Hansberry delve into the topic of family dynamics by portraying complicated relationships through stressful times and, consequently, what it means to be a family. In The Glass Menagerie, the Winfield’s are going through difficult times, both monetarily and through stresses involved with Tom’s chasing of his dream, that cause tensions to rise. Similarly, in A Raisin in the Sun, the Younger’s seem to be at odds with each other over their current economic situation and the tensions that arise from the pursuit of dreams.
However, in both stories, it’s clear that family bonds can overcome these tensions and allow for peaceful and loving discourse to occur. In tough times for any family, relations can easily become strained. This is especially evident in The Glass Menagerie between Toma and his mother. Tom is yearning to be more than just a factory worker and is overall unhappy with his current situation. His mother wants him to remain at his job so he can provide for the family, including Tom’s injured sister.
These aspirations often put Tom and his mother at odds, causing Tom to argue with his mother and talk sarcastically about how he joined a gang and their enemies are going to “blow us all up some night” and how he will be “glad, very happy.” On top of that, Tom called his mother an “ugly, babbling witch” (pg. 24) What seemingly should be simple family interactions are turning incredibly hostile as underlying causes like Tom’s ability to chase his dreams are bubbling up.
Tom, unable to achieve what he wants to accomplish, and being put under a lot of emotion turmoil and stress from that, turns to angry remarks at the people he loves. In accordance to what sometimes happens in the real world, the stresses and chaos of Tom’s pursuit and the family’s general economic struggle cause this family to turn to incivility and anger and portrays a very complicated family dynamic.
Similarly, in A Raisin in the Sun, Walter’s dreams of owning a liquor shop and being financially independent also cause some turmoil inside the Younger domicile. Walter Younger, hoping to make it big and to provide a future to believe in for his son. This causes issues with his wife, Ruth, who advises for more rash decisions than risking it all on some venture. This spills over into breakfast, and when Ruth once again questions the legitimacy of this plan and just tells him to just eat, Walter grows irate and argues that “he got to take hold of this here world baby!” and “Damn my eggs!” (pg 33) What normally could be a peaceful breakfast in the house is turned into a fight as Walter believes that his wife isn’t understanding his dreams and what he wishes to accomplish.
Walter, unable to pursue what he believes will be a huge benefit to himself and to the family, causes him immense anguish, similar to the way Tom felt. Like in The Glass Menagerie, familial stresses and chaos related to dreams cause the Younger’s, and especially Walter, to grow hostile to the very ones he loves, demonstrating another complicated and chaotic family dynamic.
However, in contrast to the first two paragraphs, both plays show that a family’s unconditional love for each other is stronger than any problem they might face. In both pieces of literature, it is clear that love still prevailed. In The Glass Menagerie, everything Amanda does is based out of love. Even though she seems like a “witch” to Tom, she is really keeping him working at the factory out of love for the family. She realizes that Tom truly isn’t satisfied, and recognizes it, but believes he has to continue to work for the family until she gets Laura a suitor. Amanda tells Tom that “until that time, you’ve got to look out for your sister. I don’t say me because I’m old and don’t matter.”(pg35) Amanda loves her family so much that she is willing to make sacrifices at her own cost in order for her children to live happy and fulfilling lives.
Even with all the drama and high tensions that are ever present in the Winfield home, the love is always present. This is very similar in A Raisin in the Sun, where another strong motherly character is always full of unconditional love. Even when Walter messes up and loses $6,500 that belonged to his family, Mama Younger still loved him and urged others to do the same. When one of the family members was expressing doubt on whether they were going to be there for Walter, Mama younger sprang into action and remarked that “there is always something to love. And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing.”(pg.145)
These family bonds in the Younger family are strong enough to hold the family together, even through tough times. Without having each other to watch over them, the Younger family would not have been able to stay together in the stresses and chaos of their decisions and of their situation. In both plays, the force of love is the only thing getting the family through the complicated dynamics that often arise through external and internal conflicts.
Both writers go into great depth on complicated family dynamics and how they affect each and every person in the group. However, both families all have unconditional and underlying love for each other that pervades any tensions that may arise. The main takeaway is that although every family has their own difficulties and complications, love is the only force that will keep a family together.