The movie version of the play, "A Raisin in the Sun" by Lorraine Vivian Hansberry, communicates the lifelong struggle of maintaining the legacies of family morals and values.
The movie recounts the life of a black family’s struggle to honor their individual dreams. It displays the difficulties of maintaining homeostasis and bringing their dreams to fruition, simultaneously. The interactive patterns and the affects of reciprocal determinisms on the family are the major themes of the play.
As the play begins a husband, Walter Younger, and wife, Ruth, are having an argument over Walter's dream to become an entrepreneur by buying into a liquor store. His plan is to use an arriving insurance check for his mother, Lena, as down payment on this venture. Walter tells his wife that, "I'm trying to talk to you 'bout myself and all you can say is eat them eggs and go to work". The transactional patterns of this argument are the first sign of the redundancy principal. Walter's feelings, that no one in the family listens to him or respects his judgment, are reiterated throughout the movie. From Walter’s perspective, if his family would trust in his vision, and allow his dreams to become reality, his family would prosper and homeostasis would be maintained. Following this argument, Walter goes off to his job as a chauffeur, a job he finds demeaning. Walter would rather "be Mr. Arnold [his employer] than be his chauffeur.”
This Intrapsychic moment, illustrates a recurring motivation behind Walter’s epistemology that causes his conflict throughout the story. Walter begins to obsess the arrival of Mama’s check and the approaching possibility of his dream becoming a reality. He is now the identified patient. Walter’s psychopathology is affecting every member of the family in a pattern of circular causality. As his dream becomes larger-than-life, he changes--becoming oblivious to all but the arrival of his opportunity to stop dreaming. This movement away from the family focus is representative of the horizontal and vertical stressors he must contend with. With this in mind, it is no wonder that Walter feels frustration with his family. Lena Younger, Walter’s mother, says, “Your father would have been happy working for another man and caring for his family.” Walter, on the other hand, is more concerned with becoming self-employed without considering the consequences and the effects on his family. As the movie continues, Beneatha, the younger sister of Walter, reveals her epistemology on the existence of God. She speaks to her to her mother, Lena, saying, “I don’t believe in God”. This transaction is demonstrative of the developmental stage that Beneatha is experiencing called autonomy and separation. She is formulating her own concepts, which are based on the horizontal stressors of the world and are in direct conflict with the vertical stressors of her family. Lena’s response to her daughter is a slap to Beneatha’s face. Lena, speaking in a voice full of conviction and quiet control, saying to her insolent daughter, “Now, repeat after me, in my mother’s house--there is God.” Without hesitation and tears in her eyes, Beneatha repeats the overt words her mother spoke and completely understood the covert messages of her mother’s tonality. This event shows another time in which a family member threatens to ruin the inherent stability of the family structure. Beneatha, although believing to be bettering herself, is leaving an important part of herself and her heritage behind. Beneatha's speech about God is her attempt to show her independence and uniqueness in the world, but when she asserts herself in an area that is extremely sensitive to the family heritage and structure, she threatens to wean herself from the only guaranteed support group in life, the family. Once again, as with Walter, Beneatha realizes later in the story that it is the furtherance of long-standing family values and morals, which give the foundation upon which to build a wonderful life.
These examples illustrate just a few of the many ways in which family beliefs and goals do not always benefit the family unit and are sometimes a source of conflict amongst its members. Consequently, the larger group goals are sometime lost because of the continual race for individual goals.
In contrast, the story's ending presents a view of how standing by long term family goals, values and beliefs provides a sense of unity and pride. The collective unity of the family will reinforce the resiliency of the family giving them the ability to surmount any horizontal stressors. Once Mama receives the insurance money, Lena Younger, she believes that the best things to do with it is buy a new house for her family and help to pay for the cost of Beneatha's college education. At first she is very adamant against giving any of the insurance money to Walter because she believes that his uses for the money will not benefit the family. But, as time progress Lena sees how isolated and bitter her son has because none of the family members will back his dream. Lena gives him the money left over after buying the house to spend on his dream. Lena says to her son, "be the head of this family from now on like you supposed to be." Walter's deal falls through though and he is faced with an even more 'pride deflating' task of talking with the head of the white 'Welcoming Committee' of their new neighborhood and pretending to be the stereotypical subservient black so that the 'Welcoming Committee' will buy the family's new house and the family can then use that money for Beneatha's education. At this point, Walter begins to realize that Lena’s dream of educating Beneatha would be the venue to homeostasis for the family. But, as the time draws near for Walter to put his pride away, he realizes with the help of the family, that no amount of money can make up for the loss of pride and that it is sometimes better to sacrifice the goals of one for the good of many, so he tells the gentleman from the 'Welcoming Committee' that they "decided to move into our house because my father—he earn it.”
This bold and unselfish move helps to communicate the family's long-standing ethics, values, and pride. I also represents the functioning of the positive and negative feedback loops that maintain the homeostasis of an enabled family.
A Raisin in the Sun displays a great recurring theme in life that many times the good of the few has to be sacrificed through the needs and propagation of the group. This movie also illustrates the idea that sometimes to hold on to ethics, values, and pride is the most difficult task presented to all family members--but is the most fulfilling and helps to make facing the next challenge easier.
Dreams, and the struggles necessary to attain them, are the focus and driving force behind this story and the struggle of every person to attain goals that aren't always in tune with societies thoughts or ideas on a persons place in life. Our dreams may even cause conflict in our own families. But, if we hold fast to our legacies, we can bounce back and thrive. The end result could no better be expressed than by the words of the Three Musketeers, “ One for all and all for one.”
Susskind, David and Rose, Philip (Producers). (1963). A Raisin In The Sun (Film). USA: Columbia Pictures.