In the play ‘A Raising in the Sun,’ Walter Lee is the main character. Walter comes from a black family; he is married to Ruth, and has one son, Travis. Walter shares the same house with his mother, sister, and his family (Green). Similarly, in the play ‘The Glass Menagerie,’ Tom Wingfield is the main character. Just like Walter, Tom lives with his family: his mother Amanda, and his sister Laura (Norris). However, unlike Walter, Tom is not married. He is just a young man, struggling to make a life. The family backgrounds of both Walter and Tom are the same. Both families do not have fathers. Walter’s father died long time ago, while Tom’s father abandoned them when his sister was still a kid.
Both Walter and Tom are the sole sources of income for their families. Walter works as a chauffeur, for a certain rich white man (Green). In the play, Walter is not satisfied with his job. He says that he hates to be controlled by his boss all the time. The fact that Walter’s boss is a white makes the matters worse. Walter feels that his boss mistreats him, simply because he is black (Character Analysis: Walter Younger). Another reason as to why Walter is not satisfied with his job is that, it does not provide him with an opportunity to advance to a better position. He is just a chauffeur, and he feels that he should not remain a chauffeur for the rest of his life (Character Analysis: Walter Younger). He hates his chauffer job to an extent that, he feels like he is less of a man. Walter feels very bad because he is in his thirty’s, and he is not providing for his family in the way he feels, he should (Green). Therefore, it is clear that Walter feels responsible for providing for his family: his own family (wife Ruth and son Travis), and that of his late father (his mother Lena and sister Beneatha).
On the other hand, Tom works in a shoe factory, as a warehouse attendant. Just like Walter, Tom does not like his job. In the play, Tom’s family is depicted as poor (Norris). His mother is unemployed. She tries to make a living by selling old magazines to her neighbors. Tom’s sister is young, ailing, and does not have a job. Therefore, Tom is the only source of income for his family. Given the living conditions of his family, Tom’s job does not earn him enough money (Character Analysis: Tom Wingfield). This can be one of the reasons as to why Tom does not like it. Tom also dislikes his job because it is boring.
In the play, we see him sitting at one corner of the factory’s warehouse, where he keeps himself busy with poetry. Tom loves poetry; he says that it helps him escape from the daily commotions of the factory and it helps him forget about his struggling family. Tom feels that he should not be struggling too hard. He desires to get out of his town. Tom wants a life experience, which will be opposite to his current experiences in the factory and at home. That is, a life full of adventures, new experiences, and excitement. He also wants to have a life that will allow him to experience new places (Character Analysis: Tom Wingfield).
However, unlike Tom, Walter has a positive attitude towards his responsibility for his family and his family’s future (Green). This is because, in the entire play, Walter seems to keep his ambition, of becoming rich, and providing for his family. In fact, when he realizes that his late father had left them $10,000, he is excited because he sees it as an opportunity to become an independent man, through investing in his own business. Moreover, he is excited because he thinks after starting his own business; he will be able to provide for his family, the way he feels he should (Green).
On the contrary, Tom does not seem to have a positive attitude towards his responsibility for his family. Instead, he views the responsibility as a burden (Character Analysis: Tom Wingfield). Despite being aware that he could get a better job if he improved his education, he refuses to attend night school courses. He does not put any effort towards improving the current situation of his family. He only dreams of adventures and luxury. Therefore, we can conclude that Tom is unmotivated, self-centered, and lazy, while Walter is ambitious, hardworking, and altruistic.
Walter and Tom appear to have negative attitudes towards women. In the play ‘A Raisin in the Sun,’ Walter appears to be a chauvinist (Character Analysis: Walter Younger). He constantly picks fights with his sister Beneatha. He is also mean to his wife, Ruth. Walter has no soft words for his wife. At the beginning of the play, Walter tells his wife Ruth that, “Black women are the most backward of all women in the world” (Green). Walter says this because he feels that black women do not support their fellow black men. In the play, Walter sexism is also depicted in the position he assumes in his family (Green). He assumes the ‘head’ role in his family, where he makes all the decisions. He does not allow his wife Ruth to make decision, neither does he listens to her opinions. A good illustration in the play is where he refuses to give his wife some money, even after pleading with him, and instead, gives the money to his son Travis (Character Analysis: Walter Younger).
