Lena Younger, who originally proposed purchasing a house, has similar aspirations to those of Ruth.
Lena’s dream was to own a home, she and Big Walter had not planned to live in the apartment for more than a year and had already chosen a small house in Morgan Park. However, Lena also sees the new home as an opportunity for the betterment of the family. “Lena is happy about the new house” remarks Frank Ardolino “because it has an area for a garden” but her personal concerns end there; clearly Lena’s desire to buy the home stems from how it will benefit her family (181). Lena points out how the house has a yard in which Travis could play during the summer, while on a more serious note recognizes the positive affect owning their house could have on Walter, Lena states: “Walter Lee—it makes a difference in a man when he can walk on floors that belong to him…” (990).
Lena’s reasoning for buying the house is not based on what she will gain from it, rather, Lena chooses to buy the house to improve the lives and respect of her family; both living, dead, and yet to be born. Along with improving the lives of her living, and soon to be born, family Lena also sees the house as a representation of Big Walter, her late husband’s, life. Lena acknowledges that the down payment money for the house came from the insurance money given for Big Walter’s death.
Lena instructs Travis to “Thank God and your grandfather — ’cause it was him who give you the house — in his way.” (990) and becomes infuriated with Walter after he loses the insurance money entrusted to him beating him out of hopeless desperation. Lena believes that the house is an appropriate monument to honor her husband’s sacrifice and in that way, provides meaning and reason to his death. Despite being the youngest of the Younger family Travis Younger, as much as he is able, also attempts to provide for the family in any way that he can. Though his aspirations are, at this point, meager (his greatest desire is to become a bus driver when he grows up (996)) Travis does try to help the family by carrying groceries after school to earn money. Though Travis is not yet old enough to recognize the more complex difficulties his family faces clearly, he understands there is room for him to help.
Travis’s request to carry groceries after school is not simply an appeal to Ruth’s refusal to give him the money for school, it shows his acknowledgment that he may need to earn the money himself and an understanding that money is a commodity his family lacks. Beneatha Younger is the exception to the rule. Though Beneatha bears no ill-will towards her family it cannot be said that she works towards the betterment of the family as a whole. Beneatha aspires to be a doctor and, though a noble goal, pursues her dream with little regard to the sacrifices made by her family to support this ambitious goal. Notably, even when not busy with school work Beneatha makes no effort to assist her struggling family.
It would appear that Beneatha’s singular act of solidarity with her family is at the end of the play as she helps to prepare for the move. However, Beneatha cannot only be given criticism. Though Beneatha may not offer significant support to her literal family she does desire to help humanity as a whole. Beneatha’s desire to save humanity fuels her desire to become a doctor.
Grounded on her childhood experience of watching a child named Rufus “face just split open right there in front of us…” after a tobogganing accident Beneatha is enraptured by the healing capabilities of doctors (1010). Nevertheless, Beneatha “gives in to despair, even cynicism, watching her dream of becoming a doctor seemingly go up in smoke” after Walter squanders the insurance money meant for her education (Cooper, 60). At this point in the play Beneatha has seemingly given up hope on both her family and humanity. If not for the faithful efforts of Asagai, who persuades Beneatha to become a doctor and follow him to Africa, Beneatha may have forever fallen into a state of solitary disenchantment of the world.
Beneatha stands to contrast her fellow family members, rather than working for the amelioration of her family Beneatha focused on improving the world as a whole but, in doing so caused unneeded stress on her family. The Younger family found themselves struggling with poverty, prejudice and pressures from inter-relational conflicts. Despite this, the aspirations each of them held where motivated by the desire to improve the family as a whole. Though not all dreams were successful in aiding the family each member ultimately did contribute to the success and survival of the family, with the notable exception of Beneatha. Through coming together to accomplish common goals the Youngers managed to acquire a house which they would someday own, as well as reasserting their pride as a family and establishing themselves in a higher socioeconomic bracket. Though the hardships will undoubtedly continue, working together the Youngers will succeed.