Conflicts in an American Family




“Conflict in an American family”

The play “A Raisin in the Sun” illustrates three main conflicts in the younger family life; they are internal, social, and interpersonal. The conflicts in the story give insight as to who the characters are and what they really want out of life. Conflict is one of the underlying themes in the play, which was written by Lorraine Hansberry, it helps to tell the story and explain the situation that the Younger family is in. The characters in this story were African American, but they could have been from any ethnic group because the problems that they have to face apply to us all. Ossie Davis said it best when he said the “ it didn’t really have to be about Negroes at all” (Davis, 184).
The Younger family is constantly at each other’s throats about one thing or another. The one item that nobody can really agree on is the insurance check from Big Walter’s death. The Younger family lives in a small apartment and has very little in the way of money. The check that Lena Younger is about to get will be a fortune for them. Each character has their own dreams and the money seems to be the way to make those dreams real. Walter Younger is very outspoken with what he wants to do with the money. Walter wants to use it to open up a liquor store so that he can finally start to support himself and his family. Walter Lee thinks that the money can buy him social status in a white mans world (Cheney, 56). The one problem Walter has however is that his mother does not like liquor, which was typical of most southern black woman (56), and she thinks that Walter has a lot of growing up to do. Beneatha, who is Walters younger sister, has bigger plans for the money; plans that here mother agrees with wholeheartedly. Her life’s ambition up to this point is to become a doctor “I’m going to be a doctor “ (Hansberry 1.1 1024-1025). Beneatha feels that by becoming a doctor she will have a new life (Cheney, 58). However like everything else in this play there are obstacles to overcome. The biggest obstacle is the fact that she is a black woman. In the sixties woman in general were treated unequally much less a black woman. The second obstacle is her brothers Walter “… go be a nurse like other woman” (Hansberry 1.1 1019). Walter is very much opposed to his sister’s education because of the fact that he wants to use the money to fund his dream.
Characters in the play, aside from fighting with each other also have to deal with their own internal struggles. The best example of this sort of internal conflict is Ruth. Ruth is pregnant and does not know what to do. She wants to get an abortion to prevent putting any more strain on the family (Cheney, 61). She also feels that by having a baby it could put more pressure on Walter and instead of him wanting to sell liquor he will start to consume it and destroy his life. Lena is another one of the characters that faces an internal conflict. Her conflict is with the money. She has full control of the check and has already used part of it for a down payment on the house she bought. The other part of the check is where her dilemma lies. She wants to see Beneatha go to medical school, but at the same time she sees how desperate Walter is. Reluctantly she hands over control of the money to her son. She did this not only to help him out, but also in an attempt to ease up some of the family tension. She also comes to realize that Walter needs the money “ to chisel a place for himself in the silent monolith of white society”(67). Her feelings about Beneatha and Walter stem from her own life experience. Lena grew up in the south where blacks were frequently lynched and killed just because of the color of their skin. Lena and her children grew up in very different time to her