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.