The central theme of the story is about dreams and desires. Walter wants to have a life of financial independence, big house and enough money to fulfill all his desires. Mama Lena dreams of owning her own house while Ruth wants a house where she can finally find peace. Benethea dreams of becoming a doctor and helping people and changing their lives for the better. Every character has an independent and different dream but they all are chasing their drams at the same time and within their respective circumstances.
The story has a core idea of a joint and strong family. It encourages the roles various familial relations play in shaping one’s life. It also highlights the conflicts that may arise due to different perspectives and dreams in a family of diverse characters. In the end, it celebrates the fact that family is where one finds contentment be it in good times or bad.
The story posits the idea of money being a motivation to every person however in different ways. Walter wants money to gain self esteem and feel worthy. Mama Lena wants money to honor her dead husband and their dream of owning a house. Benethea wants money as means to achieve a career in medicine while Ruth wants money only to achieve a house where she can serve and take care of her family.
The story emphasizes the role pride and dignity plays in individuals’ actions. Benethea and Walter argue constantly as they both have pride and differ in their perspectives about what is right and wrong. Asagai, Mama Lena and Benethea are proud of their ancestry and Africa roots while George and Walter find it backward and antiquated. However, in the end, it is the pride and honor that the Youngers have that forces them to reject the money offer from Mr. Lindner and start afresh in a new neighborhood.
The story has a dominant theme of racism and the importance of race when it comes to identity. All the characters save Mr. Lindner are black and this is reflective of the setting the story is written in. Embroiled in the civil unrest in the 1960s and early 70s, American society was in the middle of social transformation where race become a symbol of pride as well as victimization. The story tries to highlight the prejudice and biases that exist in people’s minds and societal expectations that make it harder for one particular community to fight for survival. The situation is worsened when the same community is also limited through poverty or illiteracy. There is also a hint of Africa being the original and final home of every black person which can be problematic for people who live in non African areas and make them their homes.
The story highlights the suffering and difficulties that poverty creates for people who are stick in it. Not only it limits opportunities and choices, it also creates a constant obsession to look for an easy route out of it. Walter falls for such obsession and loses the entire insurance money. He is also willing to sell his pride and accept the money form Lindner. The trap of poverty not only limits one’s resources but also makes principles and morals expensive to follow.