A Raisin in the Sun Literary Analysis

Lorraine Hansberry's drama A Raisin in the Sun and Tennessee Williams' play The Glass Menagerie

Includes two key characters who share many similarities but are also very distinct. Walter Lee Hansberry and Tom Williams are two sons raised by single mothers. They live in poverty, and the two protagonists are unhappy with their circumstances. Walter and Tom had hopes that one day they would be able to escape their current circumstances. Neither of the two is proud of their separate families; yet, their approaches to their financial situations differ and are perceived differently by their respective families. Even though I concede that the two characters are determined to change their future, I am convinced that Walter is the better person because of his continued love and attention to his family despite his financial struggles.

Common struggles

Walter and Tom are both young men struggling to come in terms with their financial circumstances. A situation that is common in the lives of the two characters is that they come from single parent families. The two characters live with their mothers because their fathers are dead. In reference to the plays, the cause of their financial troubles is attributed to the deaths of their fathers. As they grew up, the main sources of hope in their families were their fathers. The deaths snatched the bread winners from their families and they were forced to face life on their own. In both plays, their mothers have little to do in relation to changing the plight of their families. The mothers do not work and they do not have stable sources of finances. The only way for Walter and Tom to get out of their situations is through committing themselves and work hard to change their future in a positive way.

Belief in dreams

A major aspect that Walter Lee and Tom have in common is their beliefs in their dreams. They are committed in doing their menial jobs although they believe that there are other things they need to do in order to get to where they wish to be. Each character believes that his dream is the only through way to their respective ambitions. Despite the fact that Walter Lee is a desperate young man prejudiced and shackled by poverty, he has a business idea in which he has invested all his hopes. He believes that his dream will fix his present day economic and social challenges. Walter says “I want so many things that they are driving me kind of crazy…Mama – look at me”. By implementing his ideas, Walter Lee is convinced that he will accumulate enough money that will cover all the needs he has had since his childhood. The change in his social and economic status through accumulation of money will change the way members of the society views him. The status of the members of his family particularly his wife will be changed by his efforts (Hardolino 182). However, the only challenge he has in relation to the implementation of his business idea is lack of capital. He believes that the benefits from the insurance cover will cover his financial needs to start his dream business. The case is similar to Tom because he also believes in his dream and he is working in a shoe warehouse as he waits to make his dreams come true. The solutions for Tom’s financial challenges are invested in his dreams. Tom believes in his poetic skills and he is persuaded that venturing fully in poetry will change his fate. He also believes that his ambitions will also be realized through his freedom. According to Tom, the environment in his home is not friendly in helping him realize his determinations. Tom knows that freedom is fundamental for his plans to be accomplished. However, her mother does not allow him the decision making autonomy he longs for. Because he is strong-minded to ensure he implements what he believes in, he plans to find a way of creating his own form of freedom including moving away from his family.

Shame and pride

Walter Lee and Tom feel very ashamed of what they do to support their families. Both believe that they are not worth what they are doing to help meet the needs of their families. Walter Lee engages in a liquor business because he sees it as the only hope for his family. In spite of the fact that his mother is not in support of the idea of selling liquor for survival, Walter Lee is not convinced that his mother is making sense by trying to stop him because it is the only source of money for their family as they wait for the insurance cover money to be paid. Walter does not engage in the business because he likes the idea, it is only because he has no other option to source the family’s financial help from. Sometimes, Walter Lee feels ashamed because he is unable to fully care for the needs of his family, particularly his wife. The character thinks that he will only be able to accommodate all the needs of the family members. Despite the fact that he earns some money, he does not have pride in his day-to-day activities. The story is the same for Tom. Tom hates his job with passion because he considers it to be among the most dreaded jobs. His work in a shoe warehouse has always been the worst side of his life. He wishes to do something better but the job seems to be the better option. He does not wish to be identified with what he does to earn a living. He is pushed by the fact that he is the only male child in their family and his sister is physically challenged. He recognizes the plight of his sister and he is dedicated to do everything possible to keep them going (Furnham 202). An irony that appears regarding his perceptions of his job is that he continues to do it and he spends most of his time at the warehouse. The lack of pride in what Walter Lee and Tom do has been their main source of motivation to work hard and make their dreams practical.


Walter Lee and Tom have several differences. The differences are what make Walter seem to be the best among the two characters. The fact that they all come from poor families is justified by the nature of economic activities they engage in. they all understand the financial history of their families. A major difference between Walter Lee and Tom is demonstrated by the way the financial status of their families affects their relationships with their close family members. Walter seems to be strong regardless of the reality that his family is in serious financial challenges. The economic challenges do not affect the love Walter has for the members of his family. His main source of inspiration has been his family. The play paints Walter as a loving and caring member of the family. He is concerned about how his mother and siblings feed and cater to their other needs. He spends most of his time trying to think about how he will help his family get out of their situation. His dreams are based on the state of his family (Harris 28). Walter is stressed and desperate because he is unable to keep his wife on the standards he admires. He compares the life he goes through with his wife and what other people, especially from rich families, go through. His major source of worry as a result of his economic troubles is the fact that he is unable to fully care for the basic needs of his wife. He asks in desperation why he cannot offer precious things for his wife to wear. He is fully convinced that a time will come when he will afford luxuries for his lovely wife. He considers his closely related people as sources of motivation to steer him towards his dreams. He opts to spend most of his free time with his family because they are the main sources of inspiration. His continued connection and consideration of his family members in whatever he does is a clear indication that Walter is a loving person who does not work for his selfish ways. In addition, he seeks advice from his mother prior to taking any step. His mother is against his business idea, but he takes time to explain to her why it is necessary to carry on with his plans to implement the idea. On the other hand, Tom does not express such features that seem to be appealing for most readers of the plays. Tom views his family as reasons why he cannot achieve his dreams. He considers the advice and concerns from his mother as the main reasons why he would fail to make a single stride in the direction of his ambitions. The difference between Walter and Tom is that the former has invested all his hopes in the members of his family while Tom sees his family as a major stumbling block. Tom chooses to spend his time in the movies rather than spending it with his mother and sister. He prefers to stay away from family as a way of avoiding his inquisitive mother. He wants to keep everything within himself. Tom’s decision to escape from home and stay away is seen as an act of egocentrism and selfishness. He only cared for his needs and what he wished to achieve to change his future (Kumar 180).


The analysis of the two plays reveals different features about the main characters. The features of the characters as revealed through their roles in the play make it possible to decide on which character was the best based on the fact that they lived under similar circumstances. Their differences justify why Walter is the best character. In the place of poverty and financial challenges, Walter remains connected and committed to his family. He puts the interests of his family first. On the other hand, Tom sees his family as contributors to his financial troubles. He acts in a selfish manner by only concentrating on his dreams and illusions. He decides to spend most of his time far from his family members, and it suggests that he has no love for his family.

Works Cited

Ardolino, Frank. "Hansberry's a Raisin in the Sun." The Explicator, vol. 63, no. 3, 2005, pp. 181-183.

Furnham, Adrian. "The glass menagerie." Head & Heart Management, 2008, pp. 202-203.

Harris, Trudier. "A Raisin in the Sun." Saints, Sinners, Saviors, 2001, pp. 21-39.

Kumar, Amitava. "The Glass Menagerie." Nobody Does the Right Thing, 2010, pp. 175-202.

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