From dreams deferred to identity affirmed Lorraine Hansberry’s, “A Raisin in the Sun,” presents readers with many differing themes. The most prevalent and reoccurring theme is the effect money plays on society’s views of manhood and happiness. Readers are shown multiple characters with a diverse view on manhood. From Walter Lee with his matching societal views that a man should be able to provide whatever his family needs or wants to Lena whose views are a biased compilation of her late husband’s behavior and her own ideals, that a man should maintain his honor and protect his children’s dreams.
Readers can see early on in the play the importance of money to Walter Lee. In a scene in Act 1 we see Walter trying to talk his mother, Lena, into giving him the money to invest in a liquor store. We can see him growing more and more agitated with her because she has already made her decision on the matter. Walter responds by saying,
“Well, you tell that to my boy tonight when you put him to sleep on the living-room couch…Yeah—and tell it to my wife, Mama, tomorrow when she has to go out of here to look after somebody else’s kids. And tell it to me, Mama, every time we need a new pair of curtains and I have to watch you go out and work in somebody’s kitchen. Yeah, you tell me then!”(Act 1 Scene 2 pages 1935-1936)
This scene shows the importance of money to Walter Lee. Here he is trying to guilt his mother into giving him the money by pointing out things that the family has to settle with. For example, he tells Lena that she will have to tell that to his son he is pointing out that Travis sleeps on the couch and does not have an actual bed of his own. He talks about how his wife Ruth has to watch someone else’s kids for money instead of being able to stay home and care for her own son. He is pretty much telling Lena that whenever anyone in the family needs something everyone has to work twice as hard to get it. His reasoning is if he could invest that money than they would have enough money from his business to buy not only what they need but also what they want. He also seems to assume that with the money his family will be happier and his manhood would be restored. However this is not the case.
There is a crucial scene in the play where readers can see Walter’s struggle with his own ideals and with those of his mother. In the scene Lena purchased a house with a portion of the money she had received from her husband’s death. Lena can see how her decision is tearing her son apart at the seams and so she decides to give him the remainder of the money to do with as he so wishes simply saying,
“Monday morning I want you to take this money and take three thousand dollars and put it in a savings account for Beneatha’s medical schooling. The rest you put in a checking account—with your name on it....