Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is a play whose predominant theme is the dreams, which the various characters bear or have. The play’s characters struggle with various difficulties and encounters in their lives as they strive to achieve their dreams and aspirations. The title of the play is a reference to Langston Hughes statement in a poem where he wondered whether forgotten dreams wither or shrink “like a raisin in the sun.”
Every character in the play has dreams including Walter who acts as the antagonist and protagonist. This underlines the importance of dreams in the play and their portrayal as an integral component of characters’ life and encounters. Through the dreams of Walter, Beneatha, and the rest of the family members, A Raisin in the Sun is able to communicate the vital nature of dreams in a person’s life.
Walter’s dreams are prominent in the play as he is the main character whom the activities of the play revolve around. All through the play, Walter is the stereotypical African-American man of the mid-20th century. He serves as the head of the family who strives to provide for his family. Walter’s prime dream is to see and ensure the stability of his financial stability and that of his family (Ingle 186). His aspirations are therefore not self-centered and are instead focused on the overall prosperity of the persons who are related to him. In the quest for economic progress, Walter encounters numerous difficulties and hitches, which cause him great frustration.
The snags, which Walter encounters in his day-to-day encounters, affect his psychological stability and well-being leading to numerous arguments with his family members. “I want so many things that they are driving me kind of crazy…Mama – look at me. (Hansberry 1.2.222).” In this scene, he admits to the mental breakdown that was resulting from his pursuit of wealth. Walter’s listening skills are poor, leading to him not paying attention to any of the queries and concerns that are conveyed by his family members (Kodat 149). He seems to not understand that paying attention to the family members was one of the prime ways of ensuring their eventual success and progress.
The influence of culture in Walter’s conduct is evident and pronounced. The play’s setting of the 1950s sees this main character playing the traditional role of a man: the breadwinner of the family. Walter’s efforts are geared towards upkeep of persons under her care who are predominantly women. His attitude and manner of activity shows defiance to the opinion and influence of the woman in the family setting. As mentioned above, his activities are also in line with the stereotypical African-American man of the 1950s who has the sole responsibility of ensuring the family’s economic prosperity and stability (Cooper 59). “In fact, here’s another fifty cents…Buy yourself some fruit today – or take a taxicab to school or something! (Hansberry 1.1.59).” This scene shows him providing necessities for his son, while staring at his wife who had not input in such matters at all.
Cooper, David D. “Hansberry’s A Raisin In The Sun.” Explicator 52.1 (1993): 59. Academic Search Premier. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.
Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. New York: Spark Pub., 1959. Print.
Ingle, Zachary. “White Fear” And The Studio System: A Re-Evaluation Of Hansberry’s Original Screenplay Of “A Raisin In The Sun.” Literature Film Quarterly 37.3 (2009): 184-193. Academic Search Premier. Web. 13 Nov. 2014
Kodat, Catherine Gunther. “Confusion in a dream deferred: Context and culture in teaching A Raisin in the Sun.” Studies in the Literary Imagination 1998: 149. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.
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