Comparison and Contrast of the Family Dynamics in A Raisin In The Sun and “Everyday Use”
Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin In The Sun and Alice Walker’s Everyday Use are both stories that have their own individual qualities but one key factor that connects the two is family value. These stories are both about African American families that learn about true family ties while in the midst of day to day conflicts and just trying to get by.
One of the largest connecting components in the two stories is found in the characters of Beneatha from A Raisin In The Sun and Dee in Everyday Use. Both Beneatha and Dee come from family’s steeped in culture, history and tradition but these two girls both desire to be different and to break away from their family dynamics and find their own individuality. Dee’s family consists of her mother and younger sister, Maggie. Mama and Maggie are very invested in their family traditions and they prefer to live simply. Dee, however, is interested in the latest fashions and trends. Soon other world cultures become the new fad compelling Dee to adopt a more African sounding name, Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo, and she begins to date a man named Asalamalakim to further follow in the new cross cultural craze. Dee comes to her mother’s home to take pictures and gather up family heirlooms to put in her home to show off her heritage. Sadly, Dee (Wangero) was more concerned with the culture her family came from and not the actually family member's who the heirlooms had once belonged too. Beneatha, on the other hand, still lives at home with her family but at the start of the story she too is rebelling against her family's dynamic. Beneatha feels stuck being a black woman in a time nearing WWII. She attends college and studies to be a doctor which was not something a lot of women did in her time especially women of colour. Her family didn't have a lot of money, although they do get by, but Mama Lena the family matriarch somehow manages to always fund Beneathas new interests. She continually moves from one hobby to the next but she maintains her college career. Toward the latter half of the story, Beneatha starts to date Asagai, a man from Africa. Dating Asagi helps Beneatha begin to develop a genuine love for her own culture and she decides to still become a doctor but in Africa. Both Beneatha and Dee work hard to embrace their culture but Dee does so to because it is popular while Beneatha embraces her family history because she really loves the people she came from.
The two stories are both greatly defined by the family matriarchs. In “Everyday Use” the grandmother, though deceased, play's a pivotal role through her quilts. The quilts become the focal point of the story's climax when Dee decides she wants the quilts because they will make a good conversational piece on the wall in her house. She is interest in the one's that were hand sewn not because they were made by her grandmother rather for their impressiveness. Her sister Maggie wanted them simply to use them on her bed as they were intended. In A Raisin In The Sun Lena, also known as Mama, has an old plant in the families apartment. Mama’s plant is the most flourishing of all their plants but even though it may get forgotten from time to time in the family’s hustle and bustle Mama still manages to keep her eye on it. Just like the many members of the family from time to time when one of them gets swept under the rug Mama always tries her hardest to tend to them all. The family has a rough time but they still each manage to flourish where they're planted each in their own season; just like Mama’s plant.
In the end, the Younger family in A Raisin In The Sun, comes out the better of the two families. As a whole the Younger family learns how to grow where they're planted, they all move together to a better home; even Mama’s plant. Despite the fact that the white neighbors don’t want them living there they go anyway because they’ve learned that together they can weather anything. Unfortunately for the family in “Everyday Use” only the mother and Maggie come out stronger. The mother learns to stand up to Dee and protect Maggie emotionally by giving Maggie their grandmother’s quilts because Maggie knows how to appreciate the quilts but Dee ends the story the way she began it, still emotionally far from her family. In the end both stories highlight that what truly matters in the end isn’t money or even a deep cultural history instead it’s really all about individual family member and who they are and how the family is strongest when working together as a whole.