A Raisin in the Sun is a play by Lorraine Hansberry that debuted on Broadway in 1959. The title comes from the poem “Harlem” (also known as “A Dream Deferred”) by Langston Hughes. The story is based upon a black family’s experiences in the Washington Park Subdivision of Chicago’sWoodlawn neighborhood. Plot
Walter and Ruth Younger and their son Travis, along with Walter’s mother Lena (Mama) and sister Beneatha, live in poverty in a dilapidated two-bedroom apartment on Chicago’s south side. Walter is barely making a living as a limousine driver. Though Ruth is content with their lot, Walter is not and desperately wishes to become wealthy, to which end he plans to invest in a liquor store in partnership with Willy, a street-smart acquaintance of Walter’s whom we never meet. At the beginning of the play, Mama is waiting for an insurance check for ten thousand dollars. Walter has a sense of entitlement to the money, but Mama has religious objections to alcohol and Beneatha has to remind him it is Mama’s call how to spend it. Eventually Mama puts some of the money down on a new house, choosing an all-white neighborhood over a black one for the practical reason that it happens to be much cheaper. Later she relents and gives the rest of the money to Walter to invest with the provision that he reserve $3,000 for Beneatha’s education.
Walter passes the money on to Willy’s naive sidekick Bobo, who gives it to Willy, who absconds with it, depriving Walter and Beneatha of their dreams, though not the Youngers of their new home. Meanwhile, Karl Lindner, a white representative of the neighborhood they plan to move to, makes a generous offer to buy them out. He wishes to avoid neighborhood tensions over interracial population, which to the three women’s horror Walter prepares to accept as a solution to their financial setback. Lena says that while money was something they try to work for, they should never take it if it was a person’s way of telling them they weren’t fit to walk the same earth as them. While all this is going on, Walter’s character and direction in life are being defined for us by two different men: Beneatha’s wealthy and educated boyfriend George Murchison, and Joseph Asagai, a Nigerian medical student at a Canadian university on a visit to America. Neither man is actively involved in the Youngers’ financial ups and downs. George represents the “fully assimilated black man” who denies his African heritage with a “smarter than thou” attitude, which Beneatha finds disgusting, while dismissively mocking Walter’s lack of money and education.
Asagai patiently teaches Beneatha about her African heritage; he gives her thoughtfully useful gifts from Africa, while pointing out she is unwittingly assimilating herself into white ways. She straightens her hair, for example, which he characterizes as “mutilation.” When Beneatha becomes distraught at the loss of the money, she is upbraided by Joseph for her materialism. She eventually accepts his point of view that things will get better with a lot of effort, along with his proposal of marriage and his invitation to move with him to Nigeria to practice medicine. Walter is oblivious to the stark contrast between George and Joseph: his pursuit of wealth can only be attained by liberating himself from Joseph’s culture, to which he attributes his poverty, and rising to George’s level, wherein he sees his salvation. To Walter, this is the American dream, which he pursues as fruitlessly as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, with the added handicap of being black in white America. But whereas Loman dies at the end of his story, Walter redeems himself and black pride at the end by changing his mind and not accepting the buyout offer, stating that they are proud of who they are and will try to be good neighbors. The play closes with the family leaving for their new but uncertain future. Litigation
All experiences in this play echo a lawsuit (Hansberry v. Lee, 311 U.S. 32 (1940)), to which the Hansberry family was a party when they fought to have their day in court because a previous class action about racially motivated restrictive covenants (Burke v. Kleiman, 277 Ill. App. 519 (1934)) was similar to the case at hand. This case was held prior to the passage of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing and created the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. The Hansberrys won their right to be heard as a matter of due process of law in relation to the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court held that the Hansberry defendants were not bound by the Burke decision because the class of defendants in the respective cases had conflicting goals, and thus could not be considered to be the same class. Interestingly, the plaintiff in the first action was Olive Ida Burke, who brought the suit on behalf of the property owner’s association to enforce the racial restriction in 1934. Her husband, James Burke, was the person who sold the property to Carl Hansberry (Lorraine’s father) when he changed his mind about the validity of the covenant.
Mr. Burke’s decision may have been motivated by the changing demographics of the neighborhood, but it was also influenced by the Depression. The demand for houses was so low among white buyers that Mr. Hansberry may have been the only prospective purchaser available. Lorraine reflects upon the litigation in her book To Be Young, Gifted, and Black: “25 years ago, [my father] spent a small personal fortune, his considerable talents, and many years of his life fighting, in association with NAACP attorneys, Chicago’s ‘restrictive covenants’ in one of this nation’s ugliest ghettos. That fight also required our family to occupy disputed property in a hellishly hostile ‘white neighborhood’ in which literally howling mobs surrounded our house… My memories of this ‘correct’ way of fighting white supremacy in America include being spat at, cursed and pummeled in the daily trek to and from school. And I also remember my desperate and courageous mother, patrolling our household all night with a loaded German Luger (pistol), doggedly guarding her four children, while my father fought the respectable part of the battle in the Washington court.” The Hansberry house, the red brick three-flat at 6140 S. Rhodes in Washington Park which they bought in 1937, was given landmark status by the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Historical Landmarks Preservation in 2010. 
