The Art of Social Criticism:

Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun




Historical Context










English 217 Homepage


Character analysis: Travis Younger

"Maybe it just sags / Like a heavy load"

As the sixth generation of the family in America, Travis' existence is a testament to the hard work and struggles of his ancestors [33]. The Younger family's life is considered underprivileged in comparison to middle class white families. However, a brief consideration of the fights for freedom that brought them to a point where they can marry, rent an apartment, and live a self-sufficient life reveals the blessings of their current life. Regardless, the family continues to want more not only for themselves but also for future generations; namely, Travis. He has a lot of other peoples' hopes and dreams riding on his shoulders. In many ways, Travis is the family's investment. His future represents the possibility of ending the burdens of frustration that have accumulated over the generations [34]. Each family member seeks to nurture and care for Travis in hopes that he will have a better life filled with hope and possibilities. Since he is still young, his dream is made up of other peoples' thoughts and visions for him. Although there are no specifics, it is clear that the family does not want Travis to be an adult laborer like his father. They want him to have a job that offers opportunities for respect and advancement.

Throughout the play, Travis feels the pressure to think big and be better than his predecessors. The growing pains of becoming a man are evident in his relationship with his parents. Ruth wants her son to understand hardship so that he grows up with the determination to succeed out of his lower class status. Walter also feels this way, but oftentimes counteracts Ruth's efforts as he strives to prove he can sufficiently provide for his son. An example of this conflict is Ruth refusing to give Travis fifty cents which is later overruled by Walter when he gives Travis one dollar. Metaphorically, Travis is being pushed and pulled in multiple directions by each person's vision of what is best for his future.

As a result of Walter's dynamic mood changes, Ruth sometimes encourages Travis to be like his father and other times directs him away from mimicking Walter's actions. Like Mama says, children are hoped to be the driving force behind dreams by making them seem important [35]. For Walter, his unrelenting need to be something better is undeniably perpetuated by his desire to give his son a better life filled with richer opportunities than he had as a young man. Walter's decision to go ahead with the move to the white neighborhood is greatly influenced by the effects it will have on Travis' future. Until Travis is old enough to have control of his own destiny, his future hopes and dreams are at the mercy of his family's dreams. Walter wants to give Travis the world, and Travis must stand strong under the pressure not to waste it.


1961 Film