Essay Package #1
“A Raisin in the Sun” and the American Dream
The American Dream is defined by hard work. If one works hard, it will pay off and one will live comfortably. If one works even harder, it will lead to wealth. This definition is especially evident in “A Raisin in the Sun”. In the play, we read about the desperation that results when the characters realize that this definition doesn’t hold true for them, especially Walter Lee. He, as well as his parents, worked very hard, but had nothing to show for it. They lived in their cramped apartment with a sole tiny window. Furthermore, the play showed that making the American Dream a reality is even harder when your race is a minority.
Work ethic was instilled in Walter and his sister Bennie through the example their parents provided them with. Lena and her husband were anticipating a comfortable future for themselves and their family. They figured that as long as they kept working, everything else would fall into place. When they first moved into their tiny, humble apartment, they thought it would be temporary. Lena recalls,” Hadn’t been married but two weeks and wasn’t planning on living here no more than a year. . . all the dreams I had ‘bout buying that house . . . And didn’t none of it happen” (Act I, Scene One). That deep sense of disappointment is something we see Walter go through. Dissatisfied at his job as a chauffeur, he finds himself wanting better for his family. Walter and his wife Ruth busted their backs working for many long years, yet they couldn’t even make it out of his mother’s apartment. His frustration at this fact leads Walter into desperation.
Walter lunges at the glimpse of an opportunity when his supposed friend Willy proposes to put up a liquor store along with their pal Bobo. Walter doesn’t think twice when Mama gives him the majority of the money from the life insurance check and hands the cash over to Willy. Willy doesn’t prove to be much of a friend and runs off with the money, along with poor Bobo’s life savings. Walter was so taken with the prospect of getting ahead that he put common sense aside and easily made himself a victim of theft. This moment in the play is symbolic of the risk in putting faith into something abstract. The Younger family placed their hopes in American Dream, which is a notion that is unreliable. It displayed the disappointment, heart-break, and vulnerability that can come from placing your hopes on the inconstancy that is the American Dream.
When the Youngers finally catch a break and are able to buy a house, they have another hurdle to jump over: gaining the acceptance of their new neighbors. It is important to note that the Youngers acquired the funds to buy their house from a life insurance check after Lena’s husband passed away. It wasn’t a product of hard work and life savings. Despite the many years of sweat and toil, the Youngers never managed to put together enough money to buy their house. This keeps driving the point of the falseness in the American Dream. This falseness comes two-fold when your race is a minority. The White working-class neighborhood the Youngers’ new house is in scrapes together money to buy back the property in an effort to keep the Youngers out, simply because they are Black. This shows that race matters when trying to attain the American Dream. Having a darker skin tone certainly doesn’t make it any easier. Just how the neighborhood attempted to shut out the Youngers because of their race, the American Dream tends to shut out people of certain groups. This contributed to the Youngers not bearing any fruits from their labor.
We see this inequality today, with limited opportunities for people living in poverty. Consequently, poor people tend to be mostly made up of minorities (with Whites increasingly in this class due to the harsh economic climate since the recession hit in 2008). This is what makes “A Raisin in the Sun” a...
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