Optimism or Pessimism in A Raisin in the Sun

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Optimism or Pessimism in A Raisin in the Sun

“Is your glass haft empty or haft full?” This saying perfectly describes what optimism opposed to pessimism is. Some people always see their glass haft empty, others haft full. The majority of people see their glass haft full some days and on other days haft empty. Our outlook on life is intimately related to the situation we are in and whether or not we believe we can get through the hard times. In the play A raison in the sun certain characters are more optimistic than others. Some of them are always optimistic whereas others have their ups and downs. Sometimes they are optimistic and on other days they are not.

Mama is a good example of an extremely optimistic character in the play. She always sees the best of every situation. At times the situation may seem completely hopeless to the audience. Yet, she never gives up. Mama has always dreamed of owning a house, she has always wanted to move her family out of the “ghetto”. Finally, she gets the chance to do so; she gets an important amount of money from the insurance company. She decides to use that money to make a down payment on a house. But her dreams are rapidly crushed; her son, Walter, has lost all of the money in an investment. Although she is extremely angry at first she does not give up. She decides that perhaps they can clean up the place they currently live in. They can add new furniture and perhaps even new curtains. The following quote perfectly illustrative Mama’s optimism: “I sees things differently now. Been thinking ‘bout some things we could do to fix this place up some. […] Why this place be looking fine. Cheer us all up so that we forget trouble ever come… […] Sometimes you just got to know when to give up some things… and hold on to what you got …” (p140) Mama is a really strong and important character in the play. Due to her hopefulness she is able to hold her family together till the end.

Beneatha on the other hand is more of a realistic character. She is optimistic some days and pessimistic on others. Beneatha is optimistic in the sense that she is a colored woman living in the ghetto and still, she strives and dreams to be a doctor.

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Even though everyone around her mocks her dream, she continues to hold on to it. Ruth, her brothers wife, Mama and Beneatha are have a discussion about Beneatha’s future. The proper dream according to Ruth and most of the “world” is that Beneatha marry a man who is well off. Beneatha thinks that kind of dream is foolish and responds: “Get over it? What are you talking about, Ruth? Listen, I’m going to be a doctor. I’m not worried about who I’m going to marry yet – if I ever get married.” (p50) Ruth does not want to be dependant of anyone; she is a strong woman and believes she can make it through life without a man. Although Beneatha is an extremely optimistic person at times, she can also be extremely pessimistic. Mama had decided to give part of the insurance money to her daughter, for her medical school tuition, allowing Beneatha to get closer to achieving her dream. But Walter also loses her part of the money in his investment. This unfortunate event immediately crushes her dream and makes her feel foolish for ever wanting a better future. Soon after the money is lost, Asagai comes over and sees that Beneatha is extremely sad. He tries to comfort her but her optimistic view on life seems to no longer exist. She sees no future ahead of her and thinks that her dreams are now impossible to attain. She even thinks that they were simply an illusion. When Asagai attempts to prove her wrong, he wants her to keep on striving for a better future. She reply’s: “An end to misery! To stupidity! Don’t you see there isn’t any real progress, Asagai, there is only one large circle that we march in, around and around, each of us with our own little picture in front of us – our own little mirage that we think is the future.” (p134) She is convinced that there is nothing she could do to make the world a better place.

In conclusion, A raisin in the sun is overall an optimistic play. Although the characters do not always see “their glass haft full” in the end they are happy and believe that they have a better future ahead of them. They realise that perhaps not all of their dreams have come true but the most important one has, they now have their own house. They have moved out of the ghetto and have stuck together as a family even through the hard times. The plays ends with the family being much stronger and united then ever before.


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