Divergent Routes To The American Dream In A Raisin In The Sun

2901 words - 12 pages

    The American dream has been visualized and pursued by nearly everyone in this nation. Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun is a play about the Younger family that strived for the American dream. The members of the Younger family shared a dream of a better tomorrow. In order to reach that dream, however, they each took different routes, which typified the routes taken by different black Americans.

Walter Lee Younger's route, which was filled with riskiness and impulsiveness, exemplified the road taken by blacks who had been oppressed so much that they followed their dreams with blind desperation. Though Walter was the only adult male in his family, he did not assume the role as "man of the house." His mother, Lena was the family's backbone as well as the head of the household. Therefore, Walter felt less than a man. Not only did Walter not have a position of dignity in his home, but he felt disrespected by the world as well. Walter didn't feel good about himself because he was so poor that he struggled to support his wife, Ruth and son, Travis. Walter, though the did not fare unsuccessfully in that struggle, our he wanted more out of life. He told Ruth:

...I'm thirty-five years old; I been married eleven years and I got a boy who sleeps in the living room and all I got to give him is stories about how rich white people live...(1015)

Walter gained a willingness to do whatever it took to abandon poverty, and he developed a vision of opening his own business. "Walter...far from rejecting the system which is oppressing him wholeheartedly embraces it. He rejects the cause of social commitment and places his faith in the power of money." (Gunton 186) Attaining wealth became Walter's greatest concern, and he was willing to take risks to improve his financial status.

Unfortunately, Walter became blind to reality as he pursued his fortune. His ambitions soon became an obsession, and Ruth, his wife, did not understand him. Since she failed to understand Walter's dreams, he blamed her, not his real oppressors for holding him back. He told Ruth:

That is just what is wrong with the colored women in this world...Don't understand about building men up and making 'em feel like they somebody. Like they can do something. (1015)

According to writer Gerald Weales, "The play is concerned primarily with his [Walter's] recognition that, as a man he must begin from, not discard, himself, that dignity is a quality of men, not bank acounts." (Gunton 183) Walter was very impulsive, not lending enough thought to his actions. He faced so much humiliation that he was willing to sacrifice his dignity in order to climb the socio-economic ladder. A problem that Walter had was that he focused to heavily on his dream and neglected more precious things in life, such as his family's emotions. Sadly though, Walter did not understand or evaluate his dream of success. Weales stated, "Walter Lee's difficulty, however, is that he has accepted the American...

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