Handlebar’s play demonstrates how generation differences in nee household result in personal conflicts. Walter and Beneath, who are siblings, have dreams of rising above their socioeconomic situation. However, it is each one’s belief and how each views their situation that distinguishes them from one another. In A Raisin in the Sun, Handlebars represents Walter Lee Younger as an ambitious but very knowledgeTABLE African American man. Walter Lee is a man who is angry and frustrated with his current position in life because he feels like a less off man.
He works as a chauffeur for a white man which has him dissatisfied with his own life. At the age of thirty-five, he can barely provide for his family. His dissatisfaction with his own life is shown when he speaks to his wife Ruth and says, “I’m thirty-five years old; I’ve been married eleven years and I got a little boy who sleeps in the living room and all I got to give him is stories about how rich white people live”. Although his family’s financial situation is strained, Walter doesn’t want his son to see him struggle. It is obvious that Walter Lee, who is supposed to be the man of the house, feels like a complete failure.
He wants to emulate the lifestyle of rich white people and live like them. I’m thirty-five years old”, his tone alone depicts that he is too old to not have accomplished anything valuTABLE in life. He does not want to be a hopeless chauffeur for the rest of his life. He hates living in his small apartment, so small that his son has to sleep in the living room. He dreams much bigger than that. The only issue with Walter is that he is only concerned with his current economic situation and how he wants to improve his circumstances; however he fails look to beyond that like his sister Beneath does.
Handlebars presents Beneath as a young and intelligent African American Oman who belittles the African American society because of their lack of intelligence and success. Beneath is TABLE to look beyond her current situation in order to understand who she really is as a person and what she wants in life. She is the only one in the house that is exposed to new ideas and is constantly challenging the culture, race, gender, and religion that her family has grown up with, because she is TABLE to attend college. At times her educational background makes it difficult for her to relate to the rest of the family.
When Beneath boyfriend is about to visit the house, she cautions ere mother to abstain from showing ignorance-she says, ‘ ‘Well, do me a favor and don’t ask him a whole bunch of ignorant questions about Africans. I mean, they do wear clothes and all that”. This statement shows that Beneath thinks she is much more intelligent than her family. She forgets that her family members, especially her mother, work very hard to get her through school. It is Beneath college education that differentiates her from her brother.
While Walter is only trying to climb up the socioeconomic ladder, Beneath is challenging the system which causes conflict between herself and her brother. Beneath chance to go to school is an opportunity that Walter Lee never had, yet Beneath still believes that a higher education is her right. The main reason for the conflict between Beneath and Walter stems from Walter’s small-minded view of Beneath. In the play, Walter complains about the cost of Beneath decision to go to Medical School and says: ‘Who in the hell told you, you had to be a doctor?
If you so crazy ’bout messing ’round with sick people then go be a nurse like other Women or just get married and be quiet”. He bases his argument on the fact that Beneath is a woman and her desire o get a career in a white-male dominated field is unrealistic. Handlebars uses Beneath and Walter to present the different viewpoints that are present in the house. Beneath superior intelligence level over Walter makes her believe she is better than him. Walter Lee is not concerned about education, he only dreams of economic prosperity and wishes to become a successful businessman.
His dreams only relate to materialistic goals because he believes that money is the key to his family’s happiness. However, Walter feels that he is getting older and his opportunities to become successful are fading fast. His opportunity to become rich finally arises when the $10,000 life insurance check upon his father’s death comes in the mail. Walter wants to use the money to is invest In a liquor store, despite the fact that all the other family members disagree with his idea. He never gives up on his dream and convinces Mama to give him the money.
He points out the importance and benefits of his plan of opening a liquor store for the whole family. Walter even tells his son: “You wouldn’t understand yet son, but your daddy’s goanna make a transaction… A business transaction that’s going to change our lives… ” In this quote, Walter’s invitation with Travis shows his expectations for the family’s future, he is very optimistic about his goal. His life takes a major turn when he decides to invest all the money in the liquor store business with two friends. The plan falls through when one of the men runs away with all of the money.
