Dreamers abound in literature; people looking for a better way of life for themselves and their families, a better job, more money, a nicer home, or the ability to travel. The conflict arises when their dreams run up against the realities of life; at what point is the dream set aside? How far does one go to hold on to the dream when it becomes threatened? The characters in Raisins in the Sun and Paul’s Case are among the dreamers; they have different goals in sight, but their dreams are strong and their determination stronger, but, when they are confronted with adversity their reactions are fundamentally opposed.
In Raisins in the Sun the reader is introduced to a black family shortly after the civil rights movement; there are three generations, five people, living in a two-bedroom home. Their dreams are varied, starting as simply as a larger home to as vast as lifting an entire race above the oppression of generations. They are living on poverty wages in an apartment arranged by their father many years ago. The story of Paul’s Case is a young man who never quite fits in; he is used to getting in trouble in the pursuit of his dream and has developed a persona of a man of wealth and influence in response to the people around him. His dream is not as broad as the Youngers’—he wants the theater, not to be on the stage but to be associated with those that are; while the Youngers’ dreams hinge on an insurance check from the death of their father, Paul is quite willing to do whatever it takes in the pursuit of his.
Like Paul, Walter also dreams of the high life—he wants to invest the insurance money into a business venture, a liquor store that he and a couple of his friends want to buy and, like Paul, he is willing to go against the wishes of his family to fulfill his dream. He has big dreams of money rolling in and the ability to provide for his family without the daily struggle of his current existence. But where Walter has a legitimate plan, Paul is lost in his dream; he spends his evenings in the theater where he can make his dreams come true in small doses and neglects the education and opportunity that can allow him to fulfill his dreams.
When Paul’s father finds out what he has been up to, he is “taken out of school and put to work. The manager at Carnegie Hall was told to get another usher in his stead; the doorkeeper at the theatre was warned not to admit him to the house; and Charley Edwards remorsefully promised the boy's father not to see him again.” (Cather) The Youngers’ catalyst is the other way around; Mama bought a house with a portion of the insurance money and trusted Walter to handle the rest; put some away for Beneatha’s education with the remainder to “put in a checking account – with your name on it. And from now on any penny that come out of it or that go in it is for you to look after. For you to decide.” (Hansberry) Walter cannot believe she is...