[a] Department of English， Faculty of Arts， Assiut University， Egypt.
* Corresponding author.
Received 19 October 2012； accepted 22 December 2012
This article explores how Hansberry handles blacks’ dreams masterfully and uniquely in her play A Raisin in the Sun. Distinctively different from the other black writers who dealt with the issue， she points out that the deferment and collapse of these dreams can be positively exploited to strengthen blacks and help them restore their long absent manhood and dignity in America. She has pigmented her characters with doggedness and insistence. They wholeheartedly do their best to fulfill their dreams and when these dreams are thwarted， a character， either independently or with the help of other characters， gains further strength and is markedly transformed to the better. To bring this view to light， the article concentrates on the long deferred dream of the mother Lena， the thwarted dream of the son Walter， the difference between the two dreams and how the former has been meticulously manipulated by the mother to affirm her identity and help her son restore manhood and dignity in a racist and hostile society.
Key words： Lorraine Hansberry； A Raising in the Sun； Identity affirmation； Deferment of dreams
Sayed Abdelmawjoud （2012）. Dreams “Deferred” But Identity Affirmed and Manhood Restored： A New Look at A Raisin in the Sun. Studies in Literature and Language， 5（3）， -0. Available from： http：///index.php/sll/article/view/j.sll.1923156320120503.1254 DOI： http：///10.3968/j.sll.1923156320120503.1254
The issue of blacks’ dreams was recurrent in several black writers’ literary productions， most important among which are Lorraine Hansberry’s （1930-1965） play A Raisin in the Sun （1959） and Langston Hughes’s （1902-1964） long poem “Montage of a Dream Deferred” （1951） wherefrom the title of the play was taken. Hughes’s poem played a significant role in triggering off the writing of our under-analysis play. Both Langston Hughes’s poem and Hansberry’s play have a lot in common as they both concentrate on the continual deferment of achieving blacks’ dreams in America and the different possibilities awaiting these dreams. However， Hansberry has uniquely managed to deal with this issue from a broader perspective. Never， either before or after Hansberry， did a black writer manage to deal with blacks’ dreams in the way she did.
This paper tries to illustrate how Hansberry successfully， masterfully and differently manages to go further and explore how the deferment of these dreams can be positively exploited to build up black characters and help them affirm their identity and restore their long absent manhood and dignity in the USA. The doggedness with which Hansberry pigments her characters is what gives her under-discussion play universality， distinction and wide recognition. The characters wholeheartedly do their best to fulfill their dreams and when these dreams are thwarted， a character， either independently or with the help of other characters， gains further strength and is markedly transformed to the better.
To bring this view to light， the article concentrates on the long deferred dream of the mother Lena and how she patiently manages to affirm her identity， the thwarted dream of the son Walter， the difference between the two dreams and how the former has been meticulously manipulated by the mother to help her son restore manhood and dignity in a racist and hostile society. The different forces that have played a role in the deferment or the total collapse of these dreams are shed light on. The great effort exerted by the mother to stand against them all is also illustrated. In so doing， we could also falsify what has been claimed by Harris （1995） that Lena’s strength has crippled her son Walter and her immense physical and moral presence continues to loom large （p. 116）. The mother does have an immense impact on her son but this impact is， as proved in our discussion hereafter， completely positive， and not negative as claimed by Harris.
A Raisin in the Sun “was a landmark success and was subsequently translated into over thirty languages on all continents” （Wilkerson， 1983， p. 8）. It is the play wherewithal Hansberry “had stunned the Broadway stage” and “had surpassed two of America’s most renowned playwrights， Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill， for the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play of the 1958-59 season” （Wilkerson， 1987， p. 642）. Hansberry “was the youngest American， first woman， first black to win this award” （Carter， 1980， p. 42）.
Hansberry’s play “tells the story of a mid-twentieth century black American family” （Lund， 1989， p. 83）. The incidents circle around the members of this family： the mother （Lena）， her daughter （Beneatha）， Lena’s son （Walter）， his wife （Ruth） and their son （Travis）. They have been living in a “cramped， roach-infested apartment” （Hughes， 2011， p. D1）. Each of the Youngers dreams though in a way different from those of others. The mother has long been dreaming of having a comfortable house in an all-white neighborhood， a dream that her daughter-in-law earnestly shares. Walter dreams of accumulating money and getting rich as soon as possible. The youngest daughter Beneatha dreams of completing her education and having a degree in medicine “despite the era’s dictates against her gender and race” （Foley， 2011， p. D20）. What all the members share in common is that they are expecting a ten-thousand American dollars check which is the life-insurance of Old Younger. This check represents “the engine of the plot” （Kingston， 2010， p. 28）， and “the catalyst for change … [for the] family members who have different and conflicting designs for the money” （Palm， 2012， p. M30）. Each of the characters wants to use the money to fulfill his dream.