Walter becomes desperate and is willing to do anything to repair his financial issue. He allows his obsession with materialism control his pride and dignity. His need to obtain numerous goods in addition to fit into the white man’s world seems to be his only focus. Walter fails to realize that the lack of money is not he only reason for their condition. Walter almost loses his dignity due to his ‘obsession’ with becoming rich. He is put to test when his white neighbors offer to buy back his mother’s house at a price that could help his financial situation.
Walter Lee tells the family that he called the man back to take the money. In this scene he plays the role of an inferior black man to a superior white man. He was willing to accept the money that was being offered to him and also accept the label as a black man with no pride. The option to accept the money is very shameful in the family s yes and making money a priority over human dignity is out of the question. Walter was determined to take that offer but changed his mind last minute mainly because of his son.
It was not Walters own choice to turn down the offer; it was his mother that convinced him because it was obvious that he was willing to lose his pride over money, something his sister Beneath would have never done. Beneath is a very strong minded young woman who will only make decisions to please herself. She is dating two men that have completely different views on the African American culture. Her first boyfriend is George; he is a wealthy young man who is from a wealthy background. Sagas is her second boyfriend who is a college student from Nigeria.
He introduces Beneath to the African heritage through Nigerian cloths and music. George however does not see a reason to honor their African heritage. He sees himself as an American first and also feels like it is a waste of time to learn about the African heritage. In the play, both Ruth and Mama try to convince Beneath to be with George because of his wealth. However, for Beneath it is not the money and the riches that she wants to achieve in life, but to have an understanding of her background and who she truly is.
The fact that Beneath becomes so knowledgeTABLE about the African culture enhances her self-esteem. She takes a lot of pride in the African culture which is proven when Ruth says: “You expect this boy to go out with you with your head all nappy like that? ” and Beneath responds by saying: “That’s up to George. If he’s ashamed of his heritage–… L hate assimilation Negroes! … Someone who is willing to give up his own culture and submerge himself completely in the dominant, and in this case oppressive culture! Beneath always stuck to her beliefs no matter what anyone else thought.
She was not easily to be convinced and it was obvious that she would not give up her pride or identity to fit into society expectation of African American women. Throughout the play, Beneath was at times very strong-willed and was never willing to back down which took a turn on the whole family at times. It is obvious that the Younger are poor; however Beneath does not put her financial situation into consideration when it comes to her needs. In the play, she chooses one expensive hobby to the next. She does not understand the none send on her guitar lessons and horseback riding can be used for more relevant things.
It is clear how self-centered she can be when Ruth announces that she is pregnant with her second child. The first words that come out of her mouth are “What about me going to Medical School? ” she was not concerned about Ruth nor the baby, she wanted to go to medical school and that was gong to happen in one way or the other. It was not just Beneath that was self-centered; Walter Lee also showed some major selfish traits. In many ways, Walter faces many conflicts which relate to his identity as a an, whether it is in his role as father, husband or provider.
At some point in the play he fails in all three roles. When Ruth tells him that she put a five dollar down payment to get an abortion, Walter stays silent. Instead of standing up as a husband and telling his wife to go ahead and have the baby and that he will work harder to provide for the family, he does the complete Opposite. Mama continues to tell him that his father did not raise him like that and he should man up and take responsibility. It is clear that at that point Walter acted selfishly and was only concerned about his own needs.
The play A Raisin in the Sun shows how success seems to be a necessity. The question becomes how far a person WOUld go in order to succeed. The ability to overcome all these problems and obstacles is how one can achieve greatness. Both, Walter Lee and Beneath show how that one does not have to lose their pride and dignity to succeed. However, both characters show that selfishness will not take one far in life. What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Dreams never dry up, they simply change which is illustrated in A raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Handlebars.