People have dreams that they pursue, but sometimes the pursuit of their goals can take a dangerous precedence over what is truly important to them. Depending on the goals of these dreams, people will change themselves and their lives in order to live up to the standards of that dream. The changes one does to make their dream come true can affect their reality, which includes family, friends, and work. Everything in their current life is put in jeopardy, just to attain a fictional life that they have dreamt.
In the play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, the characters Walter Younger and Beneatha Younger come from a poor community and both have dreams. This can lead to success and wealth that will give them an escape from their current way of living. Their pursuit will lead them to many sacrifices and risks that affect themselves and their family. Individuals with strong determination to pursue their dreams such as Walter and Beneatha depicts how dreams can interfere with reality, which causes them to detach from their lives and sacrifice everything.
Walter’s pursuit of wealth and success causes him to play the part of a wealthy man, which leads him to give what he doesn’t have while ignoring his life of poverty. In the beginning of act one scene one, while Ruth Younger and Travis Younger are eating at the dinner table. Walter comes in and finds out that his mom denied their son the money; without hesitation, he gives his son the money while adding another fifty cents while giving Ruth a hard stare. Ruth: Get your mind off money and eat your breakfast. Ruth: Well, I ain’t got no fifty cents this morning…I don’t care what teacher say.
I ain’t got it. Eat your breakfast, Travis. Walter: What you tell the boy things like that for? Walter: In fact, here’s another fifty cents…Buy yourself some fruit today – or take a taxicab to school or something! (Hansberry 28). When Ruth tells Travis “I ain’t got no fifty cents this morning” she isn’t necessarily telling her son that the family doesn’t have money to give, but that they can’t afford to give the money they already have, because they aren’t wealthy and need the money for more important things.
In this scene, she is the only one aware of their current living situation. Walter’s reaction towards Ruth is to portray a dominant and breadwinning role in the family, so while he hands over the money to his son he stares at his wife to make an impression on them. Perhaps part of his dream is to be the sole breadwinner and top authority figure for his family, and he may also be acting this way because he wants his son to look up to him rather than someone else. He wants to set an example of being a man of the house, and doesn’t want to look inferior in front of his son.
When he tell’s his son “In fact, here’s another fifty cents” he’s not handing over more money because he feels that his son needs it, but he’s doing it to make an example out of it and to show his wife and son who the bread winner is. Being the leadership and breadwinning role in the family means everything to Walter and serves as one of the main motivators for him pursing his dream of investing in a liquor store, which would bring him money he feels would earn him the leader role.
The confidence that Walter is expressing is based on the foundation that his mother’s check is on the way that will set his dream in motion, so he feels confident enough to act as if he already has succeeded in his dream. Walter ignores the fact that he wouldn’t have enough money for carfare after giving money to his son because he felt that it was important to make an impression on both of them. His confident impression he portrayed earlier with his son and wife soon diminished and he walks in clearing his throat then asks Ruth, “I need some money for carfare. ”
Ruth responds teasing, but tenderly, “Fifty cents? Here— take a taxi! ” (Hansberry 39). As Walter clears his throat and asks Ruth for money while avoiding eye contact with everyone but Ruth, he expresses similar behavior to that of a child. He felt shame and embarrassment for the act that he put on earlier which resulted in carfare troubles. This is a clear example of his inability to make important decisions, and reinforces his failure as a leader. Walter takes an “all talk no action” approach to everything that he does, which is why he is so committed to achieving his dream so that he can finally back up what he says and does.
He feels that if he had the success and money that he’s dreaming of then embarrassing moments such as asking Ruth for money would never happen, and his assertion of dominance wouldn’t be needed. He wants to be a successful and wealthy business man, but he doesn’t thoroughly think of the process it will take to achieve this goal. When Ruth teasingly says, “fifty cents? ” to Walter she’s making an example as well, and showing him how foolish he’s acting by giving him exactly what he gave his son “fifty cents”.
She isn’t trying to assert dominance or compete with him, but she’s trying to show him what he doesn’t see. She feels embarrassed at times with the way he’s acting, yet she still loves him unconditionally while giving him whatever he wants. She constantly acts as his filter and serves as the voice of reason for him and the family. Walter’s dependence on Mama’s check distorts his reality, which causes him to ignore all the risks involved in his dream. In the ending of act two, scene two, Walter tells his son of his dream, a dream where there’s offices and success.
After receiving the money, he needed from Mama he believes that his idea in investing in a liquor store is set in motion. He tells his son that after the transaction their lives will change. He believes that once the investment is made that all their problems will be solved. Walter says, “You wouldn’t understand yet, son, but your daddy’s gonna make a transaction … a business transaction that’s going to change our lives. … That’s how come one day when you ’bout seventeen years old I’ll come home and I’ll be pretty tired, you know what I mean, after a day of conferences and secretaries. (Hansberry 108). 3. When Walter mentions “conferences” and “secretaries” he is showing, what he believes are the keys to success and wealth in his dream. His idea of wealth derives from interacting with wealthy people at his job, and these wealthy people have things in common, which are conferences and secretaries. He doesn’t know what the purpose is for these things, but he is sure that it’s common for wealthy people to have them and he’s essentially mimicking how wealthy people live.
