A Raisin in the Sun presents three generations of the Younger family, whose visions of success vary according to personal differences among individuals as well as characteristics associated with social categories. Lena Younger, usually referred to as Mama, is a widow and the family matriarch. Beneatha and Walter are siblings, but Beneatha is fifteen years younger than her brother, so she can be considered part of a different generation. The siblings are similarly headstrong and highly motivated, but their goals differ. Their mother is primarily invested in her ability to help the other family members succeed.
The twenty-year-old Beneatha is an extroverted, highly curious person who has benefited from being the younger child in a loving, supportive family. In pursuing education and self-development, she has resisted long-term commitment such as marriage and parenthood. Coming of age in the post–World War II era and the early years of nationwide Civil Rights activism has helped her gain confidence that she can succeed in medicine, a career path that was formerly out of reach for African American people, especially women.
Walter married fairly young, and by age twenty-five, he was already a father. His idea of the American Dream is ambitious but conventional: he wants to switch from working for someone else to being his own boss as a business owner. Walter’s impulsive personality combined with frustration in achieving his goal unfortunately makes him reckless. He both rationalizes his own unethical behavior and is victimized by a friend before he finally takes a courageous stand.
Lena’s dream of helping her children, grandson, and future, unborn grandchild is consistent with her generous, caring personality. Her family orientation also matches with the goals encouraged among women of her generation. The tangible marker of her dream is the house that she and Walter Sr. had hoped to buy. Her strength to carry on alone after her husband’s death is also evident, as she ultimately succeeds in purchasing a home for the family.