“A Raisin In the Sun”: An Analysis
“A Raisin In The Sun” is a play written by an African-American
playwright – Lorraine Hansberry. It was first produced in 1959. Lorraine
Hansberry’s work is about a black family in the Chicago’s South-Side after
the Second World War. The family consisted of Mama(Lena Younger), Walter
Lee(her son), Ruth (his wife), Travis (their son), and Beneatha (Walters
younger sister). The Younger family lived in poor conditions, and can’t
afford to have better living standards. However, Lena is waiting to
receive a $10,000 check from her late-husbands insurance money. The two
main characters in the play, Mama and Walter, want this money to be used
for the benefits of the whole family. Even though both of them want to
benefit the family, each one has a different idea of what to do with the
money and how to manage it to benefit everyone.
Walter Lee, like his father want’s his family to have a better life
and want’s to invest the money in a liquor store. Walter want’s the money
so that he can prove that he is capable of making a future for his family.
By doing well in business Walter thinks that he can buy his family
happiness. Walter has dreams. Dreams he most likely got from his father.
Dreams of better life for his family and himself. A dream of financial
security and comfortable living. Ruth, on the other hand is stable and down
to earth. She doesn’t make rash choices to accommodate a dream. She will
just make do with what she has. Mama is a loving person, she is wise but
lives in the past. She is happy to have her family with and be safe from
society. She thinks that money is not something that makes a family happy.
Besides dreams Walter also has a husbands responsibilities which
are universally thought of as being able to support his family and raise
his children so they are morally in line with what he believes in. Walter’s
problem, however, seems to be that he is building his supposedly well
thought out plan of investing money in a liquor store into something he is
infactuated with. By creating this infactuation, he is not able to achieve
his responsibilities. Besides having responsibilities Walter also has his
manly pride. All throughout the story Walter Lee shows a type of pride that
might be considered the “manly” pride. He always insists on being the head
of the family and he thrives on the acceptance of him as that role. When
his manlihood is questioned, he is greatly angered. He expects and tries
to demand for the rest of the family to listen to him and follow his guide
through life. He shows his anger towards the unacceptance of his “manly”
pride in the point of the story when his mother will not give money towards
his business interest. Mama denies him money because she has a deep
ingrained pride in her. Most of her pride is from the inherited pride she
received from her late husband, Big Walter. She has the good old values of
putting your family first, respecting your mother, and father, and
respecting the Lord.
She always talked about how her generation won their freedom and
was proud to be able to no longer be thought of as slaves. She never seemed
to fully understand the type of pride Walter was searching for although she
tried. She went as far as going against her belief that the $10,000 should
not go towards the liquor store. She ended up giving him this money to
boost his “manly” pride, but not before she put a down payment on a new
house. Although she was going against her values, she is proud in her
family and keeps her faith in them.
Walter Lee has never wanted anything mere in his life than that
$10,000. He tries to reason with his mom to give it to him and tries to
convince her that it would be profitable to the family. His mother’s “old
fashioned pride” is standing in the way of his “manly” pride. He thinks
money is the only way he can be successful; that money makes the man. The
following conversation between Walter and his mother illustrates Walter’s
need for his business venture to make him fell like a man:
Mama:I don’t ‘low no yellin’ in this house, Walter Lee, and you know it –
And there ain’t going to be no investing in no liquor stores. I don’t aim
to speak on that again.
Walter: Oh-so you don’t aim to speak on that again? So you have decided
Well, you tell that to my boy tonight when you put him to sleep on the
living room couchYeah – and tell my wife, Mama tomorrow when she has to go
out of here to look after somebody else’s kids. And tell it to me, Mama
every time we need a new pair of curtains and I have to watch you go out
and work in somebody’s kitchen. Yeah, you tell me then.
At the end of the play, after Walter lost the money his mother gave him to
invest, Walter tries to get some money back for the house. Mama tells
Walter to do what he thinks is best, but he has to do it in front of Travis
and make sure Travis understands what his father is doing. Mama uses
Walter’s own dreams for his son to show Walter what is best for the family.
Mama tries to teach Walter that money can not solve all of their problems.
Walter thought that being successful in business would teach his son that
he could be anything that he wanted. Yet the lesson Mama tries to teach
Walter is that no matter how much money you have you can still be the
person you want, even if that is a servant.
“A Raisin In The Sun” is not just about dreams of a better life but
pride and family values. Mama teaches Walter a lesson about life, about
family. Mama’s old-fashion pride, and family values bring this whole family
together when she thought Walter that money doesn’t buy happiness.