When he tells his son of this “transaction”, he treats it as a solution to everything and a way out of poverty for his family. He completely ignores the steps or risks involved in this transaction, and he believes that all it takes is an investment to be successful. This is dangerous because of the ignorance that Walter shows while making a serious decision such as an investment, and he is so convinced that this decision will change their lives for the better that it blinds him from the devastation it may actually cause.
Walters’s state of oblivion has put him and the lives of his family at risk, because they see him as one of the authoritative roles in the family and are confident that he’s making the right choices, which puts him in a dangerous position of power that leads. This feeling of power gets to his head, which he convinces himself that he’s right and nobody around him can comprehend the ideas that he has in his head. These ideas and dreams have turned into delusions, which have grown out of control causing damage to his sister Beneatha and others around him.
The dream that Walter is pursuing interferes with his sister’s dream, which causes her to become bitter when her dreams are crushed after he loses the money. In the beginning of act three, scene one, Beneatha tells Asagai how her brother had lost the money and her dreams of becoming a doctor, the cure, used to matter to her but now she has stopped caring. Beneatha says, “No—I wanted to cure. It used to be so important to me. I wanted to cure. It used to matter. I used to care. I mean about people and how their bodies hurt…” (Hansberry 133).
The feeling of ambition that Beneatha once had for becoming a doctor turned into feelings of impossibility. She often mentions the words “used to” emphasizing that her dreams of becoming the cure, the doctor, and someone who cares have now become a part of the past. She is someone who genuinely cares about people and becoming a doctor was only intended as a way for her to help more people who were hurting. Her dream is much different from Walter’s selfish dream because money, power, and success was the main motivator for his, but her dream was selfless and only seen as a way to help more people and to do more good in the world.
When she says, “I used to care” this is not only directed at her dream but herself, because her dream was a reflection of herself and who she was, so Walter’s actions not only crushed his sister’s dreams but it also crushed her identity as well. Not only has she expressed feelings of resentment and bitterness but she also feels lost because she has lost her uniqueness since her passion of curing others can no longer be pursued. Being a doctor was stepping-stone to her independence and breaking free of traditions of being a woman in the late fifties.
Her feelings of contempt for the few inferior roles that society provides for woman causes her to rise at the next opportunity for becoming a doctor, but this comes at a cost. Beneatha’s commitment to her dream of becoming a doctor causes her to throw away her principles of being independent, which now she relies on her soon to be husband. Towards the end of act three, Beneatha tells Mama that Asagai asked her to marry him. Everyone was dumbfounded when they heard her announce the news of her marriage and traveling to Africa, and her response was that she wanted to practice there to become a doctor.
Beneatha: Mama, Asagai asked me to marry him today and go to Africa— Mama: (In the middle of her getting-ready activity) He did? You ain’t old enough to marry nobody Beneatha: (Girlishly and unreasonably trying to pursue the conversation) To go to Africa, Mama— be a doctor in Africa … (Hansberry 149). Beneatha’s marriage represents the sacrifice she has made so that she can pursue her dream. She is a woman that does not want to rely on anyone but herself to achieve her goals, but now that’s put into jeopardy with her marriage.
This marriage breaks some important principals and pride that she has because she’s now having to depend on someone to pursue her passion of becoming a doctor and she has also fallen victim to a tradition which she despises. The society in her time often has a predetermined goal for a woman, which consist of roles such as becoming a housewife, secretary, nurse, or teacher. Being an intellectual, independent, prideful and strong person Beneatha feels that these roles are limiting and that she is destined for much more.
Beneatha had to give up her independence and take a shot to her pride by marrying Asagai, so that she can pursue her dreams of becoming a doctor and curing others. Her passion of curing and helping others is also at risk because her marriage with Asagai is based on the foundation of her becoming a doctor and not love. In the future Asagai may learn of this and be hurt knowing that the woman that he loves and is married to did not share the same feelings towards him, which would be impossibly difficult for Beneatha to cure, and essentially becoming the affliction not the cure.
Walter’s obsession in investing in a liquor store completely took over causing him to detach from his job, loves ones, and his reality so that he could give complete attention to his dream. What he doesn’t realize is how devastating this could be to his life and whoever is involved. Walter’s selfishness leads him to sacrifice Beneatha’s dreams of becoming a doctor, because he feels that her dreams aren’t important.
His self-centeredness is pointed out when he says that nobody understands him, but it is only an excuse for his selfish ways, because he doesn’t understand the needs of his family and how his decisions as one of the leaders in the family could cause damage. Although being ambitious and following dreams is good, the way they are followed is important, because focusing too much in a dream could change who you are. It needs to be done in moderation and consideration of others is important when following your dreams, so that your dreams don’t turn into delusions.