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The American Dream is looking more different then it is in 1931 when it was first introduced by James Truslow Adams when he wrote:. ‘That dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.’ Lorraine Hansberry born in Chicago, was the first black writer. Hansberry was the fifth women, and the youngest American playwright ever to receive the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Her play, A Raisin in the Sun, surpass many other plays from authors like Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Archibald MacLeish. A Raisin in the Sun, a play based of the book revolves around the Youngers, a black family. The Youngers went through many struggles mentally and physically relating to many stereotypes. People of high class might believe the American Dream is possible due to the fact that they have it easy, with no problems, however, because of racial inequality, gender roles, and lacks of opportunities, the American Dream is not possible. In Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun American Dream is the main theme, which will be further analyzed in this essay.
Racial inequality is often a factor that makes the American Dream seem unattainable for people of color. The Youngers, the family that is being portrayed in A Raisin in The Sun moved from a small apartment to a house that is able to contain five people using the money received after the death of Lena Younger’s husband. Not long after they moved, Mr. Linder the chairman of Clybourne Park “welcoming committee” comes to talk with the Youngers about the “lowdown” on the way they do things in Clybourne Park. Mr. Lindner offered to buy the house from the Youngers because they are in a neighborhood where they “aren’t wanted and where some elements – well – people can get awful worked up when they feel that their whole way of life and everything they’ve ever worked for is threatened.” It seems that because the Youngers are black they are being segregated from their community.
The author of A Raisin in The Sun, Lorraine Hansberry, was inspired to write this book using her own life as her inspiration. Growing up, Hansberry faced many problems specially social and racial problems. During her childhood her family had to move to a white neighborhood where they’re welcomed by a white mob in front of their house. The mob threw objects at their house breaking through the window, almost hitting Lorraine in her head. While Hansberry is in college, her theater professor gave her a D even though her work exceeded his expectation. The professor didn’t want to encourage Hansberry to become a playwright because it’s a “white-field.” By choosing to not encourage Hansberry to become a playwright, society is discriminating blacks.
Not only is there such thing as “white-field”, there’s “whites only” services. Sigrid E. Johnson, while on a family trip to Georgia would often see water fountains with “whites-only” labeled on them. Johnson’s biological father was black and her mother was a white italian women, which gave her a light complexion. Johnson’s adopted parents wanted her to marry a light skinned man, however, Johnson fell for a man with dark skinned. Johnson’s adopted parents disapprove of her choice “because in their experience, lighter complexion meant higher status and more options.” Johnson’s parents were relieved when their grandson inherit his mother’s complex. These mindsets are significant because it shows the way society impact the victims themselves.
Due to freedom of speech in America, people can express their thinking and opinions. Just like how whites have the right to express how they feel towards people of color. They have the right to voice what they want and make it happened and they did. Though it’s freedom of speech for whites it is not for people of color especially for blacks. Society sees white’s’ opinion as the top priority and look past the people that aren’t white. Society looks past the Younger’s needs, Hansberry’s dream, and Johnson’s role. Isolation of one’s’ race is a big obstacle for the American Dream.
It’s not just race. Due to gender roles in society, womens are also at a disadvantage of achieving the American Dream. In A Raisin in the Sun men were made out to be the head of the house. Where as women were housewives. Walter Younger, the only man of the Youngers talk about how he’s “a grown man” and that nobody in his “house is ever going to understand” him. Walter is obligated to be the man of the house, however, Lena Younger was the one that fit to be with authority. Even so, Lena ended up giving Walter the position at the end to fulfill Walter’s need to be “a man”. She made it so that Walter will be the one making decisions, just like how Lena believed Travis, her grandson, shouldn’t be making his bed because he’s a boy. Society’s decision to put males as leaders shows its expectation of each gender.
