Dreams Theme in A Raisin in the Sun Essay Example

  • Category: Literature, Plays,
  • Words: 1182 Pages: 5
  • Published: 03 May 2021
  • Copied: 113

How many people can say they have put in the effort and time it takes to grow a garden? To tend to every single need of every single plant, ensuring everything gets the proper amount of sunshine, water, and plentiful care that is essential to a garden’s survival?  For many, this task is too much work, as it requires too much time on something that appears to be so unreachable and perhaps even unneeded, and so some gardens never grow. While Lorraine Hansberry never touches on the trials brought by growing a garden in her novel, A Raisin in the Sun, she refers to the dreams of one family in a very similar manner. Through the mention of a small and struggling houseplant, yearning to become a garden, Hansberry dissects the achievability of dreams for a family that seems to have the whole world against them. From its very first mention, the infamous house plant shown throughout the novel demonstrates the dreams long held and long neglected by Hansberry’s characters and their journey as they continue to struggle and survive along with it throughout the book.

In A Raisin in the Sun, Mama’s house plant symbolizes the dreams Mama holds both for herself and her family, and her attempts to fulfill them while stuck in a less than optimal environment. Mama has long had a dream of having her own garden to care for one day, but for the time being has to settle for a single plant that she keeps in their small apartment. When mentioned throughout the novel, the plant is always struggling for survival alongside the Youngers: “Lord, if this little old plant doesn’t get more sun than it’s been getting it ain’t never going to see spring again” (Hansberry 40). Like the Younger family and their hopes for the future, the plant is failing to thrive because of things it cannot control. Similar to the plant, Mama’s dreams of owning a house for her family, with her own garden, are also grasping for survival.  Living as a black family in Chicago has only further hurt her dreams. The others in the family constantly make remarks about the plant and its beaten down and withering appearance, however this never deters Mama from caring for it to the best of her abilities as she does her dreams for a better life. Hansberry does not attempt to conceal what the plant symbolizes throughout the novel, and makes it quite obvious when Mama’s retort to Beneatha asking about her “raggedy” and “old looking” plant was, “It expresses ME!” (Hansberry 121). This line shows just how much the plant embodies Mama and her goals in life. People on the outside may have referred to Mama’s dreams with the exact demeaning words Beneatha and the others use to describe her plant. However, her dreams are not lost causes, but rather things that have been fought hard for, and despite all the struggle she has faced, Mama never gave up on her dreams nor her plant. 

Change is a constant in A Raisin in The Sun, and Mama’s houseplant is no exception as the Youngers are often thrown new opportunities and more often new obstacles. In the beginning, and for a large portion of the book, the plant is described as if it is on the verge of death. Whenever Mama is seen tending to the plant, the idea of its weakness is often reinforced: “She crosses through the room, goes to the window, opens it, and brings in a feeble little plant growing doggedly in a small pot on the windowsill” (Hansberry 39). Like the Youngers, the plant is simply trying to survive while stuck in a tiny pot, mirroring the idea of the Youngers being stuck in a poorer neighborhood in an apartment they have long outgrown. They both are attempting to move on and grow stronger, however they are almost unable to. Things however begin to take a turn for both the plant and the Youngers towards the end of the book. As the Youngers get ready to begin their lives in their new house in Clybourne Park, Mama takes one last thing with her - her plant: “The lights dim down. The door opens and she comes back in, grabs her plant, and goes out for the last time” (Hansberry 151). By being taken along to the new house, the plant will hopefully grow and thrive within its new and improved conditions. Rather than leaving the plant that underwent so much struggle, Mama takes it with them on their journey so that this symbol of strength and perseverance will stay with them as they face new adversities and reach to achieve their dreams. 

Lorraine Hansberry’s depiction of Mama’s plant communicates how the dreams of so many people are unachievable because of the place society has stuck them in. At the time the book was written, the American Dream was highly sought after, and A Raisin in the Sun shows how much harder this dream was to achieve for the African American community.  Mama always had big dreams for both her and her family, and never stopped fighting for them. When asked about her dreams, Mama always talks with great passion: “But Lord, child, you should know all the dreams I had ‘bout buying that house and fixing it up and making me a little garden in the back— (She waits and stops smiling)  And didn’t none of it happen” (Hansberry 45). Mama was so optimistic when it came to her dreams, however, they were never achieved until a much later point in her life. Her dreams were put aside and never fulfilled because she was never given the opportunity to do so. Despite not accomplishing her dream to the extent she had once hoped, Mama still tried her best to keep her dreams alive: “Well, I always wanted me a garden like I used to see sometimes at the back of the houses down home. This plant is as close as I ever got to having one” (Hansberry 53). The house plant served Mama as a reminder of her dreams, and what she hoped they could eventually grow to become. Despite caring for her dreams and her plant to the best of her ability, neither were able to thrive in their environment. So many others like Mama had dreams for better futures and better lives, but they were never quite able to attain them. They were left settling for something less than what they truly wanted, as they watched the dreams they once had slowly become more unachievable. 

Audrey Hepburn once famously said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”. Although when she said this, she was referring to a literal garden, most likely full of shrubbery and blossoming flowers, the quote can be applied to certain aspects of life as well. In A Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry’s insertion of a simple house plant conveys the harsh reality for many Americans as they continue to struggle to reach the arguably unattainable American dream. Similar to planting your own backyard garden, if a dream is to be obtained, tremendous amounts of effort and care are needed. However, even if you manage to do every single thing right, ultimately, it is the conditions in which your garden grows that has the final say on whether it thrives or simply continues to survive. All of this suggests that, in the end, people can work as hard and as long as anyone else, but if their environment and the people within are primed against them, they may never get the chance to succeed.

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