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A Raisin in the Sun Contrast


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Contrast Between Siblings, Walter Versus Beneatha
In reading the play “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry, one can almost get the feeling they were there in Chicago in the 1950’s. The Younger’s are an African-American family whom live in a small, dilapidated two-bedroom apartment in Chicago’s south side. The play opens up with the struggling Younger family barely making it through life, but then surprisingly find out they are receiving a life insurance policy from their father; whom previously passed. The inheritance left behind by their father equals ten thousand dollars, but with this money comes sibling rivalry between Walter and his sister Beneatha.
Walter, the only son of Lena Younger “Mama”, is the typical African American man from the 1950’s who is trying to support the family with his job as a chauffeur. He believes everything revolves around him and his opinions are more important than the women in his family. Walter is constantly arguing and fighting with his wife Ruth, Mama, and his sister Beneatha. He blatantly disregards his family’s concerns, more specifically, Beneatha’s concerns, and always feels like he must have the final word in any argument that unfolds. In Walter’s opinion, much like most men from his decade, he believes that the man of the house is the ultimate decision maker. Walter thinks he is realistic with his dreams, while “living in a white man’s world”; however, he is an idealist who believes that a future full of money will bring him and his family happiness.
Beneatha, is a young ambitious, and independent woman who is in college studying pre-medicine. Throughout the play she dates two very different men while she tries to find herself. She is the happiest when she is with Asagai, as they both share the same interest in discovering their African roots. Then she is criticized by Asagai because she is seen as too independent by not wanting to marry and too dependent by not wanting to leave America. Beneatha, being a realist, and at one point even states, “I mean it! I’m tired of hearing about God all the time. What has He got to do with anything? Does He pay for tuition?” (Hansberry 1926; 1,1). Beneatha is quick to judge, like her brother, thinks Walter hangs out with the wrong people, and feels superior to Walter in every way. She also fails to notice how much Walter is hurting and struggling internally, until this is pointed out by their mother.
Both Walter and Beneatha want the insurance money that is owed to Mama. Walter wants to be a business owner and thinks money can solve everything. While Beneatha needs this money to continue her education to become a doctor. Walter is upset that Beneatha wants the money for college and thinks she should have more realistic dreams such as becoming a nurse instead. Beneatha thinks Walter is a loser. She doesn’t respect him, understand him, and even though they are siblings, they are complete opposites. They both try to convince Mama into giving the money to one of them. Ultimately, Mama gives Walter the inheritance to invest in a business. Blinded by his idealistic future, Walter gives the inheritance money to Willy Harris to start the business. Willy Harris took the money and left, leaving Walter and Beneatha without any of it. Beneatha is far more intelligent than Walter and she even states that not even Travis would have trusted Willy Harris with the money. Walter’s failure to see through the scheme was not a surprise to Beneatha because of her realistic point of view. Mama tells Beneatha she needs to love Walter more because he is hurting and feeling lost “in a white man’s world”.
Towards the end of the story is when Walter and Beneatha appear to become closer. Beneatha realizes she needs her family and that she is dependent on them. This gives her a new sense of being and perspectives on her dreams. As for Walter, when Mr. Linder tries to make an offer on keeping the Younger’s from moving into their dream house, he takes a stand. Walter states, “we have decided to move into our house because my father-my father-he earned it.” (Hansberry 1972; 3,1). This statement shows that Walter has realized his family is the most important part of life. Beneatha recognizes Walter’s strength at this point and appreciates his change of heart; she respects Walter for standing his ground and choosing family over fortune.
In this play, Hansberry’s perspective on Walter shows that a person can grow and change. Given the right opportunity one can prove themselves and become anyone they choose to be. Walter chose to become the man he needed to be, for himself and for his family.

Works Cited

Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Kelly J. Mays. 11th ed. New York: Norton, 2013. 1910-74. Print.

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