Identity also plays a big part in gender roles. Being homosexual, Hansberry struggle to face humanity’s system. Afraid of being discriminated again she hide her identity. Hansberry wrote in a letter to ONE magazine “Men continue to misinterpret the second-rate status of women as implying a privileged status for themselves; heterosexuals think the same way about homosexuals.” The fact that Hansberry identified that herself shows that society made it pretty obvious about the roles of each gender and their identity. Not only that, but the sole reason why she hid her identity, proves society’s judgement.
Who does society let have access to independence? Males. Many have said “independence is inappropriate for females.” Society adapted this mindset that women is “to accept the authority of the husband.” They are suppose to stay home and care for the children and take care of the house while the husband work and is the head of the house making him in charge of every decision. Society makes males out to be dominant while it makes females a supporter. Independence is one of the many factor of the American Dream and it seems that it is irrelevant for women.
Some might reason it is logical that males are leaders because men are strong, stable and firm. Yes, it may be true for some males, however, it’s still just stereotypes. Though some might be strong physically, womens are mentally stronger than men. Women express their emotions which makes them mentally prepare for the worst, while men keep to themselves and build up their emotions. However, in the end men and women are unequal. One would have a better chance then the other to fulfill their wishes. The American Dream will always be unreachable as long as males and females are put on different levels in society.
Lacks of opportunities stopped many from achieving the American Dream which makes it impossible. Beneatha and Walter lack the opportunities to pursue a career of their choice. Due to poverty, the Youngers weren’t able to fill everybody’s needs, especially when there’s five people in which two needed most. Beneatha explained “This was truly being God…I wanted to cure. It used to be so important to me. I wanted to cure. It used to matter. I used to care. I mean about people and how their bodies hurt…” Beneatha dreamt of being a doctor but due to the lack of money she isn’t able to until her father died. Beneatha and Walter were suppose to used their father’s death money to take them one step closer to their dreams but Walter had losted the money while trying to pursue his own drea, making Beneatha’s dream seem impossible again. It seems that the lack of money leads to limited accessibility.
Just like Walter and Beneatha, Hansberry wasn’t given her opportunities. However, its slightly different because Hansberry lost her opportunity because of racial inequality while Beneatha and Walter lost theirs because of poverty. Trying to pursue her dream of becoming a playwright, Hansberry faced many hardships. Hansberry’s theater professor didn’t support Hansberry’s dream because that dream was for whites, so even though Hansberry did a splendid job in the class, the professor refused to give her a high grade. Hansberry later quit school and went to New York, making her lose her chance of studying theater in an actual university. And all of this have happened because she was black. This is similar to discrimination of race, due to the fact that Hansberry is black she lost her opportunity of having professional teaching of theater.
Though Hansberry grew up in a middle class, she should have more options. But she didn’t, she was treated like someone of poor. Unlike Hansberry, who was born into middle class, Kevin Green was born onto a farm in a rural area. Green “encapsulated if not the American dream, at least solid upward mobility.” Even though Green earned his high school diploma unlike his father who only had a third grade education had to go and still and collect cans by the roadside making about $20 a day. Green was able to find a low-paying nonunion job, but later become a shift manager making trailer homes. He fell in love but because of financial problems he wasn’t able to married, though he did have twin boys. However, later on his girlfriend left with his twins and asked for child support. He wasn’t able to provide child support and was punished by getting his driver license taken away “which made it pretty much impossible to get a job in a rural area”. If one is born rich then they would have one step ahead of others making the opportunities come to them and leave the poor ones with a little less then a few options.
Yes, sthe lack of opportunities isn’t society’s fault. It’s not other people’s fault that someone is poor. However, it is society’s fault that people of color have limited options. Though it might not be society’s fault for poverty, society gave opportunities to “whites only”. Being rich and poor is a bid inequality. With this huge gap of differences, opportunities are handed out differently, so it’s impossible for everybody to receive the same opportunities let alone reach the American Dream.
American Dream doesn’t seem possible now as there are problems like racial inequality, gender expectations, and limited opportunities. Therefore, Americans should focus on reality and have expectations that are more reachable rather than the American Dream.
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