The underlying theme of Hansberry’s play, A Raisin in the Sun, is in the question posed by Langston Hughes' poem "Montage of a Dream Deferred," when he asks, "What happens to a dream deferred?" and then goes on to list the various things that might happen to a person if his dreams are put "on hold," emphasising that whatever happens to a postponed dream is ultimately never good. Even the Bible concerns itself with this problem; in Proverbs 13:12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” It can be clearly seen what happens to Walter as his dream continues to be postponed by too many circumstances that are beyond his control.
While the play addresses intergenerational issues, due to the large Younger lineage, there are many underlying themes which indicate the importance of time. For the purpose of this essay, the thematic scheme of past and present will be discussed and analysed, with reference to the characters and their interaction within the play.
THE QUOTE EXPLAINED:
Confrontation appears to be a common theme within the play. This may be largely due to the differing views on what the meaning of life is. An exchange occurs in Act 1, Scene ii between Mama and Walter. Mama questions why Walter constantly speaks about money, such that it appears that “money is life”. Walter explains to Mama that in order to live a successful life, money has to be the most important factor in achieving this. This conversation takes place early on in the play and reveals the Younger’s economic struggles, which were very common for African Americans at the time. The conversation illustrates the ideological differences between their generations. Throughout the play, Mama’s views oppose her children’s views on the meaning of life. For Walter, who feels ensalved in his career and life, money is the truest form of freedom.
The characters in the play connect money with discussions of race. Mama says, “Once upon a time freedom used to be life—now it’s money. I guess the world really do change.” Walter grows up being “free” in the way that Mama speaks about, but he faces other problems, such as the lack of financial and social freedom. Walter believes that freedom is not enough and that, while civil rights are a large step for blacks, in the real world—for the Youngers, the South Side of Chicago—blacks are still treated differently and more harshly than whites. Mr. Lindner, who later comes to persuade the Youngers not to move into his all-white neighbourhood, embodies this example of racist treatment. Mrs. Johnson later speaks of reading about the bombing of a black family’s house in the “colored paper” and complains that the racist white people who were responsible for the bombing make her feel like times have not changed, an indicator of time, in that it is a long and tough process.
WALTER LEE YOUNGER:
While Walter appears self-obsessed with his ideology on the meaning of life, his dream is not entirely materialistic....