wouldn’t understand yet, son, but your daddy’s gonna make a transaction
. . . a business transaction that’s going to change our lives. .
. . That’s how come one day when you ‘bout seventeen years old I’ll
come home . . . I’ll pull the car up on the driveway . . . just
a plain black Chrysler, I think, with white walls—no—black tires
. . . the gardener will be clipping away at the hedges and he’ll
say, “Good evening, Mr. Younger.” And I’ll say, “Hello, Jefferson,
how are you this evening?” And I’ll go inside and Ruth will come
downstairs and meet me at the door and we’ll kiss each other and
she’ll take my arm and we’ll go up to your room to see you sitting
on the floor with the catalogues of all the great schools in America
around you. . . . All the great schools in the world! And—and I’ll
say, all right son—it’s your seventeenth birthday, what is it you’ve decided?
. . . Just tell me, what it is you want to be—and you’ll be it.
. . . Whatever you want to be—Yessir! You just name it, son . .
. and I hand you the world!
This speech from Act II, scene ii, which
Walter delivers to Travis as he tucks him in bed, closes an important
scene and foreshadows the climax of the play. Walter explains to
Travis, and to the audience, that he will move quickly to invest
the money that Mama has just given him (part of it meant for Beneatha’s
future schooling costs).
Walter seems to be rehashing conversations he
might have heard while he was working as a chauffer to rich people.
That he envisions having a gardener makes it seem that Walter wants
to live a life that he has seen others enjoy and be like the people
he has serviced. He explains his dream of the future in detail,
as if it were being presented before his eyes. He paints the future
vividly, even describing what sort of tires his cars will have and
how busy his day will be with important matters. He never speaks
in the conditional mood, which entails words such as “if” and “would”
and suggests uncertainty, but in the future tense, using the word
“will” throughout. This use of the future tense makes his dream appear
to be something that will inevitably come true.
Yet Walter’s dream is not entirely materialistic.
He envisions a better relationship with his wife, Ruth, in which
they kiss and hold hands—a far cry from the relationship they have
now. He also explains to Travis that he will have his choice among
all the best colleges and that they will have enough money to send
him to whichever one he chooses. At heart, Walter wants to provide
for his family and reduce their cares.