Dreams and Racism in A Raisin In The Sun
At most times, the American Dream resembles an ideological puzzle more than a fully realizable image. Within the confines of her fantastical, theatrical world Lorraine Hansberry attempts to fit a few of these pieces together and, in the process, ends up showing exactly how everything doesn't just snap-together all nicely. The problems in her play, A Raisin In The Sun, deal primarily with the basic nature of humans and their respected struggle's to "make it" in America.
The story, for the most part, centers upon an African-American family, their dreams for the future and an insurance check coming in for death of the eldest man. Stirring into the mix later is the hugely oppressive, segregationist aspect of mid-twentieth century America. With highly oppressive external pressures, combined with conflicting ideas of happiness, the story centers on the ideological conflicts between characters.
The largest conflicts result between Mama Younger and her son, Walter. Walter represents, apparently, all the things America instills in men; the desire to work hard and make a better life for his family than he had, the inability to be compassionate towards his family, an almost ignorant refusal to vary from his dream for the dreams of others. Hansberry centers here, it would seem, on the most negative aspects of "manhood". In fact, overridingly, men in this play are horrible creatures: George is uppity, aristocratic and a braggart (mentioning the curtain time in New York to a women who obviously has no idea about that type of thing simply places him, in his eyes, that much higher than her); Walter's friends are loud-mouth-know-it-all's (one of whom takes off with all the money the gather for their investment); Mr. Linder, the oppressive representative of the white race attempting to buy the continued segregation of his neighborhood. The only man displayed positively is Asagai and he isn't representing the American ideal of manhood; he is representing the African ideal.
Mama, however, is strong, spiritual and eager to help her children in any way she can. She values family above and beyond all else, but has the deep insight into the other character's motivations even when she doesn't agree. In the middle of the play (at the fuse for the final conflict), she recognizes that Walter is miserable because no one believes in him and his dreams. She gives him a large chunk of the insurance check to invest in a liquor store even thought she doesn't agree with it. She trusts him with it and, when he loses the money to a "trusted friend," she becomes enraged and begins to physically attack him. However, by the next scene she has forgiven him and tells her daughter that she should do the same; "There is always something to love: when do you think the time is to love somebody the most? It's when he's at his lowest and can't believe in hisself 'cause the world done whipped him so!" With those...