A Raisin in the Sun is one of the best works of Lorraine Vivian Hansberry, in which, through a black family, the Youngers, she talks about vital issues such as poverty, gender and racial discrimination. Hansberry's play focuses mainly on the dreams of the main characters, which motivates them. The title 'A Raisin in the Sun' has been taken from the poem 'Montage of a Dream Deferred' written by Langston Hughes in which he talks about the consequences when dreams are put off for later. The title is appropriate for Hansberry's play since it shows how 'deferred dreams' of the Younger family shrivel up like 'a raisin in the sun' leading to disillusionment and leaving very little hope for the future. The Younger family includes Lena Younger, who is the head of the family; Beneatha, Lena's daughter; Walter, Lena's son; Ruth, wife of Walter; Travis, Walter and Ruth's son. Other than the Younger family, Joseph Asagai shown as Beneatha's Nigerian friend also has an important role in the play.
Each of the members in Younger family has their own individual dreams. Throughout the play, their happiness and sadness depends on how successful they are in attaining their respective dreams. Walter Lee is shown as a typical African-American man who struggles and works hard to support his family and often comes up with different ideas and schemes, which would make him rich in no time and will improve the life of his family. One such scheme was to invest money, from the deceased Mr. Younger's life insurance policy, in a liquor store with his friends. When he tells Ruth about his plans over breakfast, Ruth completely ignores and tells him "eat your eggs" over and over again. This annoys Walter and he tells her how everytime a man dreams to achieve something in life & a woman shuns him by telling him to eat his eggs.
Being quiet and eating one's eggs represents an acceptance of the adversity that Walter and the rest of the Youngers face in life. He believes that it is the black women who keep the black men from achieving their dreams and he argues that Ruth should be more supportive of him. Walter believes that "money is life" and that it will bring an end to all the misery his family is suffering from. He measures the success of a man by the amount of money and possessions he has. Walter has worked as a chauffeur most of his life and feels tied up to his job and his family's economic hardship, which frustrates him. He dreams to live a life that all the rich people lived and enjoyed, like the people he serviced.
He also dreams of having a more loving relationship with his wife, since they seem to drift away from each other due to stressful circumstances. And he wants to earn so much money that his son can choose from among the best colleges when he turns seventeen. Unlike Walter, Mama, that is, Lena Younger, believes that money is only a means to an end and that dreams are more important than material wealth. She dreams to own a house with a garden and a big yard in which Travis can play. Ever since she and her husband moved into the rented apartment that the Youngers still live in, her dream has been deferred. This dream kept her motivated to work hard and earn money but no matter how much she and her husband tried, they could not make enough money to fulfill their dream.
The insurance money that she received due to the death of her husband gave Mama a hope and opportunity to realize her dream. Mama strongly believes in the importance of family, and she tries to teach this value to her family as she struggles to keep them together and functioning. Throughout the play, Mama takes care and nurtures her plant, which she is very fond of. The plant represents both Mama's unconditional love and care, and her dream for her family. Even though the plant is unable to get enough light or water, the plant is healthy under her care. This symbolizes her love and unending care for her family, which keeps them united even in difficult times.
The plant also symbolizes her deferred dream to own a house and a garden in which she can practice her gardening skills. Her dedication towards the plant gives her the hope that her dream may come true some day. Ruth, like Mama, dreams to have a happy family and believes that moving to a bigger and better place will help her achieve her dream. Ruth's dream is also deferred due to poverty and domestic troubles. Through the character of Beneatha, Hansberry tries to tell the audience that women should be more career-oriented rather than putting their dreams aside and dedicating their entire life as housewives. Beneatha is shown as an independent girl who strongly desires to become a doctor and help cure the sick.
She dates two men with totally different attitudes; George Murchison who is rich and arrogant and gives no importance to his heritage, and Joseph Asagai, a Nigerian, who wants to teach and lead his people in Africa. Beneatha identifies much more with Asagai's interest in rediscovering his African roots than with George's interest in assimilating into white culture. Beneatha tries to find her identity by looking back to the past and to Africa. Asagai greatly influences her. When he questions her regarding her straightened hair, it leaves her thinking. She cuts her hair to get a more natural and African look.
By doing so she embraces her heritage and culture, and declares that there should be no reason for a person to conform to the style of the dictating society. Beneatha's new hair is a symbol of her anti-assimilationist beliefs as well as her desire to shape her identity by looking back to her roots in Africa. Asagai is proud to belong to the African heritage and wishes to bring about modern advancement in Nigeria to improve the life of his people. He influences Beneatha greatly in a positive way, teaching her about her heritage. He tells her that she is not as independent as she thinks she is since she has to rely on the insurance money for paying the fees of her medical school. He proposes Beneatha and asks her to get a medical degree and move to Africa with him.
He will teach and lead the people, and she can practice medicine and help take care of people. Asagai and his dream enable Beneatha to discover a new energy and to reshape a new dream for herself. Throughout the play, each member of the Younger family concentrates only on their respective dreams. But by the end of the play they put the family dreams and wishes before their own. Now they have one common dream - that of owning a house, which will be important for the family's welfare and will keep them united. They eventually move out of their small over-crowded apartment, fulfilling the family's long-held dream.