A Better Life - Mama and Walter’s Dreams. A a Raisin in the Sun Essay Analysis
In the 1960s, a better life for a family of color meant many things, with many different ways to achieve it. In Chicago during this time, many families wanted a house in a stable neighborhood, with a steady job, and a healthy, happy family. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry is a book about deferred dreams, and how people attempt to bring change. The Youngers, a family of color in Chicago, are trying to find a better life for themselves and their loved ones. An opportunity for change appears in the form of a ten-thousand-dollar check, from the Life Insurance from the death of Mama’s Husband and Walter and Beneatha’s Father, Big Walter.
This check presents an opening to seize a change for each of the family members. Walter and Mama especially, see it as such, and they both view the check as a vessel for their dreams and their family. “Do you know what this money means to me? Do you know what this money can do for us? Mama, mama, I want so many things…” (Walter Younger, A Raisin in the Sun, page 73) Walter Younger’s words, as shown, is one example of how the ten thousand dollar Check that has been thrust into the hands of Mama(Lena Younger) has sparked dreams in Walter and herself, and what they do to attempt, in some cases reach, their dreams. In this book, we see the rise of many dreams, but only one is ever realized.
Walter Younger is a dreamer, a man who wants to wrap his hands around the moon for his family. His dream is to own a Liquor Store, to earn more income for his family. “Yeah. You see, this little liquor store we got in mind cost seventy-five thousand, and we figured that the initial investment on the place is thirty-thousand.” (Walter Younger, A Raisin in the Sun, page 33) Walter is expressing himself, and his dreams, to Ruth. Attempting to get his wife to speak with his Mother about the Liquor Store because he believes Ruth will be able to sway Mama. “Mama would listen to you. You know she listens to you more than me and Bennie.
She think more of you,”(Walter Younger, A Raisin in the Sun, page 32) Walter wants his family to stand by him and support him in buying the Liquor Store, he wants to give his family everything using the Ten Thousand dollars to help with the down payment that he is planning to split with two friends, Willy Harris, and Bobo. His dream is to buy the Liquor Store to help his family with all that they desire, to give Travis, Beneatha, Mama and Ruth all a better Life.
In order for Walter to buy the Liquor Store he desires, he has to bring along a change in his family. In his desperation to change his families minds, he ends up changing himself and seeing things differently than he did before. “On account of you and me, you mean? The way things are with us. The way something done come down between us.- Sometimes… Sometimes, I don’t even know how to try.” (Walter Younger, A Raisin in the Sun, page 88-89) Walter tries to change his relationship with Ruth during this conversation, trying to redeem himself in her books, trying to mend their relationship because he wants better for himself. “You mean your sister’s school money, you used that to Walter?” (Mama, Lena, Younger, A Raisin in the Sun, page 129) Walter used the money Mama gave him, part was for Beneatha’s medical school, the other part was for Walter. Instead, he invested it all into the Liquor Store, but his “friend”(Willy Harris) ended up running away with his money.
Walter was left empty-handed with a furious Mother, Sister, and Wife. “And we have decided to move into our house because my father… he earned it for us, brick by brick.” (Walter to Mr. Lindner, A Raisin in the Sun, page 148) This last quote of Walter speaking to Mr. Lindner, shows that Walter has realized that his father’s life insurance money wasn’t one to be abused or taken advantage of, and to respect his family’s pride he told Mr. Lindner that they were refusing his offer to purchase the house and that they were, in fact, moving into the house in Clybourne Park.
Lena Younger(Mama) has dreamed of many things from a newly-wed to her days as a grandmother. “We was going to set away, little by little, buy a little place out in Morgan Park, we had even picked out the house.”(Mama, A Raisin in the Sun, page 44-45) Mama dreamily spoke to Ruth of her dream of buying a house with a garden, Mama has always wanted what’s best for her family, and all she wants is the house that she dreamed of but never had. “Like this little old plant that’s never had enough sunshine or nothing.”(Mama, A Raisin in the Sun, page 52-53) “You sure loves that little old things don’t you?”(Ruth, A Raisin in the Sun, page 52-53) Mama continuously speaks about this plant fondly, as she would her dead husband, or her grandchild Travis.
Mama’s fierce affection for this withered plant she keeps on the window sill shows her avid dream for a garden and a house to go with it. “My husband always said being any kind of servant wasn’t a fit thing for a man to have to be. He said a man’s hands was to make things or turn the earth.” (Mama, A Raisin in the Sun, page 103) Mama’s comment to Mrs. Johnson about a man’s hands should turn earth displays her dreams of a garden, her desire to turn the earth with her hands. Mama’s dream has been deferred for a long time, since the birth of Walter, but she never lost hope.
Mama’s dream of a house with a garden for her family finally came true, but not without change first. “I guess you better not waste no time with no fools.” (Mama to Beneatha, A Raisin in the Sun, page 98) Mama is speaking to Beneatha about George Murchinson, Beneatha has no interest in George and doesn’t want to continue her relationship with him because of a student at College she has taken up a romantic relationship with. Mama, in the beginning, wanted Beneatha to continue her relationship with George, but Beneatha protests and Mama finally begins to support her in leaving George. “I say, I been wrong son, That I been doing to you what the rest of the world been to you.”(Mama, A Raisin in the Sun, page 106) Mama has been arguing with Walter about the liquor store for a while now, Walter struggling to express himself to her and Ruth. In the end, Mama finally realizes the pain her son has been undergoing because of people neglecting to listen to his dreams and his plans, or giving him a legitimate reason for saying no.
Mama realizes her mistake and tries to change the damage she has done to Walter. “There is always something left to love.”(Mama A Raisin in the Sun, page 145) Mama and Beneatha had been arguing after Walter revealed to them that he gave the leftover money to Willy Harris to buy the Liquor Store. Beneatha is furious at her brother for throwing money away and also taking away her share for school. Mama tells her to forgive and continue to love her brother despite his mistakes, that instead of shaming him, to show him love and forgiveness. Mama shows a change in this because instead of being furious as she was when he first mentioned the Liquor Store, she shows him love and patience.
The Youngers are a family chock full of deferred dreams. In the end, only one dream is realized. Mama finally gets her house with a garden. Walter finally realizes what Ruth and Mama have been trying to tell him, that the Families pride is worth more than any liquor store. In a Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, Walter and Mama Younger are two dreamers. Just like everyone else, they have to change to keep dreaming.