Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun, has so far has shown a great number of themes already, even though we have only read up until the end of Act II, scene i. After having read the introduction (and having never read A Raisin in the Sun before) I expected to read about a family that will stop at nothing to be recognized and to be able to do whatever they wanted to do without being oppressed and have their internal fires extinguished, but so far the only character that has shown these qualities is Beneatha. Through her sarcastic, strong, independent character Beneatha is showing a woman who desperately wants to be something in a world that expects her to be nothing. Probably one of the most critical and cynical character’s towards Beneatha is her brother, Walter. Walter seems to have a sort of hostility towards his sister and her dreams of becoming a doctor. Could his hostility stem from jealousy? Jealousy that Beneatha is determined and on track to becoming successful, while he is stuck serving and chauffeuring men around or is he just looking out for her by trying to prepare her for failure?
Two reoccurring themes that immediately took my notice in Act II, scene i were having dreams/ambitions and the subject of money. The theme of dreams is present in almost every character, especially Beneatha. Beneatha has dreams of becoming a successful doctor and is pursuing such by going to college and preparing for medical school. This dream of which is constantly criticized by her brother, Walter. An important dream that Beneatha had in Act II, scene i is to not be an assimilationist. She shows how just anti-assimilationist she truly strives to be on page 80,
“(Beneatha looks at him and slowly, ceremoniously lifts her hands and pulls off the headdress. Her hair is close-cropped and unstraightened. GEORGE freezes mid-sentence and Ruth’s eyes all but fan out of her head)
GEORGE. What in the name of—
RUTH. (Touching Beneatha’s hair). Girl, you done lost your natural mind!? Look at your hair!
GEORGE. What have you done to your head—I mean your hair!
BENEATHA. Nothing—except cut it off.” (2.1.8-18).
Beneatha in an act of rebellion cuts her hair and leaves it natural, this act is directly against the idea that black women should try to assimilate and be like a white woman in every way possible including their hair. Even now in 2019, black women are still shamed for their natural hair, people call it “nappy” just as Ruth did. All black women just as Beneatha so boldly displayed, should be able to be themselves whether that means natural hair or not.
Another character that has dreams of being successful is Walter. Not only does the theme of dreams occur within his character, but also the second them I would like to discuss and that is, money. Walter is seemingly obsessed with the matter of money in Act II, scene i, he brings up Mama’s insurance check almost every chance he gets. He seems the most excited, but the money does not even belong to him (although he would like to think so). He dreams of opening up a liquor store with one of his friends to make more money and become successful for his family. Although Walter seems to have good intentions, he tends to take his frustrations out on his family, especially Ruth. Walter has been unhappy lately with his life and everyone has noticed, he is excited about the check coming in hopes that Mama would help him in his business, come to find out Mama has other plans. Another person not actually obsessed with money, has a large amount of responsibility with it is Mama. The theme of money is especially prevalent towards the end of the scene, when the check finally comes and Mama has to make some big decisions. Come to find out at the end, Mama decided to but her family a house with the check.
The big questions I had at the end of this scene that I think that you guys should think about are: Is Walter justified in his anger towards his mother for buying a house with the check? And: Are Ruth and Walter’s marital problems to be blamed on money or is there something deeper within Walter going on? If so, what do you think that is?