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The American Dream In A Raisin In The Sun By Lorraine Hansberry

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The American Dream is the belief that anyone can accomplish their own version of success in a society where the capacity of rising to a higher social or economic position is possible for everyone. Everyone interprets the American Dream in their own way, for some, it’s wealth and fame while for others it’s simply happiness and freedom. A Raisin in the Sun opened on March 11, 1959, and it was the first play written by an African American to be produced on Broadway. In the play, “ A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry there are multiple characters with different dreams. Lena, who we are introduced to as Mama is the head of the household and wants more for her family, she’s tired of living in a small, cramped apartment where her grandson Travis has to sleep on the couch and they share a bathroom with people in the complex. Beneatha is the daughter of Mama. What is Beneatha’s Dream in A Raisin in the Sun? Her dream is to become a doctor and be her own person, she’s independent and is tired of being taken as a joke. Walter Lee is the son of Mama and the husband of Ruth, his dream is to buy a liquor store, he wants the ability to “own” something and the privilege to call something his. The American Dream is achieved through risk-taking, challenging the expectations of society, and sacrifice.

Mama dreams of moving her family into a nice house with space for the kids to play and a garden she can take care of. Mama is hoping to gain an achievement of a plan she and Big Walter had but couldn’t achieve until now, now that she has this money. When we are first introduced to Mama in Act I Scene I, we are also introduced to the plant, many will think it’s nothing but it is symbolic. The plant is frail but tough, she pulls it out every morning symbolically showing her dedication to her dream. In Act, I Scene I Mama says, “Big Walter used to say, he’d get right wet in the eyes sometimes, lean his head back with water standing in his eyes and say, “ Seem like God didn’t see fit to give the black man nothing but dreams-but he did give us children to make them dreams seem worthwhile.” This quote shows us that Big Walter’s dream was Mama’s dream which was not focused primarily on them but their kids. Mama references this quote to show that black parents’ dreams always seem deferred towards their children. She takes a step forward towards the American Dream by taking a risk and putting a down payment on a house in Clybourne Park an all-white neighborhood.

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Beneatha’s main dream from the start is to become a doctor and save her race from ignorance. We see Beneath trying to achieve the American Dream by challenging the expectations and views of society. Firstly, she wants to become a doctor. This is huge for the time the playsets the time in for the simple fact that she’s a colored woman! In Act, I Scene I Beneatha is angry with her brother and sarcastically says, “ Well- I do- all right? – thank everybody! And forgive me forever for wanting to be anything at all! FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME!” With her father’s insurance money she wanted to be able to go to medical school to prove everyone wrong and make something out of herself. Beneatha is looked at as obnoxious, stuck up, and ignorant but she’s just misread and wants her own place in the world. Unlike Mama and Ruth, she’s not traditional in the family way, she doesn’t want to be in the shadow of a man. Independence and being true to herself are two traits Bennie possesses no matter who she hurts. Beneatha is also realistic in the sense she’s not stuck on the idea that she has to find a man and get married, she always believes that god has nothing to do with the success one achieves.

What is Walter’s Dream in A Raisin in the Sun?

Walter’s dream is to be rich and live out their current lifestyle. He wants to be the man that gives driven around and gets doors open for him. His dream is beyond him, he wants his wife to be able to wear pearls and his son to be someone. Throughout the book, we see Walter’s aggression progress due to the fact that he is not satisfied with his current situation mentally and financially and nobody in the house wants to hear him out on this liquor store this is displayed in Act I Scene I when Walter was trying to have a conversation with Ruth on how sucky his life is and how he only has stories about how rich white people live to tell his son and Ruth responds with, “ Eat your eggs, Walter.” At this moment we see Walters’s frustration splurge on how nobody listens to him. Walter Lee makes a huge sacrifice when Mama gives him $6,500 which is $3,500 for him and $3000 to deposit for Beneatha’s medical school and he goes and invests it all. We later find out towards the end of Act II, that Walter lost all the money. “Son … Is it gone? Son, I gave you sixty-five hundred dollars. Is it gone? All of it? Beneatha’s money too?” Walter then replies, “ Mama … I never … went to the bank at all …” Instead of going to the bank to do the right thing Walter takes a huge risk and it ends up backfiring on him, but it ends up hurting way more people than just him. Beneatha isn’t surprised by his failure and she believes her brother is losing his mind, “ [He] done almost lost his mind thinking about money all the time.” This scenario ends up hurting Beneatha’s dream. When he ends up losing all this money this brings the family into a deeper depression.

The American dream is achieved through risk-taking, challenging the expectations of society, and sacrifice. Even though they didn’t achieve the American Dream, Mama was successful in achieving her goal of moving out of the tiny, cramped apartment and buying a house for her and her family which was her dream. From Mama’s perspective, the American Dream was about happiness and freedom more than wealth and fame which in the end she got which makes her successful in completing it. Unfortunately, we don’t get to find out if Beneatha ended up going to Africa with Asagai or achieving her dream of becoming a doctor the way the play ends. Walter’s American Dream was wealth which from what is in the play he was unsuccessful. At the very end of the play, Walter standing up for the family unites them and from what we read they end up happy and move into their new home.

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The American Dream In A Raisin In The Sun By Lorraine Hansberry. (2021, August 13). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 9, 2023, from
“The American Dream In A Raisin In The Sun By Lorraine Hansberry.” Edubirdie, 13 Aug. 2021,
The American Dream In A Raisin In The Sun By Lorraine Hansberry. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 9 Jun. 2023].
The American Dream In A Raisin In The Sun By Lorraine Hansberry [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Aug 13 [cited 2023 Jun 9]. Available from:
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