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The play develops several important themes, most of them related to the ignorance and destructive nature of racism in American society. These themes are developed through the daily life of the Youngers, a hard-working African American family that struggles to achieve their American Dreams, to which they have a right, although they encounter many obstacles. Mama Younger dreams of a home of their own with a yard where she can grow flowers. Walter, her son, dreams of owning his own business instead of working as a chauffeur for rich white men. Beneatha, Mama's daughter, dreams of becoming a doctor. Ruth, Walter's wife, dreams of a better life for her own little son, Travis, who sleeps each night on a sofa in the living room of the family's small apartment. This is the situation as the family waits for a check from the proceeds of Mama's husband's life insurance policy, since her husband (Walter and Beneatha's father) has recently died. Mama's family encounters racism and prejudice after she buys a nice house in a white neighborhood. Despite this, however, Mama and her family move to their new home at the play's conclusion.
In addition to this major theme of racial prejudice against African American families, other themes can be identified. The human need for self-respect (a need that crosses race and gender) can be seen in Walter and Beneatha both. Walter needs to succeed in business to feel like a man. Beneatha needs an education to gain respect as a person who happens to be a woman. She also embraces her African American heritage in her quest for personal identity and self-respect.
A strong family theme develops, as well. Despite their obstacles and conflicts, the Younger family sticks together out of love; as a result, they endure and continue to work for their futures. Walter and Ruth's marriage endures, also, as they weather their own storm involving Ruth's unexpected pregnancy. A second strong theme in the play, therefore--separate from its racial themes--is the idea that through love, families can endure and overcome, despite the odds against them.
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