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I. Conflicts in the Play - There are many types of conflict evident in this play. Some are as follows:
A. Man vs. Man - Mama is the matriarch of the family, and she is very much in control of her children's lives. She is driven by a strong sense of pride and a strong faith in God. Her ideas conflict with three other characters:
1. Walter - His dreams of owning a licquor store conflict religiously with Mama's value system. The conflict between Mama and Walter is amplified by the fact that it is Mama's apartment in which the family lives and Walter is unable/unwilling to make decisions because Mama is so domineering. Ironically, it is the one decision that she eventually lets Walter make which nearly destroys the family.
2. Beneatha - Mama is angered and confused by Beneatha's views on religion.
3. Ruth - Mama is unable to accept the fact that Ruth might find it necessary to have an abortion.
B. Man vs. Nature
1. Living Conditions - five people in a small apartment
2. The neighborhood - ghetto-itis
3. Economic Conditions
4. Job Dissatisfaction
5. Society's Racism
III. Individual Dreams Vs. Family Responsibilities - A central conflict in the play arises when there is disparity between the individual's dreams and his/her familial responsibilities
A. Walter's desire to own a liquor store
B. Beneatha's dream to be a doctor
IV. Character Contrasts
A. George Vs. Asagai - George is trying to deny his heritage. His family has prospered in America and he sees no need to celebrate his African heritage. He illustrates the blandness and shallowness of a life rooted in the quest for wealth and status. Asagai contrasts with George. He is an idealist. He is intelligent, perceptive, and dedicated to helping his country in its quest for liberation. These two men embody the two forces that operate on and within the family: materialism and idealism.
B. Mama vs. Walter - Mama's desires for the family contrast with Walter's. Mama wants to use the insurance money to buy a house, a symbol of stability. Walter would rather spend the money on a high risk investment. Mama represents the wiser generation.
V. Important Props
A. The plant - This is representative of Mama's ability to endure despite harsh surroundings, and her tenacity in keeping her dream alive.
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B. Papers concerning the liquor store - The papers bring Walter closer to his dream of owning a business. They represent something tangible for him. When he crumples the papers, he surrenders his dream, and he quits life. He submerges himself in self-pity, fails to report to work, drinks, and drifts about.
VI. Theme of the Play - The play is very American. It concerns typically American themes: the struggle of a family to fulfill its version of the American dream, the clashes of individual dreams with family responsibilities, and the impact of the socio-economic mileau on the family's life. Like Hughes, Hansberry warns that conflict and destruction can result when individuals are denied the possibility of their dreams. The play can be read as a warning for Americans to wake up and listen.