Dream Deferred in A Raisin in the Sun
"What happens to a dream deferred?" (l. 1) Langston Hughes asks in his 1959 poem "Dream Deferred." He suggests that it might "dry up like a raisin in the sun" (ll. 2-3) or "stink like rotten meat" (l. 6); however, at the end of the poem, Hughes offers another alternative by asking, "Or does it explode?" (l. 11). This is the view Lorraine Hansberry supports in her 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun. The drama opens with Walter reading, "Set off another bomb yesterday" (1831), from the front page of the morning newspaper; however, he is unaware that bombs will soon detonate inside his own house. These bombs are explosions of emotion caused by frustration among members of Walter's family who are unable to realize their dreams. Although they all have a common dream of having a better life, they must compete with each other for the insurance money from the untimely death of Walter's father. Walter wants to get rich quickly by investing the money in a liquor store, but his sister, Beneatha, would rather use it to finish medical school. Mama and Walter's wife, Ruth, both want to leave their worn house in the ghetto for a nicer one where Walter's son, Travis, can have his own bedroom and a yard in which to play. The dreams of these characters, however, are deferred for so long that frustration grows inside them and eventually bursts out.
Each day Walter has to continue working as a servant, his internal frustration and anger build, and he eventually releases his anger against Beneatha, Ruth, and Mama. "Who the hell told you you had to be a doctor?" (1838) he demands of Beneatha. "If you so crazy 'bout messing 'round with sick people&emdash;then go be a nurse like other women&emdash;or just get married and be quiet" (1838). When Walter explains why he dislikes being a chauffeur, he tells his mother, "I open and close car doors all day long. I drive a man around in his limousine and I say, 'Yes, sir; no, sir; very good, sir; shall I take the Drive, sir?' Mama, that ain't no kind of job . . . that ain't nothing at all" (1855). Once the check arrives, Walter can think only of investing the money, which to him "is life" (1856); consequently, he does not give Ruth a chance to tell him she is pregnant and has decided to abort their baby. Mama interrupts Walter to encourage him to listen to his wife; however, this causes a detonation of Walter's anger when he yells, "WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE LISTEN TO ME TODAY!" (1854).
Ruth has made a habit out of not listening to Walter: rather than exploding in a fit of rage, the timid Ruth releases her frustration by nagging and ignoring her husband, but at times she explodes with joy. Ruth is tired and worn out like her house in the ghetto, and nagging Walter has become part of her daily routine; for instance, each morning Ruth complains, "Why you always got to smoke before you eat in the morning?" (1832). When Walter says he wants his eggs "Not scrambled" (1831), Ruth...