruth shouts, “Good-bye to these goddamned cracking walls! These marching roaches and this cramped little closet. Hallelujah and good-bye misery” (85).
The dream of having a house is a central theme as it unites the family. This demonstrates that the perseverance of a dream leads to a sense of faith despite struggles and continuously deferring dreams. The expectation of escaping poverty is possible after Mr. Younger’s death. The story exemplifies that people can have victory over difficulties. As Ardolino reported, Mama’s plant symbolizes this theme because “the plant is the last thing she takes with her when they move” (181). Lena (Mama) has big dreams and hopes as she nurtures and raises her family, often comparing her life to the plant that she regularly tends for its growth as she dreams of owning a house with a garden.
Another theme explored was racism, as the Mr. Linder character makes bigotry prominent in the story and a reality that the Younger family cannot avoid. Mr. Linder and the other white people in the play only see the color of the Younger family’s skin and bribe them not to move into their neighborhood. However, the Younger family responds to their racist act with defiance and strength. According to Rose, By creating a drama based on a Black domestic sphere that exposes the interior, intimate impact of structural racism via housing segregation, oppression, economic exploitation, and inaccessible educational opportunity, Hansberry is able to reveal the importance of this nexus in a deft and Complex fashion. (30-31)
Race, Discrimination, Unity
A Raisin in the Sun depicts how racism inhibits the Younger family from accomplishing their dreams and can complicate a dream. Also, the play shows how race can influence one’s life. Mr. Linder and the white neighbors discriminate against the Younger family solely based on race, even though they do not know them. When the family is offered a bribe, it threatens to tear apart the family apart, and they must decide about the values that they stand for. The significance of race and racism is captured by Zohdi, who writes that “There is almost no community of intellectual life or point of transference where the thoughts and feelings of one race can come into direct contact and sympathy of the other” (12). The Younger family, in the end, stands up and reaffirms their dignity by deciding to move into the house.
Pride, Money, Poverty
The third theme is pride. Pride is a unifying force and drives many behaviors in the Younger family. Throughout A Raisin in the Sun, it is evident that Mama raised her family with dignity, pride, morals, and a desire to carry these traits out as their ancestors did. A sense of pride is illustrated when Mr. Linder, the white district representative, tries to persuade the Younger family not to move into their neighborhood. Yet, because of their values and dignity, the Youngers didn’t accept the money.
According to critiques of A Raisin in the Sun, “Despite the family’s dreadful economic circumstances, they decisively refuse to lose their pride in the pursuit of financial income” (Rose,10). Pride is also revealed as Walter is a chauffeur for a white man, which he hates, and therefore he is desperate to open a liquor store because he absolutely hates being someone’s servant. Lena Younger conveys and instills pride in her children in respect for their ancestors. Even when they were being criticized, they still considered their ancestral dignity to be great.
Money creates conflicts and hostility in the Younger household. The lack of money initiates struggles for them. For example, Walter feels less of a man as he is unable to provide for his family, and financial strains cause Ruth to consider getting an abortion. In addition, both Mama and Beneatha are also affected by the family’s economic constrain as both of their dreams depend on money to achieve and make it a reality. Mama sees the insurance money to accomplish her dream of owning a house, and Beneatha’s dream of going to medical school depends greatly on the money.
Poverty is another theme identified in the story. The Younger family lives in unpleasant conditions and is dominated by poverty. Correspondingly, how poverty rationalizes and produces inequalities. “blacks and white were still separated; there usually existed no interaction between them apart from work” (Nowrouzi, 5). Living conditions for the Younger family were difficult because they were financially unstable. Poverty was displayed in the story as the houses were in terrible condition, in which the Younger family was forced to tolerate this ailment as they didn’t have a choice.
The story is solely based on the struggle between dreams for each character, Lena’s dream is small but realistic, and Walter’s immense and ego-boosting dream creates resentment. In Addition, blatant prejudice is seen between Walter and Karl Linder, the spokesman for the all-white community where she hopes to reside. His implicit indications of fear are enough for an individual to grasp how viciousness in a race develops.
- Ardolino, F. (2017). Dreams Deferred but Dreams Nevertheless: A Dream Analysis of A Raisin in the Sun. Journal of American Drama and Theatre, 29(3), 181.
- Rose, L. J. (2003). The Politics of Race and Reason: A Raisin in the Sun. African American Review, 37(1), 5-12.
- Zohdi, M. (2013). “I Am Not the Devil”: Racial Anxiety and Reproductive Freedom in A Raisin in the Sun. Theatre Journal, 65(1), 19-34.
- Nowrouzi, A. (2016). Black Dreams in A White World: Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. Open Access Library Journal, 3(9), 1-9.