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In another instance, Walter tells-off her sister’s dream of becoming a doctor. Instead, he advises her to either become a nurse, or get married. To Walter, women cannot become doctors. He views doctors’ profession as a profession that is too high for women. That is why he advises his sister to opt for nursing, because he views nursing as a cheaper profession, which women can easily undertake (Character Analysis: Walter Younger). Walter also seems to have a notion that the place of women in the society is in the house. This could be the reason as to why; he failed to deposit the money he had been given by his mother for his sister’s education. Instead, he preferred to invest it in his ‘dream’ business. Generally, Walter does not like women. He also quarrels occasionally with his mother, despite being aware that she has suffered for a long time after the death of his father.
Similarly, Tom’s character does depict sexism. Just like Walter, Tom does not like his mother Amanda. To him, Amanda is a bother. He feels burdened by his mother for leaving the responsibility of taking care of the family on him (Character Analysis: Tom Wingfield). Just like the way Walter talks awful words to his wife Ruth, Tom talks awful words about his mother. At one instance in the play, Tom refers to his mother Amanda as a witch. In fact, one can almost conclude that Tom’s desire to leave his home is because he is tired of his mother. Eventually, when Tom leaves his home, he does not seem to express any sad feelings for leaving his own mother behind.
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However, Tom’s behavior towards women is controversial. He loves his sister Laura. He hugs her sister when he comes home in the evening, and even kisses her on the cheek. Towards the end of the play, when Tom finally decides to leave his home, he reveals that he felt sad leaving his sister (Norris). He says that even though he was leaving, he could never forget the memories of his sister Laura.
Similarly, Walter’s behavior towards women is controversial. Towards the end of the play, Walter appears to change his attitude towards women. This happens when he starts his liquor business. We see Walter becoming friendly to his sister Beneatha and his mother Lena. In fact, Walter becomes loving towards his wife. He takes her out on a date, where he expresses his love for her by holding her hands and touching her (Character Analysis: Walter Younger). Therefore, unlike Tom who only expresses love to his sister only, Walter expresses love to all the female characters in his life towards the end of the play. Therefore, we can conclude that Walter’s ill behavior towards women at the beginning of the play is because of his frustration, and not because he is naturally evil. Walter is loving, pleasant, and a good family man. Unlike Tom who remains resentful towards his mother up to the end of the play, Walter’s resentment towards his mother, wife, and sister changes towards the end of the play.
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In the plays ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ and ‘The Glass Menagerie,’ both Walter and Tom have a form of escape, which they utilize when they feel frustrated. Walter appears to utilize alcohol, as an escape for his frustrations (Green). In the play, Walter indulges into a three days drinking spree when his mother refuses to give him his share from his late father’s fortune. His mother feels that selling liquor is a sin; therefore, she refuses to give Walter the money, which he had waited for a long time. This made him feel very desperate, and resulted into drinking. In the same way, Tom utilizes poetry, to help him escape from feelings of despair during his frustration moments. In some instances, when Tom gets tired on the factory noise, he retires in one of the corners of the factory’s warehouse, where he reads his poems. Even while at his home, he sometimes stays awake up to mid-night, reading, and writing poems.
Towards the end of both plays, both Walter and Tom’s characters change. However, Walter’s character changes positively, while Tom’s character changes negatively. After Willy (Walter’s business partner) took off with the money, ending Walter’s dream to become his own boss and earn enough money to provide for his family sufficiently, Walter changes from being an arrogant man to a humble man (Character Analysis: Walter Younger). Earlier in the play, he had arrogantly kicked Mr. Lindner out of his house, after he tried to offer them money in exchange of their new house, which his mother had bought in a white neighborhood. However, after the collapse of his business, Walter was determined to lower himself to Mr. Lindner, in order to get the money, which his family desperately required during that moment. At this moment in the play, we discover another character about Walter. Walter is a respectable man, who cannot trade his family’s property for money. He refuses to take Mr. Lindner’s offer, and instead leads his family to their new home (Character Analysis: Walter Younger).
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On the other hand, towards the end of the play, Tom’s resentment towards his mother becomes worse. He appears to be tired of his mother’s pressure to get his sister a suitor (Norris). Unlike Walter who finally unites with his family, Tom decides to abandon his family. Despite being aware of his family’s financial situation, he still leaves his family without showing any sympathy for his mother.