When the money comes， the mother， as a compromise， uses one third to buy a house in a white neighborhood， and gives the two thirds for Walter to save one for his sister’s education and to exploit the other in the business he wants to start with his white friend. Not attending to his mother’s instructions， Walter gives all the money to his friend who suddenly disappears. The white character， Mr. Linder， comes to the family to negotiate buying back the house as it is against the racial laws. Swindled of the money， Walter was about to sell the house at a considerable profit. Shocked by what the son wants to do， the mother tries her best to dissuade the son， she succeeds and Mr. Linder is ordered out.
To fully understand Lena’s dream and its motivations， we need to throw some light on the dream of the blacks who were relegated and treated like animals in the Southern plantations. Their biggest dream was to migrate to Northern states to find better job opportunities and to escape the inhuman treatment they long endured and suffered from in the South. They thought that in the North they would be free and manage to achieve progress in their life. However， their dream of becoming part and parcel of the American mainstream was shamefully hindered as they were dehumanized and cornered in ghettos that were inappropriate for human life. These areas were over-populated by black residents and utterly neglected by the white government. Such sordid social conditions caused some blacks to dream of moving to all-white neighborhoods. Such a tendency is represented in the analyzed play by Lena whose dream starts even before the start of the play.
Lena migrated to the North with her husband hoping to achieve certain progress and have a house of their own. At the very start， they were satisfied with a rented apartment in a black ghetto thinking that within a year they can save some money and buy a house in a good neighborhood. Unfortunately， none of this has happened. Her long deferred dream and suffering are explicitly stated in her conversation with her daughter-in-law Ruth：
RUTH… Well， Lord knows， we have put enough rent into this here rat trap to pay for four houses by now…
MAMA （looking at the words “rat trap” and then looking around and leaning back and sighing
in a suddenly reflective mood ）. “rat trap”
yes， that’s all it is. （Smiling） I remember just as well the day me and big Walter moved in here. Hadn’t been married but two weeks and wasn’t planning on living here no more than a year. （she shakes her head at the dissolved dream.） We was going to set away， little by little， don’t you know， and buy a little place out in Morgan Park. （Hansberry， 1959， p. 421）
Lena’s and Ruth’s words are highly indicative. Both of them have become dissatisfied with the life they have been leading and the apartment wherein they “are packed like sardines” （Siegel， 2012， p. G12）. The quoted lines indicate also that whites have been exploiting blacks renting them bad apartments and forbidding them from moving to other good neighborhoods. The house is described as a “rat trap” which means that it is not at all appropriate for human living. We are told in other parts of the play that Travis was happy because he killed a rat， and that every now and then the Youngers find no way but to spray the apartment throughout with insecticides to kill cockroaches， acts which are symbolically rich in two ways. First， they illustrate how these ghettos where utterly neglected and， thus， have become a fertile soil where insects such as rats and cockroaches would vigorously grow. Second， the repeated acts of killing rats and cockroaches might be taken to represent Lena’s dream and those of all other blacks to put an end to their suffering； a dream that whites would never allow them to fulfill. Once the apartment is sprayed， rats and cockroaches and other insects disappear for some time， and when the impact of spray diminishes， they begin to appear once more. Similarly， Lena has been repeatedly so burdened by expensive rents and other obligations that she has not been able to fulfill her dream until eventually she finds no way but to wait for her deceased husband’s insurance money. Even after having the money she is hindered by other race-related acts and the play comes to an end without having her dream achieved. Important to add here is that though the dream has been repeatedly hindered， she has never given it up. For her， it is a way of achieving her identity.
