Imagine for a moment it is your big sister's 17th birthday. She is out with her friends celebrating, and your parents are at the mall with your little brother doing some last minute birthday shopping, leaving you home alone. You then hear a knock on the front door. When you getthere, nobody is there, just an anonymous note taped to the door that says Happy Birthday, along with a hundred dollar bill
. You've been dying to get that new video game
, and your sister will never know. You are faced with a tough decision, but not a very uncommon one. In both Fences, by August Wilson, and A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansbury, tough decisions have to be made about getting money from someone else's misfortune. But money's that important right?
The role of money in people's day-to-day lives is quite amazing when it's put into perspective. The primary reason most Americans get up in the morning is so they can go out and make money. Money buys things; money influences people; money keeps us ali ve; money makes us happy. Or does it? In Fences, by August Wilson, the Maxtons get their money when Gabe's head is shot in the war. In A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansbury, the Younger family
gets their money when Walter's father dies.
But do the se things make them happy? Of course not. They are coming upon money from someone else's misfortune, someone they love. The money may have made life easier for a brief moment in time, but the novelty soon wears off and reality soon returns.
The interesting thing about these two novels is that the money received by both the Maxtons and the Youngers did exactly the opposite of what everyone expected it to do. It eventually made problems for both of the families. In Fences, the Maxtons used Gabe's money to buy a house and even though it seemed like a good idea, when Gabe moved out, it caused a great deal of guilt in the family, but especially in Troy. He just couldn't get over how he 'used' someone he loved so much, and they didn't even kn ow it. In A Raisin in the Sun, the Youngers also buy a house with the money the life insurance gave them.
But their problem are caused not by guilt, but by two entirely different emotions. One is the feeling of being the object of racism in their new community when the "Welcoming Committee" tries to get them not to move in.
The other one is the combination of defeat, loss, anger, and self-pity felt by the whole family when Walter loses the rest of the money and the Younger family is left with nothing but a house in a neighborhood where they aren't wanted. And money is a good thing?
Answering that question is a simple one. Yes, money is a good thing when it is dealt with in the right way. Both the Maxtons and the Youngers had trouble in how they handled their money and that led to many of the problems they both faced. Money is wh at makes the "world go round" in our modern society, but it's not a way to measure success, love, or happiness. As Bob Dylan put it, "What's money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in-between does what he want s to do."
All money really is, is a way to buy material things. Sure, it's important, but not close to how important the people we love are. They are where real happiness comes from, not from little green pieces of paper. Happiness is not having what you want, it's wanting what you have.