This is the essence of true faith. It never leaves you forever. You can curse your life but you must not abandon it or dreams will be deferred for good. Walter for example gives up his dream of becoming his own boss. He wants to be financially secure- enough to at least raise himself above the servant class. He wanted Travis to have a better future. But all his dreams vanish when he makes the unwise investment and loses money. His dreams have not vanished however from his spirit, they have only started consuming him. this results in extreme frustration as he turns to alcohol for some consolation. George describes him as someone "wacked up with bitterness." (85) Mama cannot see her son consumed by failed dreams and the situation becomes alarming when Walter doesn't take his wife's threatened abortion seriously. Walter becomes a bitter lost soul.
Beneatha on the other hand is more of an idealist. She wants to become a doctor. However during the course of the play, even she loses hope as she cannot see how she would ever have enough money to become a doctor. Beneatha becomes despondent as her dreams appear to have gone up the smoke. For some time, she severs her commitment with the society as well. This is when she ridicules idealism of Asagai who wants to see Africa independent. This is an important scene because it puts author's views forward in the most precise manner. While Beneatha ridicules idealism, Asagai tries to restore her faith in the same. As Beneatha cynically states: "I wanted to cure...It used to be so important to me.... I used to care. I mean about people and how their bodies hurt...." Asagai wonders why she has stopped believing in her dreams. Beneatha responds bitterly: "Because [doctoring] doesn't seem deep enough, close enough to what ails mankind! It was a child's way of seeing things -- or an idealist's."
It is then that the author jumps to the defense of idealism through Asagai. He reminds Beneatha: "Children see things very well sometimes -- and idealists even better." Beneatha's response turns very sarcastic as she says: "You with all your talk and dreams about [a free] Africa! You still think you can patch up the world. Cure the Great Sore of Colonialism -- with the Penicillin of Independence -- !... What about all the crooks and thieves and just plain idiots who will come into power and steal and plunder the same as before -- only now they will be black... --WHAT ABOUT THEM?!"
Hansberry thus brings the crux of her play through this conversation between these two important characters. One is on the verge of losing here faith in idealism and thus her dreams while the other tries to restore the same. Two distinct images appears where Beneatha despondently states: "Don't you see there isn't any real progress, Asagai, there is only one large circle that we march in, around and around, each of us with our own little picture in front of us -- our own little mirage that we think is the future."
Asagai on the other hand is unmoved. He firmly believes in his dreams and explains:. "It isn't a circle -- it is simply a long line -- as in geometry, you know, one that reaches into infinity. And because we cannot see the end-we also cannot see how it changes. And it is very odd but those who see the changes -- who dream, who will not give up -- are called idealists... And those who see only the circle -- we call them the "realists." (134)
This is the main conflict in the play: idealism vs. realism. The realists are repeatedly criticized for their negative image of the world and of the possibilities at man's disposal while idealism is objectively supported. The author asserts that when people are on the verge of losing their dreams, it is important to make a choice. They can either become a realist or idealist. In either case, they will get what they believe in. Hansberry makes her choice and this is her way of resolving the conflict. Beneatha decides to move to Africa to become a doctor and thus gets her dream. Mama and the entire family move into a white neighborhood because that is what they wanted to do for a long time. Robert Nemiroff in his commentary on A Raisin in the Sun states:
For at the deepest level it is not a specific situation but the human condition, human aspiration and human relationship -- the persistence of dreams, of the bonds and conflicts between men and women, parents and children, old ways and new, and the endless struggle against human oppression, whatever the forms it may take, and for individual fulfillment, recognition, and liberation -- that are at the heart of such plays. It is not surprising therefore that in each generation we recognize ourselves in them anew. (Hansberry xvii-xviii)
Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. New York: Signet, 1987.
Hansberry, Lorraine. "A Raisin in the Sun." Plays…