Quests Not Dreams
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry is the story of black family living in the south side of Chicago. Each member of the family has a dream, a dream that has been put off for some reason. The storyline revolves around an insurance check for $10,000. The check belongs to Mama but each character envisions a different use for the money. Through the events of the play, each person either has their dream realized or caught a glimpse of their dream being fulfilled. I believe that Beneatha, Walter, and Mama each had a quest that they were on that was separate from their dreams.
Beneatha Younger was a loud, intelligent, and fresh-mouthed woman, her dream was to be a doctor and to somehow raise her people up. When Mama set aside the money for Beneatha’s education, Beneatha believed that her dream would be realized. When the money was discovered to be lost, she thought her dream blew up in smoke. This dream wasn’t the quest that she was intended to do though, her quest was to find her “African side” and to connect with it. Beneatha started to fulfill this by talking to Asagai (a man from Africa). She told him, “Mr. Asagai-I want every much to talk with you. About Africa. You see, Mr. Aasagai, I am looking for my identity.” Asagai became a link to Africa for Beneatha, a guide to her ancestry/roots. In Act II, Beneatha shows how she has connected with her African roots by doing a ceremonial dance and by cutting her hair so that it would “natural.” In Act III, Beneatha has the opportunity to connect more with her roots when Asagai proposes to her. He wants her to go with him back to Africa so that she can practice medicine over there. This would be the fulfillment of Beneatha’s quest, not only does she bring out her African culture, but she also will go back and live it. Beneatha also brought out the “African” in other people as well. When Walter walked in drunk, he began to express himself as he looks “back to the past.” Walter had his own quests as well.
Walter was a very important character in this book, he had some of the biggest dreams and the most ambition to fulfill those. Walter’s dream was to have an office and to be successful. He wanted to have a gardener and he wanted to be able to send his son to any school that he wanted. Walter’s quest was to be a man, a man can be trusted and a man who stands up in the face of adversity. At the end of Act II Scene I, Walter tells Mama, “What you need me to say you done right for? You the head of this family.” Walter won’t grow up until he has the responsibilty of being head of the family, but Mama does entrust this to him later. “It ain’t much, but it’s all I got in the world and I’m putting it in your hands. I’m telling you to be the head of this family fro now on like you supposed to be,” Mama told Walter in Act II Scene II. This was the turning point for Walter, now Walter was entrusted to make the decisions for the family. His manhood was also put down though, especially after he lost the money. “That is not a man. That is nothing but a toothless rat.” Beneatha said this after Walter lost the money, but this also stripped Walter’s new manhood away. It wasn’t even developed and it was already gone. Walter’s quest was fulfilled though, at the end of Act III he stood his ground against Mr. Lindner and decided to move. Mama said, “He finally come into his manhood today, didn’t he? Kind of like a rainbow after the rain.” Walter found his backbone and became a man, part of Mama’s quest.
Mama’s dream was to have a house of her own with a little garden for flowers. She was the matriarch of the family, after her husband died she was the one who had to look after the well being of the family. It was Mama’s job to make the decisions and to make sure that everyone grew up correctly. Mama’s quest was to pass on the job of “head of the family” on to Walter and to make sure that he was ready for it. When Mama entrusted the money to Walter, she gave him the power to make the decisions for the family. This was half of her quest, the other half was fulfilled when Walter became a man and decided to move to Clybourne Park. Clybourne Park was a white neighborhood but it was the most affordable for the family. Mama had used $3,500 for a down payment on the house, but when Walter lost the money the thought of moving was questionable. It was Walter’s decision to move or not, and he did. He crossed into manhood at that point, thus fulfilling the rest of Mama’s quest.
These characters all had various quests/goals that were totally different from their dreams. These quests were fulfilled or were close to being fulfilled at the end of Act III. Beneatha’s dream was to become a doctor but her quest was to get in touch with her African roots. At the end of the book she had made her hair natural, performed a ceremonial dance, and was offered the chance to go to Africa and practice medicine there. Walter’s dream was to be successful but his quest was to be a man, head of the household. He became head of the household when Mama gave it to him and he truly became a man when he stood his ground and decided to move to Clybourne Park. Mama’s dream was to own a house with a graden but her quest was to pass the role of head of the family to Walter and to make sure he became a man. Mama passed the role when she gave him the money and at the end of Act III she was pushing Walter to make the right decision. Each of these characters had a dream, but they also had a quest to fulfill a road to travel. The dreams may have been deferred, but the quests were the things that really mattered.