The American Dream in A Raisin In The Sun


The American Dream is finding self-contentment. Lorraine Hansberry shows the American Dream in her play,  A Raisin in the Sun. This story follows the life of the Younger Family, a working-class, African-American family living in Chicago. Throughout the story, the Youngers struggle against racism, sexism, economic hardship, and self-acceptance. Despite their struggles, these characters continue to work to achieve their goals. Beneatha, Mama, and Ruth show that hard work and determination will lead them to their American Dream. 

One of the characters with a dream is Beneatha. Her goal is to become a doctor. She lives in a society where a woman's job is to tend to the home and children, not work in the direction of a career. Beneatha refuses to give in to that expectation. “I’m going to become a doctor, and everybody around here better understand that!” (Hansberry 50). Despite the lack of support from her friends and family, Beneatha is determined to follow her dreams. Beneatha struggles to find a purpose in her life but eventually finds happiness in success, which she realizes can be reached in other ways besides her share of her father’s money. But, money and success is not the only positive value in life. To some, a happy family is their ultimate goal. Unlike Beneatha, Lena values her family over all else. 

Lena’s goals heavily affect her family. She wants her current and future family to live the life she never had. Lena works diligently for the future of her family. She struggles with her children, Walter and Beneatha because she believes that learning from failure is what will eventually bring them to their dreams. Lena and her husband went through many struggles to get them to where they are now.“You ain’t satisfied or proud of nothing we done” (Hansberry 74). Lena wants her children to realize that failure is what will bring them success, but Beneatha and Walter want to jump straight to success which will only bring them more frustration. Lena is proud of her family, which is why her worst fear is watching her son go money hungry. She knows that although they are not the richest, lacking dignity and hope will do more damage to their family than living in the apartment. Every character here wants happiness for their family, but Lena is the only one who does not depend on money for that happiness. That is what makes her so selfless and dignified. Like Lena, Ruth also values her family above all else.

Ruth wants to move out of their apartment to provide a better life for her son, Travis. She does not want Travis to grow up in the environment they were in.“Honey, you never say nothing new. I listen to you every day, every night, and every morning, and you never say nothing new. So you would rather be Mr. Arnold than be his chauffeur. So – I would rather be living in Buckingham Palace” (Hansberry 34). She is tired of hearing her family complaining about issues she is fully aware of. She knows her husband would rather be rich, just like she would rather be living in a nice house compared to the one they have now. Ruth also struggles in her relationship with Walter. She does not believe his goals are attainable and as a result, he does not listen to hers. Eventually, she works to repair her relationship with Walter Lee and leaves the apartment. Ruth finally finds peace in her new home, and the thought that her son and future child does not have to grow up in the environment they used to be in.

Beneatha, Mama, and Ruth are all characters with powerful dreams who, despite their troubles, they show that through hard work and determination the American Dream is attainable.  These women all have unique dreams; but, they ultimately want to achieve the same thing, happiness. Beneatha works tirelessly in school to achieve the satisfaction of becoming an African American, woman doctor. Lena pushes her family to do their best while at the same time, works endlessly to maintain their happiness. Ruth makes hard decisions for her family, while also working to support them. They show that success is possible regardless of your background. “Today’s tears, water's tomorrow's garden” (Matshona Dhliwayo).

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