The American Dream in A Raisin in the Sun
The idea of the American Dream still has truth in today’s time, even if it is wealth, love, or fame. The thing that never changes about the American Dream is that everyone deserves something in life and everyone, somehow, should strive to get it. Everyone in America wants to have some kind of financial success in his or her lives. The American dream is said to be that each man have the right to pursue happiness and strive for the beat. In the play “A Raisin in the Sun”, the author shows an African-American family struggling to get out of the poverty line, which is stopping them from making financial stability, or the American Dream. Its main focus is on Walter’s effort to make it, or be somebody. She also shows how race, prejudice, and economic problems effect a black mans role in his family, how he provides, and his identity. It is also said that that the Youngers family dreams were unreal and they couldn’t attain there dreams due to their status in life. The two most common American dreams that the Youngers family want to achieve is to be accepted by the white society and to be financially stable.
For example, when the Younger family received the insurance check in the mail Mama went out and brought a house in the white neighborhood. Shortly after she brought the house in the white neighborhood, which is known, as Clybourne Park they quickly sent a representative by the name of Karl Linder. Linder was apart of the New Neighbors Orientation Committee that welcomed newcomer in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, since the Youngers were black Linder stated ” It is a matter of the people of Clybourne Park believing, rightly or wrongly, as I say, that for the happiness of all concerned that our Negro families are happier when they live in their own communities”. (Hansberry 407). This basically states that Mr. Linder was trying to convince them not to live in their neighborhood because they didn’t fit into the description of that community. This is an example of them not being accepted by the white society. Being financially stable allows you to have a better lifestyle, gain respect from others and to obtain power. By being financially stable you can live better because you can you don’t never have to worry about how your going to eat, will all the bills be paid and maybe you could own your own business one day.
This relates to the story “A Raisin in the Sun” because Walter wants to take the money that his mother received from the death of her father to open a nearby liquor store. He wants to open this liquor to better his families’ life, but he gave the money to one of his friends so they can start getting the liquor store started but the friend took the money and fled with it. With having money it also brings you respect, it may seem funny because you would never know that money would allow a person to gain respect. Also by being financially able people will not look down on you as if you’re another one of them poor African American peoples. Another aspect of being financially stable is to obtain power. Having money will allow you money and power it is sometimes good and its sometimes bad. Mentioned further up in the readings I mentioned that having money allows you to gain power it allows you to gain power because money talks. Not only do money talks when having power you can voice your opinion and something could be done sooner than someone without the money. Powers also puts you in high positions and allows you to obtain fame.
In today’s society the American people view the American dream as “a dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”(What is the America Dream?) It is said that some Americans view the American Dream as a pursuit of material prosperity, that people work more hours to get bigger cars, fancier homes, the fruits of prosperity for their families, but have less time to enjoy their prosperity. Others say that the American Dream is beyond the grasp of the working poor who must work two jobs to insure their family’s survival. Yet others look toward a new American Dream with less focus on financial gain and more emphasis on living a simple, fulfilling life. (What is the American Dream?). There has also been much criticism of the American dream.
The main criticism is that the American dream is now misleading. These critics say that, for various reasons, it simply is not possible for everyone to become prosperous through determination and hard work. The consequences of this belief can include the poor feeling that it is their fault that they are not successful. It can also result in less effort towards helping the poor since their poverty is “proof” of their laziness. The concept of the American dream also ignores other factors of success such as the family and wealth one is born into and inheritable traits such as intelligence. On the other hand the Youngers American dream is to get a bigger house and move into a more suburban area. The Youngers also wanted to be accepted by the white society and to become financially stable. They also had their own individual dreams, Beneatha who is Walters sister wants to go to school to become a doctor, but in those times people of color weren’t considered being in high positions. Walter on the other hand wanted to own his own business, which was a liquor store, but Mama didn’t want to spend her money on that.
Walter also told his son Travis ” that he is going to make a transaction… a business transaction that going to change our lives… that’s how come one day when you ‘bout seventeen years old I’ll come home and I’ll be pretty tired, you know what I mean, after a long day of conferences and secretaries getting things wrong the way they do…’cause an executive’s life is hell, man. And I will pull the car up on the driveway… just a plain black Chrysler, I think, with white wall and no black tires (Hansberry 402). This was all Walters American dream, but Travis stated to him that they’re family is not a business family and that they are all hard working folks. Mama’s dream was to get her family out of that little house where Travis had to sleep on the couch with well enough room in it for everyone to sleep comfortable. She also wants her family to see the light because in their old house they only had one window where little light came in. Ruth dreams were for her and Walter to have a better relationship with each and to stop all the arguing and fighting they did. She also wanted to move into a bigger house to see the light. Travis on the other hand want to become a bus driver when he gets older but his father tell him that being a bus driver you will never make money and you will never achieve that American dream.
