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Pride Raisin in the Sun

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Pride
Pride is a powerful emotion, so powerful that it can empower a person to make irrational decisions even with the best of intentions. Lorraine Hansberry touches upon this in her play A Raisin In The Sun primarily using the character Walter Lee. Another work of literature that touches upon this issue of pride is the short story “The Rocking Horse Winner” by D.H. Lawrence, where the protagonist Paul demonstrates pride leading to madness taking over. These works are comparable with the theme of Pride being that both character’s, Walter and Paul, on took daring actions for their mother with the best of intentions. However although alike, these works differ because Walter’s mother wants to better her family’s living situation and fulfill a dream as opposed to Paul’s mother who is simply greedy as well as hungry for money and materialistic things. Throughout Hansberry’s A Raisin In The Sun the members of the Younger family each explain their own desire for success and a better life. While each member of the family hopes for something different, in the end they all wished to better their family situation. Walter’s discussion with Ruth in the beginning of the play illustrates his definition of success and the “American Dream” when he is ranting “Charlie Atkins was just a “good-for-nothing loudmouth” too, wasn’t he! When he wanted me to go in the dry-cleaning business with him. And now- he’s grossing a hundred thousand a year. A hundred thousand a year! You still call him a loudmouth!” (Hansberry 615). This scene shows how Walter is envious of wealth and considers bringing in a large income being a success. Much like the Younger family from A Raisin In The Sun, Paul’s family from “The Rocking Horse Winner” also desires improvement and success. Paul’s mother and father have expensive taste and are thriftless spenders as it would seem, yet cannot afford to do so. Paul’s desire to better his family situation comes from a conversation with his mother, where their financial issues are brought up after Paul questions why they must ride in their Uncle’s automobile or a taxi rather than in one of their own. Paul’s mother explains that the reasons are “Because we [they] are the poor members of the family…because your [Paul’s] father has no luck”, and after the question arises if luck and money are the same thing she retorts “No, Paul. Not quite. It’s what causes you to have money” (Lawrence 1017). This conversation leads Paul to believe his mother has lost pride in her family being her husband is so “unlucky” and the family is in such need. Thanks to some outside influence, both Paul and Walter believe that money can bring happiness and improve their family situations. Walter, seeing how much income an old friend of his generates after starting a business, eagerly seeks this for himself and is hooked on the idea of opening a liquor store, negligent to his wife and mother’s disapproval. Walter wants to prove himself as a success and something he and his family can be proud of, however according to Sharon Brubaker,
“The concept of the "self-made man," who starts with nothing, works hard, and achieves great wealth, seems innocuous enough. However, the idea becomes destructive when it evolves into an idolization of wealth and power. A life insurance check from his father, Walter Sr., means Walter Jr. can buy his way into a business and out of a servile job.”
Walter’s motives begin with the best intentions of supporting and helping his family, but pride causes him to make a rash decision, secretly taking a chance with the life insurance check, despite his specific instructions. This ultimately leads to the loss of the insurance money, putting the Younger’s in a financial predicament.
In “The Rocking Horse Winner”, Paul is put under the impression by his mother that what his family is in need of most is money, or “luck”. Similar to Walter, Paul feels that his family’s improvement is ultimately dependent on him yet wishes to keep his actions of gambling and winning secret out of pride for himself and his mother, knowing she would not accept his winnings. Therefore, after Paul finds his solution of riding his rocking horse to the destination of “luck” for large winnings, Paul explains to his curious uncle “I started it [his savings] for mother. She [his mother] said she had no luck because father is unlucky, so I thought if I was lucky, it [the house] might stop whispering” which illustrates feeling responsible for improving the family situation. Furthermore, Paul’s pride is depicted after he suggests “I [He] shouldn’t like mother to know I’m [he’s] lucky” and after questioned he elaborates “She [his mother] would stop me [Paul]” (Lawrence 1022)
While both stories compare very well with the themes of pride, especially in young males trying to support their mothers, they also contrast; primarily in family motives. The Younger family has come from generations of oppressed people with minimal opportunity, yet these people were proud of what they had and what they had done in their lives. The Younger family’s motives are simple yet important, and after his mistake of losing the money, Walter recognizes this and redeems himself. Walter explains to Karl Lindner what kind of people he and his family are and their reasoning for calling:
“We called you- because well because me and my family. Well we are very plain people… I mean I have worked as a chauffeur most of my life- and my wife here, she does domestic work in people’s kitchens. So does my mother. I mean we are plain people… And- uh- well my father was a laborer most of his life… And my father- My father almost beat a man to death because this man called him a bad name or something, you know what I mean? ..Well what I mean is that we come from people who had a lot of pride. I mean- we are very proud people.”
Walter, after contemplating, comes realizes his family has never been one of flash or wealth. Now, he understands his family does not need money to succeed but opportunity for growth and pride in what they do have, such as the opportunities of moving to a new area or sending Beneatha to school. Paul’s family, in “The Rocking Horse Winner” differs because they are money hungry and greedy. Paul, out of love for his mother, keeps all his winnings secret and grants her the money through others as she “needs” it. This differentiates Paul and Walter because Walter made his decision with foolish hopes to solve a real problem, Paul made his decision to feed his mother’s wants, only creating more and more of a demand. The biggest difference however, is that Walter comes to terms with reality and changes for the better it would seem, as opposed to Paul who ride’s his horse to his demise leaving his mother “eighty-odd thousand to the good, and a poor devil of a son to the bad” as Uncle Oscar declares, suggesting in her greedy eyes there might be some good to the situation. Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin In The Sun is a play that deals with many themes that can be compared and contrasted with that of other works of literature. Pride is a very powerful element in this play that causes Walter to make foolish decisions as small as giving out a dollar to his son Travis, or losing his father’s life insurance check. Pride and money are also prevalent throughout D.H. Lawrence’s short story “The Rocking Horse Winner”, which makes these two works to be closely compared. However, although alike in many ways, these stories are equally different and contrast just as well when it comes to family motives and societal standings. After all, one family is that of wealthy, Caucasians while the others are oppressed lower class African Americans.

Works Cited
Brubaker, Sharon. "The American Dream in A Raisin in the Sun." McClinton-Temple, Jennifer ed. Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2011. Bloom's Reference Online.
Hansberry, Lorraine. “A Raisin In The Sun”. Literature The Human Experience. Eds. Genevieve Hamilton Day, Joanna Lee. New York: Bedford/St. Martins Press, 2007. 609-683. Print.
Lawrence, D. H. “The Rocking-Horse Winner” Literature The Human Experience. Eds. Genevieve Hamilton Day, Joanna Lee. New York: Bedford/St. Martins Press, 2007. 1016-1027 Print.

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