Walter Lee struggles desperately to become head of the family in
A RAISIN IN THE SUN
. At the age of 35 he cannot see any accomplishments in his life. Life for him is just a constant battle. He has been married to Ruth for eleven years. They have a ten year old son, Travis, whom they love very much. The poverty he has tried to overcome is now looking his son in the face. Walter finally has a ray of hope again. He plans to make an investment in a liquor store with two friends.
His mother Lena loves him very much. It is against her better judgment and moral values to invest in a liquor store. She has received ten thousand dollars from her late husband’s insurance. This money represents the years of labor her beloved husband had done. An investment of this type is too much of a risk. She plans to put a down payment on a small house with a yard so her family can move out of the two bedroom, rundown, insect infested apartment they now call home. She also dreams of sending her youngest daughter, Beneatha to medical school.
This conflict has affected the entire family. Walter now drinks excessively as his frustrations grow. His dignity and sense of commitment are at stake. Beneatha dates an African trying to find her identity through him. Ruth discovers she is pregnant and struggles with a decision to bring another life into this already unbearable situation. She sees an abortion as a solution but Mama sees it as a rejection of life. She verbalizes her feeling clearly.
Suddenly Walter Lee feels betrayed by his mother. She has put a down payment on a house in an all-white neighborhood. Walter’s dreams are butchered. Lena realizes she has not given Walter the opportunity to be the man and head of the family he struggles desperately to become. She is broken by his despair and gives him the remaining $6500 with instructions to put $3500 in an account for Beneatha’s education and $3000 to use the way he feels is best for the family. The down payment on a house seems to be the best decision when the family learns that Walter invested the entire $6500 in his liquor store and is taken by his friend who disappears with the money.
Mama is the only one who finds the strength to forgive him. This love is the saving force that gives Walter Lee strength to make another decision which he hopes will reverse this dilemma. He calls a representative from the white neighborhood who has offered to buy them out. His mother understands his desperation as well as the frustrations of the family to lose the only thing they have left, the house. She puts the future of the family again in his hands. She lets him make the final decision but not without drawing his attention to the ultimate focal point of both Walter and herself. This is Travis, the joy of their life, their hope for a future, and the most precious possession of the family.
It is at this point Walter Lee finds an inner strength. He tells the representative that his family is moving after all. The full leadership role deep within him is born. Walter Lee through careful nurturing and support is the true head of the family.
The Younger family have very little materially which made them feel powerless. They soon realize their strength was in their commitment and love for one another.
This compassionate and touching play gets its title from a poem by Langston Hughes which begins:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up?
Like a raisin in the sun?
Each principal character has a “dream deferred”. Lorraine Hansberry has created a play that is dramatic, moving and so realistic. This is what transform
A Raisin in the Sun
from just another social document to a human drama.
Travel, including just moving to the suburbs, has long been a form of escape as well as adventure for many people. Columbus followed a dream to discover, the Israelites fled Egypt to escape bondage, slaves in America looked for freedom right here in this country, the Spanish searched for greater opportunities and people are still using travel as an escape from something and/or passage to something better. Whether they should, is as individual as one’s tastes buds. To know if escape is good may be impossible until it is done. Jean-Paul Sartre, the French existentialist, has said, “There is no exit from the human dilemma. Everyone has a mind and the ability to reason, so the final and decisive step is up to the individual.”