Race plays a crucial role in the play whose title, A Raisin in the Sun, alludes to the "a dream deferred" mentioned in Langston Hughes's poem entitled "Harlem."
Symbolic of Lena's deferred dream of owning a home is the lonely plant that sits in the kitchen window, the sole source of natural light in the apartment. Whenever she can, Mama sets the plant outside the window so it can receive more light. Keeping it alive means a great deal to Mama because she and her husband wanted a house with a garden in which they could plant whatever they wished. However, they never had enough money to buy a home. Now, the plant reminds her of her youthful wishes and their poverty. She hopes to have this dream of a home realized after the life insurance check for her deceased husband arrives.
Walter's dreams have also been deferred because of his race. He must work, as many African Americans do in the time period, in a service job as a chauffeur for a wealthy white man. Walter's wife, Ruth, takes care of the Younger home, but she also works as a domestic, doing housework for white people. Beneatha hopes to break the pattern of subservience by becoming a physician, but her dream places a financial burden upon the family.
This economic factor of race lies beneath the conflicts of the characters in the early part of the play, as the Youngers are trapped in the lower class. Later in the drama, the social problems connected with race are manifested as the Younger family purchases a new home away from the inner city. Soon after this purchase, Mr. Karl Lindner, a representative for the Clybourne Park Improvement Association, contacts the Youngers to suggest that it would be better if they do not move into Clybourne Park. He even offers to buy back the house in order to prevent their moving into this neighborhood. This time no dream is "deferred" to only dry up like "a raisin in the sun" because Walter speaks as the man of the family and refuses the offer from Mr. Lindner.
The Youngers depart the worn apartment, but not before Lena Younger looks around at her dilapidated furnishings and the home that she has known for so many years. She stifles a cry and departs but soon hurries back to grab her lonely plant that will now have plenty of sunshine.