A Coloured Man’s American Dream – a Dream of Issues

In A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry, deracinates the real substance of the American Dream underneath the camouflaged layers of illusions about it. The Black American, Walter, happens to be inflicted with the glamour of the American dream and become rich soon. However, the dream of Walter is entangled in multiple issues gradually corroding the quality of the dream and rendering it a hollowness not worth wishing for. Hansberry seems to be posing a critique of the very ‘American Dream’ that is ‘misunderstood’ and ‘mis-pursued’.

Whereas Walter’s mother, (Mama) Lena had the dream of survival, Walter wanted “freedom” from the life of needs and upgrade his and his family’s living conditions. However, neither of his family members seemed to be believing or supporting him. And so he resorts to making a decision without the consent of his family by investing in the business where he loses all his money. This is where he goes wrong with his American Dream, – by putting everyone’s needs in the background and doing something that affected all. The conflict between Ruth and Walter seems to be the  projection of the complex nature of the dream Walter has, – a grievous misunderstanding. Walter argues, “Man say to his woman: I got me a dream, His woman say : Eat your eggs. Man say: I got to take hold of this here world, baby! And woman will say: Eat your eggs and go to work. Man say: I got to change my life, I’m choking to death, baby! And his woman say – your eggs is getting cold! […] coloured woman […] Don’t understand about building their men up and making ’em feel like they somebody. Like they can do something.” (22). He is frustrated that no one believes in his dream, not even his wife. However, Lena has a different dream; she wants to buy a new home for them all, which seems to be a need of the family. Walter loses most of it in the investment in the liquor shop.

Walter is, however, entrapped by bigger and more powerful issues than mere opposition from family. There is a delineation of discrimination all over the novel. The Racial oppression, the discrimination, the pervasiveness of capitalism, – all of this of contributes to the complication of his dream. Walter seems to be drawing upon capitalism a bit and his attitude towards education makes it difficult to see beyond his wishful thinking of becoming rich overnight. However, he comes to understand the issues surrounding on all sides, when Willy gets away with his money. And when he sees that, he says, “you know it’s all divided up. Life is. Sure enough. Between the takers and the ‘tooken’. I’ve figured it out finally. […] He’s (Willy Harris) taught me to keep my eye on what counts in this world.” (121). He decides to stand up for his family, move into the new house and provide a better life to his family. Hence, he finally gets hold of the real meaning of his dream, – one that has to follow the rules of pragmatic approach and not just wishful thinking. Lena, his mother, finally says with respite, “He finally come into his manhood, didn’t he? Kind of like a rainbow after the rain…” (130). He indeed became one.

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