It is the last thing Mama carries out of the apartment when the family moves, symbolizing the family's failure to thrive in their neighborhood. Both the plant and the Younger family are expected to blossom in their new surroundings.
Walter Jr. wants to use the money to buy a liquor store with his friends. He believes that owning a business will give the family the financial freedom that will make a better life possible for all of them. Walter's sister, Beneatha, attends college and dreams of being a doctor. She very much wants the money to attend medical school. In a way, her dream distances her from her brother and the rest of the family. She is better educated than they are and her dream, if fulfilled, would take her much farther than a new home or a family business ever could. She is eager to forge her own identity as a black woman and does not understand why her family even wants to live in a white neighborhood.
Ultimately, it is Mama's decision that rules. When the Youngers try to buy a home in an all-white neighborhood, however, their new neighbors do not want them to move in. This part of the play directly reflects the experience of playwright Hansberry's family. The Youngers, as were the Hansberrys, were offered money to stay away; like the Hansberrys, the Youngers moved to their new neighborhood, determined to make a better life.
The action of the play takes place over the course of several weeks, so there are several outcomes at which we can only guess. Beneatha, whose name symbolizes her socioeconomic position and underscores the status to which she aspires, rejects her wealthy boyfriend, George Murchison, because she feels that, like her parents, he is too eager to become part of the white world. A Nigerian suitor, Joseph Asagai, proposes to Beneatha and hopes she will return to Africa with him. We know she is tempted by the idea because Joseph stands for everything Beneatha believes in, but we never learn the outcome.
We do not know how the family fares in their new, formerly all-white neighborhood. Until the end of the play, the audience is not even certain that the Youngers will move from their apartment. The homeowners' association has offered money to stay where they are and Walter, having been scammed by a so-called friend, was eager to accept. He did not care when the family was angry with him for selling out, but ultimately he comes to realize that the family and their dreams are more important than money. Walter tells the representative from the association:
[W]e have decided to move into our house because my father -- my father -- he earned it for us brick by brick. We don't want to make no trouble for nobody or fight no causes, and we will try to be good neighbors. And that's all we got to say about that. We don't want your money.
In making this decision, Walter is assuming a new place as head of the family. He is honoring the legacy of his father. We can probably assume that, unlike the Hansberrys, the Youngers are not going to take their case to court. They wanted the right, as did Rosa Parks, James Meredith, the students represented in Brown vs. The Board of Education, and others, to live their lives as they chose. They were not asking for anything extraordinary; they wanted to be treated with the same fairness and decency that was extended to whites. Audiences who watched A Raisin in the Sun understood this. Broadway found a new audience with an increase in African-American theatergoers, who empathized with Hansberry's characters as white audience members never could. For their part, white audiences gained new insight into the challenges African-Americans faced. Much has changed in fifty years, at least on Broadway, where it is no longer unusual to have African-American actors and directors. A Raisin in the Sun changed everything.
"A Raisin in the Sun." Wikipedia. 1 May 2011. Web. 6 May 2011.
Ardolino, Frank. 'Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun.' Explicator. 63.3 (2005): 181-183. Online. 5
Gordon, Michelle. "Somewhat Like War": The Aesthetics of Segregation, Black Liberation, and 'A…