The play Raisin in the Sun deals with an urban family and their pursuit of their dreams. The family has to work to overcome the poverty that they live in before they can pursue those dreams. This poverty is shown through the worn appearance of their apartment. Rose and Mama try to make their poor apartment appear to be a home in where there is still hope. Even so, the setup of the apartment and the closeness ensure that conflicts about individual?s dreams are inevitable. The entire set, along with the props emphasizes the family?s struggle to overcome their social conditions and pursue their dreams.
Each adult member of the family has his or her own dream of the direction that they want their lives to proceed. The main barrier between each person and their dream is the poverty of the family. If the family were wealthy, Rose and Mama could have their house, Beneatha could go to college, and Walter Lee could invest in a business. This poverty is carefully shown in the set. The appliances are obviously old. The refrigerator appears to once have been white, but now is stained with a yellowish tinge from years of use. They cannot afford to live in an apartment that has a bathroom, so they share with the neighbors. Though the bathroom itself is not a part of the set, the walls of the apartment are partially transparent so the audience can see as the family and neighbors rush to be first to use the shared bathroom. The crowded city backdrop also supports the idea of the family living in poverty. The buildings are close together and are not tall shiny skyscrapers, but dull rectangular buildings. They do not live in a neighborhood where people have their own lawns; they live where they poor are pushed together and must fight to overcome their surroundings.
Mama and Rose try to overcome this poverty by making their apartment seem like a home. There tender care can be seen in the decorations of the apartment. The doilies on the couch represent a hope that Mama had when she was young. She once made those doilies to decorate the apartment, trying to make it home. A generation later, Rose works to make the apartment home. On the refrigerator hang pictures that Travis drew. On the wall next to the door to Rose and Walter?s bedroom hangs a picture of an old relative of the family. These things are hung with care. They show that the family is proud, and that they are still struggling against this poverty. The care put into the apartment shows that they are still trying to better their life. They have not given up their dreams and allowed their lives to fall to ruin.
Though the family has hope, the closeness in the house leads to conflicts. The kitchen and the family room are connected, so everyone not in their bedroom is constantly in contact with one another. Walter Lee and Beneatha are forced to be together, and they act out the tension over what will be done with the inheritance money. The characters can?t get away and talk because the apartment is small, so when Walter Lee is yelling at Rose, Mama is there to hear everything. The characters have no privacy. The transparent walls add to the idea of lack of privacy. Even though the audience can?t see into the bedroom completely, they can see who is in the bedrooms and what they are doing. The placement of the doors also promotes interaction between characters because the doors to the bedrooms open to the family room. The door to outside and to the bathroom is between them, so the everyone must pass through the family room to get ready in the morning. The closeness of the characters leads to conflict over the dreams of the family members because Walter Lee?s, Beneatha?s, and Rose and Mama?s desires are different. They are constantly struggling to keep the family together though the closeness and poverty, while still trying to reach their individual goals.
Towards the end of the play, the family sees that their push to attain their dreams is destroying the family. They realize that they must work together to keep their dignity and to not lose sight of their dreams in the face of poverty. They leave the old worn apartment behind and move into a new house. The new house represents a major step towards reaching their dreams. The family knows there will be difficult times ahead, but they know that they can overcome the poverty so apparent in their apartment and reach at least some of their dreams.