The two lexical items “rat trap” are very telling in that they indicate whites’ superiority over blacks on the one hand， and how painful and thorny the way to success in front of blacks is on the other. Whites think that blacks， like rats， should be kept in troubles， or rather in traps， from which they cannot set themselves free. This is very clear as the mother， her children and grandson have long been crammed in this small and inappropriate apartment， a fact that indicates mama’s long suffering and endurance that have continued for three generations. No sooner did she manage to terminate her subjugation and slavery in the South and migrate to the North than she has been thrown into an ocean of discriminatory acts in the North. The stage directions vividly illustrate Lena’s psychological state as she “leans back”， “sighs” and “shakes her head” regretfully as she has seen her long deferred dream thrown into the world of oblivion.
Hansberry， being “one of the most gifted playwrights of the twentieth century” （Guillory， 1992， p. 558）， was meticulous enough to affirm her view that the life Lena， like other blacks， has long been leading in ghettos is inhuman. The writer exposes right from the very start of the play how Lena and her family sleep， sit and dine. All the members of an extended family are crammed in their two-room-apartment to the extent that they do not have a space where the grandson Travis can comfortably sleep. To clarify the psychological torment that Lena and her family endure， Hansberry focuses， at the very start of the play， on one of the basic necessities that all human beings repeatedly need， i.e. the bathroom. The play opens with Ruth trying to wake up her son Travis and husband Walter to catch their turns in the bathroom before other people wake up and amass in front of it each waiting their turns. In so doing， Hansberry justifies and stresses Lena’s need and right to dream of getting out of the ghettos and moving to a sanitarian house， a dream that Hansberry herself and all other blacks share. This was explicitly stated in Hansberry’s To Be Young， Gifted and Black：
We must come out of the ghettos of America， because the ghettos are killing us， not only our dreams， but our very bodies. It is not an abstraction that the average American negro has a life expectancy of five to ten years less than the average white… that is murder （1995， p. 117）.
Above， Hansberry justifies blacks’ urgent need to get out of the ghettos as they are hindering the fulfillment of their dreams and shortening their life span. It is important to note here that these ghettos， though neglected and not even given a small portion of the care given to white neighborhoods， were intentionally rented by white landlords to blacks at higher prices as explicitly made clear in the words of Ruth. Lena and her daughter-in-law have to keep toiling or serving inside white people’s houses to be able to afford the rent and the physical food wherewithal to survive， and are prevented from achieving a noticeable progress in their life. That is why Lena’s and her husband’s dream of having a house of their own have long been deferred and could not have been fulfilled during Mr. Younger’s life. The man， owing to being cornered in these ghettos， has been sent to his grave earlier leaving his dream unfulfilled， and his wife has to wait for his life-insurance money to fulfill the dream.
Mistakenly， Lena thinks that having the money will help her solve her problems and get her dream achieved. However， what happens in actuality is totally different as the affordance of the money represents the real momentum towards further troubles in the play. Having the money， she begins to act practically towards the achievement of her dream. She， “seeking more physical space for the family and the psychological freedom it would bring” （Wilkerson， 1986， p. 443）， “makes a down-payment on a house” （Anderson， 1976， p. 93） in an all-white neighborhood and this has caused her to run into troubles that have not been ended even with the play’s end. First， she has to face Whites’ violent and non-violent reactions towards her intention to move into the all-white neighborhood. Second， she has to confront the discouragement and the conflicts that result from other black characters in the play owing to her intention to move， most important of which is the conflict that begins to arise between her and her son because the fulfillment of their dreams relies basically on this money. Noteworthy of mentioning here is that Lena gets stronger and stronger and never gives her dream up or admits defeat. She has become like the iron which has been purified and turned into steel in a high-temperature oven. The more troubles she runs into， the more moral strength she gets and the stronger her personality becomes. She firmly clings to the achievement of her dream thinking that it the sole way whereby she can affirm her identity.
