Prompt: Today you will read and analyze passages from two texts. The excerpt from the play, A Raisin in the Sun, describes a young man's belief that wealth leads to the pursuit of happiness, and the excerpt from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass describes a young man's belief that education leads to the pursuit of happiness. Write an essay that analyzes the similarities and differences between the two texts pertaining to the common theme of the American Dream. Be sure to use support from both texts in developing your response.
From A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
(WALTER enters in great excitement)
WALTER: Did it come?
MAMA: (Quietly) Can't you give people a Christian greeting before you start asking about money?
WALTER: (To RUTH) Did it come? (RUTH unfolds the check and lays it quietly before him, watching him intently with thoughts of her own. WALTER sits down and grasps it close and counts off the zeros) Ten thousand dollars. (He turns suddenly, frantically to his mother and draws some papers out of his breast pocket) Mama look. Old Willy Harris put everything on paper.
MAMA: Son I think you ought to talk to your wife … I'll go on out and leave you alone if you want.
WALTER: I can talk to her later Mama, look.
WALTER: WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE LISTEN TO ME TODAY!
MAMA: (Quietly) I don't 'low no yellin' in this house, Walter Lee, and you know it. (WALTER stares at them in frustration and starts to speak several times) and there ain't going to be no investing in no liquor stores.
WALTER: But, Mama, you ain't even looked at it.
MAMA: I don't aim to have to speak on that again. (A long pause)
WALTER: You ain't looked at it and you don't aim to have to speak on that again? You ain't even looked at it and you have decided (Crumpling his papers) Well, you tell that to my boy tonight when you put him to sleep on the living room couch … (Turning to MAMA and speaking directly to her) Yeah and tell it to my wife, Mama, tomorrow when she has to go out of here to look after somebody else's kids. And tell it to me, Mama, every time we need a new pair of curtains and I have to watch you go out and work in somebody's kitchen. Yeah, you tell me then! (WALTER starts out)
MAMA: (Still quietly) Walter Lee (She waits and he finally turns and looks at her) Sit down.
WALTER: I'm a grown man, Mama.
MAMA: Ain't nobody said you wasn't grown. But you still in my house and my presence. And as long as you are you'll talk to your wife civil. Now sit down.
RUTH: (Suddenly) Oh, let him go on out and drink himself to death! He makes me sick to my stomach! (She flings her coat against him and exits to bedroom)
WALTER: (Violently flinging the coat after her) And you turn mine too, baby! (The door slams behind her) That was my biggest mistake.
MAMA: (Still quietly) Walter, what is the matter with you?
WALTER: Matter with me? Ain't nothing the matter with me!
MAMA: Yes there is. Something eating you up like a crazy man. Something more than me not giving you this money. The past few years I been watching it happen to you. You get all nervous acting and kind of wild in the eyes (WALTER jumps up impatiently at her words) I said sit there now, I'm talking to you!
WALTER: Mama I don't need no nagging at me today.
MAMA: Seem like you getting to a place where you always tied up in some kind of knot about something. But if anybody ask you 'bout it you just yell at 'em and bust out the house and go out and drink somewheres. Walter Lee, people can't live with that. Ruth's a good, patient girl in her way but you getting to be too much. Boy, don't make the mistake of driving that girl away from you.
WALTER: Why what she do for me?
MAMA: She loves you.
WALTER: Mama I'm going out. I want to go off somewhere and be by myself for a while.
MAMA: I'm sorry 'bout your liquor store, son. It just wasn't the thing for us to do. That's what I want to tell you about.
WALTER: I got to go out, Mama (He rises)
MAMA: It's dangerous, son.
WALTER: What's dangerous?
MAMA: When a man goes outside his home to look for peace.
WALTER: (Beseechingly) Then why can't there never be no peace in this house then?
MAMA: You done found it in some other house?
WALTER: No there ain't no woman! Why do women always think there's a woman somewhere when a man gets restless? (Picks up the check) Do you know what this money means to me? Do you know what this money can do for us? (Puts it back) Mama Mama I want so many things.
MAMA: Yes, son.
WALTER: I want so many things that they are driving me kind of crazy … Mama look at me.
MAMA: I'm looking at you. You a good looking boy. You got a job, a nice wife, a fine boy and…
WALTER: A job. (Looks at her) Mama, a job? I open and close car doors all day long. I drive a man around in his limousine and I say, "Yes, sir; no, sir; very good, sir; shall I take the Drive, sir?" Mama, that ain't no kind of job … that ain't nothing at all. (Very quietly) Mama, I don't know if I can make you understand.
MAMA: Understand what, baby?
WALTER: (Quietly) Sometimes it's like I can see the future stretched out in front of me just plain as day. The future, Mama. Hanging over there at the edge of my days. Just waiting for me a big, looming blank space full of nothing. Just waiting for me. But it don't have to be. (Pause. Kneeling beside her chair) Mama sometimes when I'm downtown and I pass them cool, quiet looking restaurants where them white boys are sitting back and talking 'bout things … sitting there turning deals worth millions of dollars … sometimes I see guys don't look much older than me.
MAMA: Son how come you talk so much 'bout money?
WALTER: (With immense passion) Because it is life, Mama!
MAMA: (Quietly) Oh (Very quietly) So now it's life. Money is life. Once upon a time freedom used to be life now it's money. I guess the world really do change …
WALTER: No it was always money, Mama. We just didn't know about it.
MAMA: No … something has changed. (She looks at him) You something new, boy. In my time we was worried about not being lynched and getting to the North if we could and how to stay alive and still have a pinch of dignity too … Now here come you and Beneatha talking 'bout things we ain't never even thought about hardly, me and your daddy. You ain't satisfied or proud of nothing we done. I mean that you had a home; that we kept you out of trouble till you was grown; that you don't have to ride to work on the back of nobody's streetcar. You my children but how different we done become.
WALTER: (A long beat. He pats her hand and gets up) You just don't understand, Mama, you just don't understand.