Imagine for a moment it is your big sisters 17th birthday. She is out with her friends celebrating, and your parents are at the mall with your little brother doing some last minute birthday shopping, leaving you home alone. You then hear a knock on the front door. When you get there, nobody is there, just an anonymous note taped to the door that says Happy Birthday, along with a hundred dollar bill. Youve been dying to get that new video game, and your sister will never know.
You are faced with a tough decision, but not a very uncommon one. In both Fences, by August Wilson, and A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansbury, tough decisions have to be made about getting money from someone elses misfortune. But moneys that important right?
The role of money in peoples day-to-day lives is quite amazing when its put into perspective. The primary reason most Americans get up in the morning is so they can go out and make money. Money buys things; money influences people; money keeps us alive; money makes us happy. Or does it? In Fences, by August Wilson, the Maxtons get their money when Gabes head is shot in the war.
In A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansbury, the Younger family gets their money when Walters father dies. But do these things make them happy? Of course not. They are coming upon money from someone elses misfortune, someone they love. The money may have made life easier for a brief moment in time, but the novelty soon wears off and reality soon returns.
The interesting thing about these two novels is that the money received by both the Maxtons and the Youngers did exactly the opposite of what everyone expected it to do. It eventually made problems for both of the families.
In Fences, the Maxtons used Gabes money to buy a house and even though it seemed like a good idea, when Gabe moved out, it caused a great deal of guilt in the family, but especially in Troy. He just couldnt get over how he used someone he loved so much, and they didnt even know it. In A Raisin in the Sun, the Youngers also buy a house with the money the life insurance gave them. But their problem are caused not by guilt, but by two entirely different emotions. One is the feeling of being the object of racism in their new community when the Welcoming Committee tries to get them not to move in. The other one is the combination of defeat, loss, anger, and self-pity felt by the whole family when Walter loses the rest of the money and the Younger family is left with nothing but a house in a neighborhood where they arent wanted.
And money is a good thing?
Answering that question is a simple one. Yes, money is a good thing when it is dealt with in the right way. Both the Maxtons and the Youngers had trouble in how they handled their money and that led to many of the problems they both faced. Money is what makes the world go round in our modern society, but its not a way to measure success, love, or happiness. As Bob Dylan put it, Whats money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in-between does what he wants to do.
All money really is, is a way to buy material things.
Sure, its important, but not close to how important the people we love are. They are where real happiness comes from, not from little green pieces of paper. Happiness is not having what you want, its wanting what you have.