Symbolism

One of the most prominent aspects of this play is symbolism. “A Raisin in the Sun” contains many examples of symbolism. Some of these examples include the statement “Eat your eggs,” Mama’s plant, and Beneatha’s hair. Symbolism is very important to any story, and represents one of the greatest parts of it. Using symbolism in a piece creates a deeper connection with the reader, and I certainly felt that connection in this play.

The first example of symbolism, one of the first examples in this play, is the statement “Eat your eggs.” In the play, Walter says that Ruth, by saying this, is holding him back from his dreams and ambitions, and by saying “Eat your eggs,” she is trying to make him be quiet and be satisfied with what is already in front of him. He also says that she needs to be more supportive of him and his goals in life.  In actuality, it is exactly the opposite. This gesture of making his eggs for him every morning is exactly the support Ruth is giving Walter. She nourishes him every day, and by giving him this nourishment, she supports everything he is doing. However, this statement could also be taken in a very different direction. The simple statement could symbolize the oppression that African American people were feeling in the 1950’s. By saying, “Eat your eggs,” she is also saying that their race should just sit down and take the oppression without any complaints. The family proves this statement wrong later in the play by going against racial prejudice, and moving into a nicer house in a white neighborhood.

Mama’s plant is an interesting item indeed. Throughout the play, Mama can be seen tending to it, watering it, and proudly exclaiming about how it flourishes, even though it never gets enough sunlight or water. Mama’s plant represents her dream to move her family out of their cramped apartment space, and into an new, bigger house. The plant could also be compared to her love and care for her children. She cares and tends to them in an less that optimal environment, and yet they flourish as well. With Walter’s excellent work ethic, and Beneatha’s aspirations to go to college and become a doctor, she raised her children very well. Her hope that her dreams might someday come true can be seen in her hard work, and dedication with the plant.

Finally, Beneatha’s hair, as it changes throughout the play, is another major symbol. During the play, the audience quickly realizes that Beneatha is a strong, independent, African American woman, who is determined to become a doctor and wants to become more in touch with her African roots. Her major hairstyle change about midway through the play symbolizes her independence, and her desire to become more in touch with her African heritage. She changes her hairstyle from a straight-down, Caucasian style hair into a wild Afro. She represents the upcoming decade of the 60’s, a very wild decade because of the civil rights movement. You can learn more about the civil rights movement by clicking here

All of these examples of symbolism, Mama’s plant, Beneatha’s hair, and the phrase “Eat your eggs,” provide more insight for the readers of “A Raisin In the Sun.” Lorraine Hansberry, the author of this play, intelligently placed these, and many other, symbolic elements into the play, and really brought the quality of the play to the best it could be.

Dreams Deferred

Many of the characters in this play have dreams that they would like to fulfill. Mama’s dream is to own a big house with a yard for her grandchild to play in. She thinks that by moving to a bigger and better place, the family will become more motivated. Ruth’s dream is very similar to Mama’s in that she wants to move into a better place, but she wants it more for her son, Travis, because she wants to raise him in a better environment. Beneatha’s dream is to become a doctor. She believes this will break the stereotypes of African American people, and hopefully discourage some of the racism that she experiences towards her race. Walter’s dream is to become rich, and provide for his family what he never had growing up. All of these people’s dreams are for the better, but with the introduction of money, their dreams could become a reality.

Mama’s dream is deferred because she does not have the money to purchase a larger house in a better neighborhood. This desire gives her an incentive to earn money, but she and her husband could not pull together the requested currency in order to make this desire a possibility. Only when her husband dies and leaves a $10,000 insurance claim does her chance come to realize her dream.

Ruth’s dream is to have a happier, healthier family so her son, Travis,

can have a proper upbringing. This dream is deferred because she currently lives in a cramped apartment with the only sleeping place for her son being the couch, and with arguments between her family members being a daily occurrence. She believes that buying the new house and moving out of their cramped situation will create a more suitable environment for her son.

Beneatha’s dream is to become a doctor. Her dream is deferred when Walter “invests” most of the insurance money with Willy Harris in order to create a liquor store. Unfortunately for Beneatha,  it becomes exponentially more difficult for her to attain the education she need in order to become a doctor. She also exemplifies the dream of all women at this time period. Women were expected to stay at home and take care of the family instead of go after a career and make money. Beneatha wanted to be an example for all of the women around her of how women can succeed if they put their mind to it.

Walter’s dream is to become rich and give his family all of the fancy

pleasures that he never had growing up. He tries to make his dream a reality when he invests the insurance money with Willy Harris into a liquor store. His dream is deferred because Willy ends up running off with the money, and leaves Walter broke and unhappy. Maybe the change of scenery that happens after the play will inspire Walter to go after a more lucrative career, and fulfill his dream of providing for his family.