S: Symbolism in ARIS
FC: Symbolism in A Raisin in the Sun
1: Mama's withered plant symbolizes the bad conditions that the Youngers are living in, but their ability to live through them. Mama takes such good care of the plant because she believes if it thrives, they thrive. She believes that the plant is a symbol of their lives. It shows her unconditional care for her family. Even when Walter starts treating Ruth badly and drinks, Mama still took care of him and tried to help him. The flower in the middle of the picture represents how Mama wants the plant to be, and therefore her whole family to be. She wants them to have better lives and be the best they can be, regardless of stereotypes. Mama’s plant represents the Younger family’s struggle, but hope in within that struggle, too.
2: The garden symbolized Mama’s dream to have a house with a great garden just like the rich people she used to see. On page 53, Mama says, "I always wanted me a garden like I used to see sometimes at the back of the houses down home. This plant is close as I ever got to having one." She takes such good care of the plant because she is practicing her gardening skills for when her dream to have a house and garden come true. This just shows how persistent Mama is and how much she wants to have a good house for her family and a positive future. She wants all of the people in her family to be as good as any rich, white people.
3: Raisins symbolize forgotten dreams and what happen to them. In the beginning of the book, there was a famous poem by Langston Hughes, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up Like a raisin in the sun?...” This poem relates a lot to the whole book. Each person in the book has a unique dream: Beneatha to be a doctor, Walter to be rich, etc. These dreams are all put aside because they are black. They have to struggle harder to achieve their dreams because of black stereotypes and racism. A lot of their emotions have to do with their failure to attain these dreams. Walter tried to attain his dream by investing in liquor, but instead, ended up losing Beneatha’s money for medical education. Beneatha then gave up on her dream to be a doctor. The grapes in the picture on the left are round and juicy, a big contrast to the dry, shriveled up raisin on the right. That is just like the Youngers’ dreams. They were once symbols of hope, of a good future, but in the duration of the book, they dried up, just like raisins in the sun.
4: Beneatha’s hair represents a social statement that natural is beautiful. In the middle of the play, Asagai questions her Caucasian-seeming hairstyle, so she decides to get an Afro, showing that she embraces her African heritage. By showing that she embraces her heritage, she is presenting to the world her anti-assimilationist beliefs and how she wants to go back to her roots in Africa to try to shape a new identity for herself. She then shows that black is natural, and therefore beautiful. When Asagai accused her of being assimilationist because of her old hairstyle, she said, “(Wheeling, passionately, sharply) ‘I am not an assimilationist!’” She wanted him to know that she was very proud of her African heritage.
5: The eggs in the beginning of the book are a little similar to the raisin. The eggs represent Walter’s dreams and how he thinks Ruth his holding him back from achieving them. It shows that women, especially black women, weren’t really accepted in society. They were just there to help the men: cook for them, take care of their children, and stand by their wishes and help them achieve the wishes. On page 32, Walter says, “You couldn’t be on my side that long for nothing, could you?” Then, on page 34 he said, “what is wrong with the colored woman in this world Don’t understand about building their men up and making ‘em feel like they somebody. Like they can do something.” This just shows how he feels about Ruth in the beginning of the book, which also explains why he wasn’t nice to her (fought with her) throughout the whole book. He wants her to try to make him a rich businessman and always agree with him. He thinks she doesn’t listen to him. On page 34 Walter also said, “all you can say is eat them eggs and go to work.” He feels that Ruth is more concerned about the eggs than his dreams.
6: Money represents the fact that greed is bad and will not get you anywhere. Money is greed because money is what greedy people want. They want to spend money on themselves and their hope is to be rich. That is just like Walter in A Raisin in the Sun. He was selfish and greedy in the beginning and middle of the book. He believes that if he is rich, then he will be powerful. He never went to the bank to deposit Beneatha’s medical schooling money, he blew it all on liquor along with the rest of the money Mama gave him. That investment ended up completely failing because Willy Harris ran off with the money. The kid in the picture on the left is receiving money and is probably really happy. In the book, though, we learn that money doesn‘t buy happiness and usually the happiest people are people like Big Walter who earned their money dollar by dollar. Walter finally realizes that at the end of the book when Mama tells him about pride and hard work. Big Walter had earned the Youngers’ new house brick by brick. He had selflessly saved so much of the money for his family. Walter finally learned how to be like Big Walter in the end of the book.
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