A Raisin in the Sun how Beneatha Struggles
How it works
The play A Raisin in The Sun was written by African American writer and play writer Lorraine Hansberry in 1959. The play discusses the life of an African American family and their struggle to acquire the American Dream. Walter goes through hopes, plans, wishes, gains and losses throughout the play that help shape his way towards his final goals. Pride is a great trait in Walter’s personality which can be the reason for him to achieve the American Dream. The family consists of Walter and his wife Ruth, their son Travis, Walter’s mother Lena (Mama) and Walter’s sister Beneatha.
The family lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago’s South Side. The play starts with the discussion about money that Mama will be receiving soon from her recently deceased husband’s life insurance.
Walter has great hopes that this money will solve all the family’s problems. Walter aspires to provide for his family as he is the man of the house. He struggles for not being able to provide the way he wishes for his family due to his low paying job as a chauffeur. The apartment they are living in was rented by his father a long time ago. It was cared for and furnished with great quality and taste by Mama and her husband. Hoping to be like his father, Walter begins the play full of pride and excitement that he’ll get the money and make something out of it. He wants to be like his father, who was wise hard worker and most importantly able to financially provide for the family, but not in a different way.
In preparation for Mama’s money Walter makes an irresponsible decision of quitting his job, which shows the conflict with all the responsible and life changing plans he has for the family, yet we see Walter trying to be a provider figure to his son. An example of this is when Travis asks his father to give him the money for school after his mother told him they don’t have the money. Although Walter doesn’t have that money, he doesn’t want his son to feel that so gives him double the amount he asked for. Unlike his father, Walter is tired of living a struggling life. He doesn’t want to work for someone else anymore or collect money over time to buy a house. Walter wants the easier way of just spending his mother’s money to achieve his dreams.
The weight of having a family and being able to provide the best life experience for them is what Walter wants to accomplish. His pride pushes him to plan how he’s going to use the money to provide for his family. Characters in the play face a lot of difficulties establishing the American Dream. These difficulties such as social status, religion, and race. Status is shown in the play in the financial struggles that the family is facing. Walter feels that all the odds are against him when it comes to making his dream come true. Walter says “but you wouldn’t do nothing to help, would you? You couldn’t be on my side that long for nothing, could you?”. He feels that his wife Ruth is not on his side and that he needs her to back him up. Ruth believes that Mama should spend her money the way she wants. Beneatha and Walter are not on the same page on how this money should be spent.
Beneatha agrees with Ruth that it’s up to Mama how she wants to spend the money. With everyone not agreeing with Walter he feels that nobody in the house understands him. Instead of buying a house with the money Walter wants to invest in a liquor store with his friends. This will bring them more money and then he’ll buy the house and be able to comfortably afford to provide a good life for the family. His plan is to buy a liquor store with his friends which will bring in lots of capital for them. That will also satisfy his pride of being a business owner and be considered a part of the higher class in the society. When Mama hears his plan of buying a liquor store, she immediately rejects the idea because she believes that it doesn’t represent them.
Mama mentioned a couple of times that owning a business is not what they do, on page 42 she tells Ruth “We ain’t no business people, Ruth. We just plain working folks” and again to Walter on page 72 “I’m sorry ‘bout your liquor store, son. It just wasn’t the thing for us to do” (Hansberry). Walter quitting his job played a role in Mama’s decision because it showed her a sense of irresponsibility and irrationality from Walter. Mama knows that her husband worked really hard in his lifetime to provide that kind of money for the family and she wants to use it wisely. Being an African American in the fifties was another barrier to Walter’s dreams. He associates not being understood by his family to their race when he says that African Americans are most backward race of people.
The family has a strong sense of pride in them, the father showed it through his hard work and dedication, the mother through her strength and maintaining the family as a whole, Beneatha learning about her heritage and Walter fighting for his dreams. The father was resembled as a hard-working person for his entire life as well as Mama. Beneatha’s pride is clearly shown in the play first, when Walter tells her that Mama is going to help her with her school’s money she says on page 37 “I have never asked anyone around here to do anything for me!” (Hansberry). her pride doesn’t allow her to ask for the money although she does need it for medical school which is typically expensive. Another area that Beneatha shows her pride is when she cut her hair and wares a Nigerian dress showing her pride of her heritage.
As for Walter’s pride we see it when he quits his job because he can’t take the humiliation of being the chauffeur for someone else. Walter’s pride increases his interest in money making him feel as if it’s everything, on page 74 he tells Mama about money “Because it is life, Mama!” (Hansberry). In order to accomplish the American Dream people don’t care what kind of job they have or how long they work daily to get to their goal. That idea doesn’t seem to resonate with Walter because he is finding the easy way into jumping ahead in life. Walter falls into a depression episode after knowing that Mama used the money to buy a house for the family.
His enthusiasm and excitement seen at the beginning of the play has extremely declined as he realized that his dream was crushed. On page 95 Walter tells Mama “So you butchered up a dream of mine – you – who always talking ‘bout your children’s dreams…” (Hansberry). At that point Walter realizes that he will never be able to give his family the good life we wanted. He feels helpless and depressed that he wasn’t given the opportunity to do a good thing for the family. A few weeks later Mama and realize that Walter’s state is slipping through her hands, he hasn’t showed up for work instead was driving around aimless wondering the cite.
Mama feels that she has contributed to what is happening to Walter and decides to give him the rest of the money to start his business. This action surprised Walter and enormously brought back his enthusiasm and sense of responsibility. Accepting that there are more important things in life than money is a lesson learned by Walter. As the family is getting ready to move Walter’s excitement is heightened because he was waiting for the news from his friend regarding their business project. As much as he’s excited it is hard for him to start his dream, on page 125 before he opens the door for his friend who he is expecting to give him the good news on the liquor store he tells Ruth “Cause sometimes it hard to let the future begin!” (Hansberry) unfortunately this was yet another hit to Walter.
His friend brings him the news that all the money was gone and that their friend took it and disappeared. This news didn’t break down Walter only but the entire family. Mama immediately remembers her husband working for that money saying on page 129 “I seen … him … night after night … come in … and look at that rug … and then look at me … the red showing in his eyes … the veins moving in his head … I seen him grow thin and old before he was forty … working and working and working like somebody’s old horse … killing himself … and you – you give it all away in a day -” (Hansberry). Beneatha gets in a shock state feeling that her entire future is ruined because of her brother without even knowing about it. And Walter breaks down emotionally and cries like a little kid.
The play has demonstrated how Walter’s pride started him off at a high stage of hope, brought him down with mistrust, and brought him back up by realizing the more important things in life than money. His pride has affected him negatively because from all the characters in the story, he is the only one that ends up not accomplishing his dream. Mama ends up buying a house for the family where she wanted to maintain her family. Regardless of the circumstances that Beneatha was put in she still ends up going to medical school. Ruth’s dream was to have a house and that indeed happened. While Walter is the only one that dreamt of having his own business but didn’t get to make it. The feeling of not being able to provide for his family overwhelmed Walter for the entire play until the end when he realizes that his family members are what matter to him most.