Imagine for a moment it is your big sister's 17th birthday. She
is out with her friends celebrating, and your parents are at the mall with
your little brother doing some last minute birthday shopping, leaving you
home alone. You then hear a knock on th e front door. When you get
there, nobody is there, just an anonymous note taped to the door that says
Happy Birthday, along with a hundred dollar bill. You've been dying to
get that new video game, and your sister will never know. You are faced
with a tough decision, but not a very uncommon one. In both Fences, by
August Wilson, and A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansbury, tough
decisions have to be made about getting money from someone else's
misfortune. But money's that important right?
The role of money in people's day-to-day lives is quite amazing
when it's put into perspective. The primary reason most Americans get up
in the morning is so they can go out and make money. Money buys things;
money influences people; money keeps us ali ve; money makes us happy. Or
does it? In Fences, by August Wilson, the Maxtons get their money when
Gabe's head is shot in the war. In A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine
Hansbury, the Younger family gets their money when Walter's father dies.
But do the se things make them happy? Of course not. They are coming
upon money from someone else's misfortune, someone they love. The money
may have made life easier for a brief moment in time, but the novelty soon
wears off and reality soon returns.
The interesting thing about these two novels is that the money
received by both the Maxtons and the Youngers did exactly the opposite of
what everyone expected it to do. It eventually made problems for both of
the families. In Fences, the Maxtons used
Gabe's money to buy a house and even though it seemed like a good idea,
when Gabe moved out, it caused a great deal of guilt in the family, but
especially in Troy. He just couldn't get over how he 'used' someone he
loved so much, and they didn't even kn ow it. In A Raisin in the Sun, the
Youngers also buy a house with the money the life insurance gave them.
But their problem are caused not by guilt, but by two entirely different
emotions. One is the feeling of being the object of racism in their new c
ommunity when the "Welcoming Committee" tries to get them not to move in.
The other one is the combination of defeat, loss, anger, and self-pity
felt by the whole family when Walter loses the rest of the money and the
Younger family is left with nothing but a house in a neighborhood where
they aren't wanted. And money is a good thing?
Answering that question is a simple one. Yes, money is a good
thing when it is dealt with in the right way. Both the Maxtons and the
Youngers had trouble in how they handled their money and that led to many
of the problems they both faced. Money is wh at makes the "world go
round" in our modern society, but it's not a way to measure success, love,
or happiness. As Bob Dylan put it, "What's money? A man is a success if
he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in-between does
what he want s to do."
All money really is, is a way to buy material things. Sure, it's
important, but not close to how important the people we love are. They
are where real happiness comes from, not from little green pieces of
paper. Happiness is not having what you want, it's wanting what you have.
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