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The title of the play is an allusion to Langston Hughes's poem "Harlem," in which he asked what happened to dreams that were deferred. Do they dry up "like a raisin in the sun," or do they explode? The dreams of some of the characters in the play threaten to result in both. Walter, for instance, could have gone either way when his friend steals his father's insurance money, forcing him to defer his dream of opening a liquor store, thus allowing him to be financially independent. Similarly, Beneatha's dream of becoming a physician is constantly under threat, and is ultimately ruined. In fact, the theft of the insurance money really "dries up" all of their dreams, as it forces them to accept the offer to move out of the more affluent neighborhood they have moved to.
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