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Social Class: The Un-Chosen Way of Life

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Social Class: The Un-Chosen Way of Life

Social Class: The Un-chosen Way of Life

For families throughout the world it is known that social status and money depict the lifestyle that family lives, their viewpoints, and possibly their goals. Different social classes can be distinguished by inequalities in such areas as power, authority, wealth, working and living conditions, life-styles, life-span, education, religion, and culture (Cody). The more money one has, the higher the ambition they may choose to aspire toward, as well as how knowing the right people can help provide instant fulfillment to ones dream. Society has encrypted within itself an indirect stereotyping system which has caused a formulation of class differences within all of humanity. Being so, certain families, and people within those families, particularly men, are expected to achieve the desires and objectives set by societal standards rather than their own. Exquisite examples yielding this topic of class discrepancies can be found in a renowned play by Lorraine Hansberry entitled, “A Raisin in the Sun”; the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway, along with Hansberry being the first African American to be honored with the New York Drama Critics Circle Award (Hansberry 347). The play tells the story of the Younger family along with portraying the stories of three young men, all of different social status and background, living in Chicago, trying to attain divergent goals during the 1950’s. The hopes and wants of each character specifically themselves demonstrate a discrepancy between how materialistic possessions can alter a man’s outlook on what he chooses to achieve in life. With this being said, “A Raisin in the Sun” illustrates such the vivid point of class deciding the direction one’s life takes, whether it means to or not.

Stubborn, risky, and driven could all be words used to describe the character of Walter Lee. He is the son of Mama, husband of Ruth, father of Trevor, and brother of Beneatha, but most significantly, the man of the house. In the beginning of the play the audience is informed that Walter’s father passed away some time ago, and it then became Walter’s job to support the family. By taking up work as a chauffer to a wealthy white family, Walter fulfilled his duties at head of house; however, in the back of his mind his dream of owning his own liquor store was still prevalent. The Younger family, all five of them, live in a one bedroom, shared floor bathroom, grungy apartment in the ghettos of Chicago and with Walters limited income, could not afford anything other than basic survival necessities. Because of the financial situation Walter is put in, the disadvantage of his race, and his responsibility as man of house, the main goal he vigorously tries to obtain is to support his family. As one can notice, Walter wishes to open a liquor store not because it is his true ambition or because it will better society, but because he believes it will bring in an abundance of money which he can use to give his family everything materialistic possession they ever wanted, and will bring him the social standing he desperately yearns for. Say the Younger family was part of a wealthy, highly respected, white community; Walter’s ambitions would be completely different than what they are solely due to a change of social class (Lester).

George Murchinson, one of Beneatha’s male friends, fills the position Walter craves to take, such that he is of an extremely well respected, wealthy family, yet that is still African American. Alike Walter, George’s hopes for his future greatly relate to the circumstances of his life at home. In George’s social class, attending college to attain a high standing work position would have been a given because the families within that social standing all had the finances to do so. Even today, at a time when education matters more than ever, attending and being successful in school remains linked tightly to class (Scott, Leonhardt). Unlike Walter, because George has the opportunity to attend college, he aspires to become a doctor in the future to help and save the lives of others besides himself and his family. Walter expresses his feelings towards George and his family when he states in Hansberry page 407,

“I see you all the time-with books tucked under your arms-going to your (British A-a mimic.) “clahsses.” And for What! What the hell you learning over there?

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