Lorraine Hansberry’s play, “Raisins in the Sun,” narrates the story of an African American family living in a Southside ghetto. The Younger family is in obvious financial need and struggles to meet the needs of all its members…
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The older women do domestic work, while Walter is a chauffeur. The play revolves round their receipt of a $10,000 insurance check from the death of the father. The family strives to use that check to realize its dreams. Hansberry’s play poses Langston Hughes’ question “What happens to a dream deferred?” as its epigraph. The various characters in the play have their own, unique dreams: Eleanor Younger dreams of a house in the suburbs; Beneatha dreams of becoming a doctor; Ruth dreams of a better life for the family and Walter dreams of economic success. As each member of the Younger family struggles to come to terms with their identities, weaknesses and wants, there is no doubt that “The simple eloquence of the characters elevates the play into a universal presentation of people’s hopes, fears and dreams” (Washington, 110). In very simple terms, “Raisins in the Sun” may be viewed as the struggle of the Younger family to reach out for the great American Dream in their own ways. The dreams of Eleanor Younger and Walter Younger come into conflict in the play, but the resolution demonstrates that deferred dreams can survive. Right from the early days of her marriage, Eleanor Younger dreams of a house in the suburbs. ...
She agrees with her husband that “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 worthwhile” (Hansberry, 46). She allots money to fund Beneatha’s dream of becoming a doctor. At the same time, when Eleanor realizes the extent of Walter’s emotion regarding becoming a businessman, she gives him money to invest in his dreams of entrepreneurship. Walter is a young man who is obsessed by his dreams of wealth. He is tired of the poverty of their life, which threatens to extend into the future, “Just waiting for me a big, looming blank space full of nothing” (Hansberry, 73). He is determined to change the course of his life. He declares to his wife, “I got me a dream.” (Hansberry, 33). He resents Ruth’s refusal to encourage him in his scheme of opening a liquor store. He models his ideas of success on the affluent young white men he sees downtown. He envisions success on a huge scale. He seeks to emulate the success of George Murchinson’s father, telling George that Walter thinks “like he does. I mean think like he does. Big. Invest big, gamble big, hell, lose big if you have to, you know what I mean” (Hansberry, 84). He is swept up by his fury to make good in life: “I want so many things that they are driving me kind of crazy” (Hansberry, 72). As Walter reaches out for the American Dream, and pursues financial security and prosperity, he “bears the dreams of many generations of black suffering, and he demands his place under the sun of the American dream” (Saber, 459). When Eleanor gives him money to invest in his liquor store, Walter is confident of realizing his dream. His flawed judgment leads to his betrayal by Willy Harris and the loss of his money and
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Hughes foregrounds the destructive effects of postponing the dreams of black people and makes the reader feel the impact throughout the whole poem. Even though the poem uses an irregular rhyme and irregular metrical patterns, the language, imagery, symbols and figures of speech help convey the mood.
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Hansberry’s family lived in Chicago, where housing was rigidly segregated on racial lines. Bombings, demonstrations, attacks on blacks who tried to reside in white neighborhoods, and racially restrictive zoning laws were common. In the 1930s, The Hansberry’s attempted to move into a ‘restricted’ white neighborhood in Chicago.
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