Concerning whites’ violent reactions towards Lena’s decision to move， Hansberry was intelligent enough to raise several questions in the on-looker’s or the reader’s mind. Though the posed questions are left unanswered， it can be argued that the play， to use Wilkerson’s （2005） view when directing the play in 1965， offers people in general and blacks in particular “many ways to reflect on their lives and futures” as the play comes to a close while the Youngers are moving to their newly-bought house in the all-white neighborhood （p. 785）. We cannot tell for sure what will happen. However， depending upon what happens in reality， we can safely say that the Youngers are going to be repeatedly attacked by whites to be forced to move out. The most important point that Hansbeery wants to raise and concentrate on is Lena’s reaction towards these threats and hostilities. She would like to say if Lena is to get terrified and admit defeat， her dream will be terminated for good and， she has to accept inferiority and conduct her life that way， and this is the tendency that Hansberry detests most. Contrarily， if Lena is to resist oppression and continue the fight she has already begun when she has decided to buy the house， she will， one day， affirm her identity， fulfill her dream and attain her full citizenship which is closely associated， as Matthews （2008） contended， “with property ownership” （p. 556）. And this is the tendency that Lena advocates in the play， and Hansberry vehemently supports. In Lena’s case， Hansberry， would like to warn all blacks against the dangers of submission. She wants them to have the stamina to decide and to go ahead and never retreat even if this would take them to a bloody confrontation， and this is what really happens sometime after Hansberry wrote her play. Commenting on Hansberry’s foresightedness， Whiton （1964） stated： “Indeed， she is ahead of the rest of the people who have written of Negro and white relations in our time” （p. 12）. Hansberry would like to say if blacks do not admit defeat， their dreams will sooner or later come true.
As for whites’ non-violent reactions towards Lena’s attempts to achieve her dream and buy a house in an all-white-neighborhood， this attitude is represented in the character of Mr. Linder. This man seems keen on the benefit of the Youngers. However， when we delve into what lies deep inside him， it becomes obvious that he is heart and soul a racist. In actuality， he believes in blacks’ inferiority and whites’ superiority. He thinks that blacks do not fit for living among whites as they are going to contaminate the place and carry their bad habits and social diseases and spread them wide among whites. This man adopts the policy initiated a long time before him by Abraham Lincoln who freed blacks and abolished slavery but never believed in their equality to whites. Lincoln himself admits： “I am not， nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races” （Hine， W. C. Hine， & Harrold， 2000， p. 219）. The goal of such tendencies， as indicated by Hoy （1995）， was “racial tolerance， not equality” （p. 118）. So does Mr. Linder believe. To him， blacks are human beings but they are far more inferior to whites. Consequently， they are not by any means to be admitted into white neighborhoods.
In Hansberry’s play， Mr. Linder has been sent by the Clybourne Park Improvement Association to convince Lena not to move to the white neighborhood. He tells the Youngers that they are human beings and have the right to choose where to live. Nevertheless， for the benefit of both blacks and whites， they both should be separated and live apart to avoid any clashes that might ensue from the daily contacts among them both. He would like to say that they are segregating both blacks and whites and that is why the Youngers will not be welcomed， if admitted at all， into the white neighborhood. His view is vividly crystallized in his words：
… you have got to admit that a man， right or wrong， has the right to wants to have the neighborhood he lives in a certain kind of way. And at the moment the overwhelming majority of our people out there feel that people get a long better， take more of a common interest in the life of the community， they share a common background. I want you to believe me when I tell you that race prejudice simply doesn’t enter into it. It is a matter of the people in Clybourne Park believing， rightly or wrongly， as I say， that for the happiness of all concerned that our Negro families are happier when they live in their own communities （p. 466）.
Linder’s words are thematically rich and when looked at superficially indicate one extreme， and when analyzed in depth indicate another. On the surface， they seem to be imbued with kindness， compassion， mercy and humaneness. The view that he explicitly states is that both blacks and whites should avoid any clashes； each should mind their own business. It is better for whites to live in an all-white neighborhood， and for blacks to live in an all-black-one. In so doing， the whole nation is going to live in peace and the bloody confrontation between whites and blacks can be avoided.
However， when his words are deeply ruminated， it can be easily discerned that this man represents the non-violent attitude manipulated by whites’ to resist blacks’ integration into their neighborhoods （Matthews， 2008， p. 556）. This man is a racist in disguise. He knows well that the place wherein a human being lives denotes his social status and whereby his superiority， or inferiority， is decided. He knows well that all-white neighborhoods stand for superiority and all-black ones stand for inferiority. By achieving her dream and moving to an all-white area， Lena is going to gain some strength that can help her and other blacks protest against whites and accept degradation no more. In addition， he， like Lincoln， believes that if the Youngers are admitted， they are going to bring deterioration to the whole area. That is why he twists facts and states that blacks are happier when they live and are let alone and so are whites. It is whites who are happier when blacks are discriminated against and cornered in ghettos that do not fit human life.
