Dreams and Goals Explored in a Raisin in the Sun
Dreams and goals make life worthwhile. Dreams help individuals discover who they are and the achievement of them help makes the world go round. It is the achieving of those dreams that is not always easy and this is something that Lorraine Hansberry explores in her play, A Raisin in the Sun. The main characters in this play all have very different dreams and very different ideas on how to achieve those dreams. Lena is practical in that she wants to use the insurance money to invest in something that her family can benefit from for many years. Beneatha is also realistic in that she knows if she ever stands a chance at being a doctor, she must complete college. Walter, on the other hand, is the least practical when it comes to his dreams. He only knows that he wants more money but he does not have a plan to do that. He would rather jump from one silly scheme to another rather than reflect upon his goals and desires. These characters represent many of the people we know today. Some are realistic and practical while others simply have no vision. Through Lena, Beneatha, and Walter, we see how dreams are significant to personal success, whether or not they are ever actually achieved because they build character.
Lena is a strong woman that loves her family. Her lifelong dream is to provide a decent home for her family. During her marriage, she and her husband struggle just to get by, so she understands the difficulty associated with achieving this dream. The insurance money is undoubtedly her answer to a prayer and perhaps the only way that she might see this dream come true in her lifetime. Her dream for her family illustrates what a giving person she is. She is willing to take the insurance money and essentially share it without the entire family. She knows without a doubt that a house is the absolute best thing for her family. Lena’s dream is realistic and practical. She will be giving her family something that they will be able to enjoy for yeas and years. When Walter voices opposition, she says remembers how difficult times can be and tells him, “We was going backward ‘stead of forwards — talking about killing babies and wishing each other was dead . . . When it gets like that in life — you just got to do something different, push on out and do something bigger” (2238). This statement demonstrates her strength to endure as well as her wisdom. She knows that Walter can be a big dreamer and she does her best to keep him from harm. Lena’s dream defines her as a solid, realistic person that knows that life is difficult. She understands that no one is going to make that happen for her. Lena is a realist that has tried to pass down her strong work ethics to her children.
Beneatha is an intelligent, well-educated young woman that sees her future in front of her. Her dream is to become a doctor and help those in need and she is doing what she can to achieve this dream. She is attending college and making some positive motion in a particular direction. Beneatha’s dream is to go to medical school and eventually help others. Hers is a noble dream and it would be good for her because she actually wants to help others. She tells her boyfriend that being a doctor is the “most marvelous thing in the world” (2253). Beneatha is like her mother in that she understands that in order to achieve her dream, she must work and put in some serious effort toward that goal. She is also a dreamer in that she believes that she will be able to help everyone. When Walter loses the money, her view changes somewhat in that she understands the world a little better. She knows that no doctor can cure “what ails mankind” (2254). She does come to realize that what truly ails mankind is something that cannot be cured because it is not a physical sickness in the truest sense of the words. Her idealism might be squashed but Beneatha still feels compelled to make difference in the world by doing what she can through helping others.
Walter’s dream is to be rich. The problem with Walter’s dream is that he does nothing to set it into motion. He likes to daydream about it but making his dreams come true is more difficult. He lacks vision and this causes him to miss out on coming close to achieving his dream. He would rather blame life for his bad luck rather than look at his own life. For example, he tells Lena, “You tell that to my boy tonight when you put him to sleep on the living-room couch . . . tell it to my wife, Mama, tomorrow when she has to go out of here to look after someone 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” (2226). Walter sees the insurance money and the liquor store deal as his opportunity even though nothing indicates that this deal will be profitable. He would rather find a quick rich scheme than work hard like his father did. He must learn that part of the dream is the sweat it took to make the dream come true. Until he realizes this fact, he will always be an easy target for individuals like Willy. Of the characters in the play, Walter is the one that is farthest away from his dream; he knows what he wants he simply does not know how to get it. In a sense, Walter is lazy, especially when we compare him to his mother and sister. He does not have the same work ethic that they do and simply drifts from one bad idea to the next in frustration. A major problem with his dream is that he does not have one other than making money.
While dreams do define people, it is interesting to see how much dreams influence life. The characters in A Raisin in the Sun illustrate how an individual’s dreams can affect his or her life. Lena is the oldest and the wisest in the family and she knows that dreams are difficult to attain. She watched her life pass before her eyes and then she watched her husband die before they could achieve their dream of living in a decent home. This knowledge influences her sound judgment in putting the money toward a house. She knows this is the only way that this will happen. Beneatha is somewhat idealistic but she understands that in order to achieve her dream she must attend school. She is doing what she can to make this happen. Walter, on the other hand, is the character that seems to have difficulty coming to terms with the notion that dreams and goals take hard work. He wants to have the dream without having worked for it. He learns the most difficult lesson of all because the entire family must suffer at his ignorance. Thee characters demonstrate that having a dream is important but almost as equally important is having a plan to achieve that dream.
Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Vol. II.
Lexington D.C. Heath and Company. 2202-63.
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