Symbolism in Raisin in the Sun
Throughout the play A Raisin in the Sun multiple types of symbolism are clearly shown. Hansberry does a wonderful job of allowing these symbols to be seen, like a specific object (Mamas plant) or a general object (money). She sometimes even uses symbols through people (Beneatha) to get certain points across. She is clever in her use of symbolism because she is able to get a feeling of the time period in which they are in, from certain objects that represent something else. Using symbolism is very important because it helps the reader get a more detail sense of the issue, problem, or event that is occurring.
The first use of symbolism is the plant in which Mama takes care of .This plant represents many things but the most obvious example is that the plant represents her family. Though the family is falling apart, she wants desperately to keep the family going, even though they are almost an inch away from "death". She tends for them each and every day; however she sees no progress in the family much like the plant. Every day, she takes care of the plant and looks after it even though it is still dying; she pushes to keep it alive.
"Lord, if this little old plant don't get more sun than its been getting it ain't never going to see spring again" (40).
This quote, by Mama clearly explains that the old plant is dying because the sun is not shining on it. As of this point in the play no sun is shining on the Younger family either. The second type of symbolism in the plant is Mama needs to and wants and take care of a garden. It is her dream to move out of their old rundown apartment and into a house where it would be possible to have a garden, however once again it comes back to the subject of Mama wanting to be a part of something. She feels as if her family has no need for her anymore, she needs someone to need her, she has fallen on the hopes of this little plant that is all she has to take care of in this world.
The second form of symbolism in this play is Beneatha and her quest to find out who she is. This symbolizes the way in which she is finding someone or something else to blame for their misery. She believes that because we are forced into this land, we are doomed to have a life which is not happy. She also explains to her family in the play that all their problems will be solved if they go back to their country of origin and find out who they are there.
"You're looking at what a well dressed Nigerian women wears…Enough with all this assimilation junk!" (76)
This quote clearly explains that Beneatha has gone away from her belief that the only thing that matters in the world is getting rich. She now believes that the only reason why they are contemplating the subject of money is because we were brought here in the first place, and we are now obligated to have this burden. This symbolism, I believe is very important because it shows the way Beneatha acts towards her family, instead of blaming them, because she knows that, that will get her nowhere, she decides to find another purpose for the family's position in society. Her vision of a perfect family no longer involves the crowded walls of their apartment
but the vast land of Africa. Her quest to find who she is starts with the first step of going back to the land from which their ancestors came from.
The last form of symbolism is the problem and burden of money. Throughout the play the subject of money plays a very important role in their lives. From Walter's point of view, money symbolizes a ticket. The only way to have a name in society or have some importance is to have this "ticket". Without it you are rejected and an outcast. This need to have this "ticket" is driving Walter to the point of insanity. He, in the beginning of the play, is very calm about his proposition of investing money in a liquor store. He goes to Ruth, explains how this will make him rich and happier. However Ruth just blows him off and says "eat your eggs". Walter then tries with Mama, explaining that to have money will make Travis appreciates him more as a father. Mama then says that he has a job; Walter interrupts and says that his job is opening and closing doors for white people, and that, that is not considered a job. Then Walter completely explodes when Ruth tells him she is pregnant. He pressures the family more saying that it is even more important now that they are going to be paying for another person. He then cracks and goes to the bar multiple times during the play. He finally is cornered by Mama who gives him the left over money from buying the house.
"Mama, something is happening between Walter and me. I don't know what it is - but he needs something - something I can't give him any more. He needs this chance, Lena" (25)
In this quote Ruth is asking Mama on Walters's behalf to give him the money. Mama still hesitant finally gives in and gives him the money.
In conclusion, there are many types of symbolism in A Raisin in the Sun, from starting off with the subject of money which is carried all throughout the play and then to Mama's plant which is important in symbolizing the family and her role in their life. Finally, the subject of Beneatha's idea of assimilation and her way to deal with the wrath of her family caused by her decision to go find and explore more about their past. All of these are part of what made A Raisin in the Sun so well known and memorable play.