Pride and Dignity in A Raisin in the Sun
"A Raisin in the Sun" by Lorraine Hansberry follows a black family's struggle to see their dreams through to fruition. These dreams, and the struggles necessary to attain them, are the focus of the play.
As the play begins a husband, Walter, and wife, Ruth, are seen having a fight over Walter's dream to become a 'mover and shaker' in the business world by using an insurance check as a down payment on a business venture. Walter tells his wife that, "I'm trying to talk to you 'bout myself and all you can say is eat them eggs and go to work", which is the first sign of Walter's recurring feelings that if someone in the family would just listen to him and put forth their trust his dreams would come to fruition. Following this argument Walter goes off to his job as a chauffeur which is the job he so longs to be done away with because he would rather "be Mr. Arnold[his employer] than be his chauffeur.
This episode illustrates a major conflict throughout the story. As Walter dreams bigger and bigger he seems to leave the 'smaller' things such as his family behind. This movement away from the family is against the furtherance of the values and morals of the family. While his father would have been happy simply working and caring for his family, Walter is more concerned with becoming a 'mover and shaker' without thinking about the resulting consequences for his family.
Later in the morning Beneatha, the younger sister of Walter, initiates a conflict by speaking in an unacceptable manner about God – seemingly rejecting values that have been taught to her since childhood.
This event shows yet another time in which a family member threatens to ruin the inherent stability of the family structure by trying to build in a manner which is completely incompatible with the rest of the structure. Beneatha, although believing to be bettering herself is leaving an important part of herself and her heritage behind. Beneatha's speech about God is her attempt to show her independence and uniqueness in the world, but when she asserts her self in an area that is extremely sensitive to the family heritage and structure, she threatens to wean herself from the only guaranteed support group in life, the family. Once again, as with Walter, Benetha realizes later in the story that it is the furtherance of long-standing family values and morals which give the foundation upon which to build a wonderful life.
These examples illustrate just a few of the many ways in which different family beliefs and goals among the family group do not always benefit and are sometimes a source of dissension amongst the group members in addition to the fact that the larger group goals are sometime lost because of the incessant race for individual goals.
In contrast, the story's ending presents a view of how standing by long term family goals, values and beliefs provides a sense of unity that can surmount any obstacle and keep the pride of the family alive. Once the insurance money is received by Mama, Leana Younger, she believes that the best thing to do with it is buy a new house for her family and help to pay for the cost of Beneatha's schooling. At first she is very adamant against giving any of the insurance money to Walter because she believes that his uses for the money will not benefit the family. But, as time progress Leana sees how downtrodden her son his because none of the family members will back his dream, so she gives him the money left over after buying the house to spend on his dream and "be the head of this family from now on like you supposed to be." Walter's deal falls through though and he is faced with an even more 'pride deflating' task of talking with the head of the white 'Welcoming Committee' of their new neighborhood and pretending to be the stereotypical subservient black so that the 'Welcoming Committee' will buy the family's new house and the family can then use that money for Beneatha's schooling and existence. But, as the time draws near for Walter to put his pride away he realizes with the help of the family that no amount of money can make up for the loss of pride and that it is sometimes better to sacrifice the goals of one for the good of many, so he tells the gentleman from the 'Welcoming Committee' that they "decided to move into our house because my father-my father-he earned it."
This bold and unselfish move helps to propagate the family's long standing ethics, values, and pride.
A Raisin in the Sun displays a great recurring theme in life that many times the good of the few has to be sacrificed through the needs and propagation of the group. This play also powerfully illustrates the idea that sometimes to hold on to ethics, values, and pride is the most difficult option, but is the most fulfilling and helps to make facing the next challenge easier.
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