JOHNSON. … Lord
I bet this time next month y’all’s names will have been in the paper plenty
（holding up her hands to mark off each word of the headline she can see in front of her）
“NEGROES INVADE CLYBOURNE PARK
MAMA （She and Ruth look at the woman in amazement）. We ain’t exactly moving out there to get bombed.
JOHNSON. Oh， honey
you know I’m praying to God every day that don’t nothing like that happen！ But you have to think of life like it is
and these here Chicago peckerwoods is some baaaad peckerwoods. （p. 456）
Very apparent in the above lines is the effort Mrs. Johnson exerts to attract Lena’s attention to the catastrophe she will certainly cause to her family if she insists on moving. She holds up her hands to let them clearly see the headline. Her profound terror can be clearly seen in the way she speaks and the lexical items she selects. The word “peckerwoods” is doubly meaningful as it is used to terrify the Youngers and， at the same time， to refer to whites’ dominant aggressiveness and mercilessness at that time. Stressing the dominance of whites’ violence against blacks trying to improve their living conditions and move to better places， Matthews （2008） stated： “In post-war Chicago， bombings， demonstrations， and assaults on blacks attempting to move east into predominantly white neighborhoods were on the rise （p. 556）.” Important to note here is Lena’s reaction to this discouraging woman. She has given her a deaf ear and has decided to affirm her identity and move even if all the members of the family will be in jeopardy.
In this dialogue， Hansberry wants also to uncover and cynically criticize those blacks who are unconsciously united with whites to discourage and defeat other blacks. This woman is scared not because she herself is asking for utter freedom and equality but to see other blacks doing so as this， so she thinks， is going to stir whites’ indignation and resentment against all blacks. She thinks that Mrs. Younger， by deciding to move， harms and imperils not only her family but also the whole black community. Hansberry condemns such a type of people and considers them agents serving whites and doing blacks more harm than good. Hansberry’s view is that these people， instead of scaring and frustrating other blacks and deferring their dreams， should have encouraged and supported them. Had they done so， Hansberry thinks， blacks might have succeeded easier and earlier in the USA and their dreams might have been achieved.
Last but not least is that the deferment of blacks’ dreams sometimes comes from within the family members themselves. Sometimes the hindrance results from the members’ fears to support one another and some other times from having conflicting dreams. The shock and the move from one psychological state to another that Ruth and her husband Walter show when hearing the news that the mother has bought them a good house in Clybourne Park indicate this view：
RUTH. Where is it？
MAMA （frightened at the telling）. Well
well it’s out there in Clybourne Park
（Ruth’s radiance fades away abruptly， and Walter finally turns slowly to face his mother with incredulity and hostility）
MAMA （matter-of-factly）. Four o six Clybourne Street， Clybourne Park.
RUTH. Clybourne Park？ Mama， there ain’t no colored people living in Clybourne Park.
MAMA （almost idiotically）. Well， I guess there’s going to be some now.
WALTER （bitterly）. So that’s the peace and comfort you went out and bought for us today！ （p. 451）
Most telling in the above extract are the stage directions. When the mother is asked where the house she bought is located， she becomes “frightened”. This elucidates the fact that Lena， strong and determined as she is， cannot resist being overwhelmed by terror. However， she soon curbs such a feeling once she remembers the sublimity of her mission and the importance of having her identity affirmed and her dream achieved. The word “frightened” is also significant in that it refers to whites’ continuous racism. Hansberry wants to say that racism still widely exists and forbids blacks from fulfilling their dreams. She also wants to say that if blacks are to achieve these dreams， they have to confront whites even if they are going to get terrified at the beginning. This terror， Hansberry thinks， will vanish in time and blacks will manage to get their dreams achieved. If they are to let themselves be controlled by terror， they will continue to suffer and will not be able to achieve any of their dreams. That is why Lena never surrenders to terror and threats.
As for Ruth， she is taken by happiness and her cheek turns red when she knows that they are going to have a house of their own but soon this happiness and “radiance” fade away when she knows that the house is located in a white neighborhood. Her sudden change from one extreme to the other
ecstasy to terror and sadness
indicates nothing but the vast impact that racism have upon blacks and the role it plays in the long deferment of their dreams. Notwithstanding， Ruth has quickly attended to Hansberry’s instructions as she soon has control over her feelings and starts to support Lena heart and soul.