When reading this play most people can come up with the most common themes that are expressed throughout the book like the value and purpose of dreams, the families need to fight discrimination, and how family is important. The Youngers have hopes and dreams for a better life, and they never give up even though they go through a lot of difficult struggles in life. What most people dont see in the book or take for granted is Mamas plant.
Lorraine Hansberry leaves an open interpretation to what the plant means, but I feel that the plant in a way symbolizes the whole Younger families growth and changes in the play. First I will show that Mamas plant does indeed represent the family (acts as a metaphor for the family), and then show why Mama cares so much about the plant, and finally show that the plant does in fact symbolize Mamas hopes.
Lets examine how Mamas plant represents her family.
This plant represents the desired growth and the current state in which her family is in. This plant is the only thing she physically has left, including her family. She is always caring for it to make sure everything is alright, just like the same thing Mama is doing with her family. Mama loves to help Travis with his chores at the price of not asking him to do anything for himself. We can see that Mama has a special place in her heart for her grandson (Travis).
Maybe for Mama it’s easier to feel a sense a hope for Travis than it is for own children. This quote best shows that scene, MAMA: Lord have mercy, look at that poor bed. Bless his heart, he tries, dont he? RUTH: No, he dont half try at all cause he knows you going to come along behind him and fix everything. Thats just how come he dont know how to do nothing right now, you done spoiled that boy so. This quote shows that Mama always got her family, and seems to care for them such much (even though at some times overprotective). Just like the plant she cares for it to see it grow. Hansberry also shows Mama proudly standing by her son’s decision. This shows she truly is giving up her leadership of the family to Walter and that she feels like he has finally earned it. Mama strats to say I am afraid you dont understand. My son said we was going to move and there aint nothing left for me to say. This also implies that all her hard work and dedication for her family has come through and flourished (just like the plant she was always caring for as well).
Next let’s talk about why Mama cares so much of her plant. She knows that her plant will survive, even in the toughest living conditions it is always facing. She still continues her deep nurture and care for the plant. She never gave up on the plant, and her deep care towards it despite the fact that it lacked sunlight (source of energy). This also symbolizes that Mama cares towards her family despite the poor conditions they are living (just like the plant). Mama say, When the world gets ugly enough a woman will do anything for her family. The part thats already living. Mama say, Son, you, you understand what I done, dont you? (WALTER is silent and sullen) I, I just seen my family falling apart today just falling to pieces in front of my eyes We couldnt of gone on like we was today. We was going backwards stead of forwards , talking bout killing babies and wishing each other was dead When it gets like that in life you just got to do something different, push on out and do something bigger (She waits) I wish you say something, son I wish youd say how deep inside you you think I done the right thing. Mama had to make a humongous decision in order for her family to stay on the right path. The price of this meant that she had to disappoint her own son. Mama knew her choice will be a hard, but still she felt it was the best thing to do.
Finally, let’s talk about another symbol this plant has for Mama. It gives her hope, we can see this when Mama took the plant to the new house, it shows how her family will begin to succeed and thrive with their new lives, and a new beginning for all of them. Mama said, Well, I always wanted me a garden like I used to see sometimes at the back of the houses down home. This plant is close as I ever got to having one. Lord, aint nothing as dreary as the view from this window on a dreary day, is there? We can come to the conclusion that Mama has never had the garden of her dreams, so she is content with the baby plant. However, on some level she seems to have more hope than the rest of them. Mama has this dream of owning a house with a small garden, and at the end of the play her odd plant was the closest thing to achieving her dreams. Towards the very end of the play, Mama picks up her plant and leaves the South Side apartment, showing that perseverance and hard work will follow the family on their new problems they will now face at Clybourne Park.
Although most people see three big common themes in the book, most people don’t realize the symbols of the most simple object throughout the play. Mamas plant plays a huge role and x factor when it come to how and why Mama does what she does, and how her family in a sense grew with in similar situations as her plant.