In order to achieve the American dream you must define success, which means what you choose to do for a living and it should reflect on you values, strengths, and interest. You also have to decide what is important to you. Is it becoming a millionaire, working at a job you really enjoy, having a family, or all of the above? Avoid measuring success by comparing your job title or pay scale to other people. The next step will be learning which means education includes more than just high school, college, grad school, or learning a trade. It involves observing people, acquiring new skills, pursuing new interests and hobbies, and generally keeping your mind fresh and alert. Challenge yourself. Learn a few useful phrases in another language or research new marketing strategies. Travel when you can and meet new people. Be open to learning. When opportunity knocks, you want to be ready.
The next step will be working harder, this step consist of improving your time management skills plan your projects, prioritize your “to do” list. Produce quality results without spending excessive hours hunched over a computer, on a job site or in an office. Don’t be afraid to decline taking on an additional project when you know you won’t have enough time to complete it properly. Take control of your time. The last step would be to invest wisely, not spending you money on little things that’s not necessary. It is also said that wise business people understand the importance of investing, especially in a retirement fund, which makes equally good sense for everyone. In contrast of taking those steps the Younger family didn’t invest their money properly, learn what they were doing, working harder and didn’t define success before they decided to spend their money. Mama knowing that Walter was immature she gave him the money to put some away for his sisters schooling and she told him that he could have the rest but consequently he tried to open up a liquor store with his friends and one of his friends took the money fled with it and they never saw him again.
In conclusion of this paper if the will to make money is there, anyone in America can pursue happiness and make their dreams come alive. The dream of making money, having a better life, and helping those less fortunate is alive in modern day society. No matter the definition of the American Dream it is possible to obtain it and succeed in life. Today’s technology makes it possible for younger and younger people to make their dreams come true.
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“The American Dream in A Raisin in the Sun.” 123HelpMe.com. 06 Mar 2013 .
A Raisin in the Sun: The Quest for the American Dream
People of all backgrounds live in America and come to America dreaming of social, educational, economical opportunities as well as political and religious freedoms. Consequently, the notion of “The American Dream” has appeal and meaning to most of your students. Ask them to define “The American Dream” and you will probably become engaged in a lively discussion. Read the play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry with your students and you can enhance your discussion of “The American Dream” even while you and your students explore how the social, educational, economical and political climate of the 1950s affected African Americans’ quest for “The American Dream.” In this lesson, the critical reading and analysis of the play is complemented with a close examination of biographical and historical documents that students use as the basis for creating speeches, essays and scripts. This lesson can be taught as part of a unit on American Literature and the Civil Rights Movement. It works especially well as an introduction to the EDSITEment lessons “Let Freedom Ring: The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther King,” “Dr. King’s Dream,” and “Ordinary People, Ordinary Places: The Civil Rights Movement.”
A Raisin in the Sun: African-American Family
In Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, she describes the dreams that an African-American family has throughout their life. Lena, the mother of two children, has a dream set to make her kids’ life full of opportunity and success. Lena was not the only one in the house that had dreams though. Lena’s children, Beneatha and Walter also had their own dreams. Walter, Lena’s oldest son, had a dream of opening up his own liquor store. He planned on doing this off his mother’s money to better his and his wife’s lives. As for Beneatha, Lena’s daughter, her dream was to become a doctor when she got out of college. Walter’s wife, Ruth, just had a dream to live a wealthy life with Walter. This story A Raisin in the Sun is about an African-American household full of different dreams, and a family that is trying to pursue those dreams. Lena became a widow in her sixties, and then devoted her life to better her children.
She waited on her husband’s insurance money. Lena got the ten thousand dollars from her husband’s insurance, and went and bought a bigger and better house for three thousand dollars in Clybourne Park, a neighborhood that consisted of only white folks. With the rest of the money, Lena was going to put some money away for her daughter Beneatha to go to medical school. When she told the children what she had done with the money, everyone was excited and extremely thankful, except for Walter. Walter believed that it was unfair for Beneatha to receive money for her dream and him not any. Walter had a dream of opening up his own liquor store to benefit the life of his own family. He said it was not fair that he and Beneatha both had dreams, and she was the only one who would get money to put towards that dream. Lena understood where Walter was coming from, so she trustingly gave him the rest of the money to pursue his own dream. Walter appreciated this opportunity and thanked his mother and told her she can trust him with the money.