A Raisin in the Sun - Lorraine Hansberry Chapter by Chapter Summary
Read Online Non-African Drama: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry Comprehensive Analysis on Background, Significance of the Play, Settings, Theme, Characters and Chapter by Chapter Summary for JAMB UTME, NECO and WAEC Literature Students.


Langston Hughes wrote the poem, and Lorraine Hansberry was inspired — both by the poem and by her own real—life experience — to write A Raisin in the Sun, the first play written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway.
Lorraine Hansberry as a child lived in a black neighborhood on Chicago's South Side with her well-educated, successful black parents who publicly fought discrimination against black people. During this era, segragation - the enforced separation of whites and blacks - was still legal and widespread throughout the South.

Northern states, including Hansberry's own Illinois, had no official policy of segregation, but they were generally self-segregated along racial and economic lines. Chicago was a striking example of a city carved into strictly divided black and white neighborhoods.

Hansberry's family became one of the first to move into a white neighborhood, but Hansberry still attended a segregated public school for blacks.

When neighbors struck at them with threats of violence and legal action, the Hansberrys defended themselves. Hansberry's father successfully brought his case all the way to the Supreme Court. Hansberry wrote that she always felt the inclination to record her experiences. At times, her writing - including A Raisin in the Sun - is recognizably autobiographical.

This is why the play is categorized under the genre of realist drama. She was one of the first playwrights to create realistic portraits of African-American lfe. Written in New York in 1957, A Raisin in the Sun was first performed on March 11, 1959 at Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

On the face of it, A Raisin in the Sun was not destined for success. With only one white cast member, an inexperienced director, and an untried playwright, Hansberry had difficulty finding financial backing for the play at a time when theatre audiences were overwhelmingly white.

When it opened, it met with great praise from white and black audiences alike. After several tours, it opened, it opened on Broadway, making it the first-ever Broadway play written by an African-American woman.

Arguably the first play to portray black characters, themes, and conflicts in a natural and realistic manner, A Raisin in the Sun received the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play of the Year. Hansberry was the youngest playwright, the fifth woman, and the only black writer at that point to win the award.

She used her new fame to help bring attention to the American civil rights movement as well as African struggles for independence from colonialism. Her promising career was cut short when she died from cancer in 1965, at the age of thirty-four.


A Raisin in the Sun can be considered a turning point in American art because it addresses so many issues important during the 1950's in the United States. Some of the social changes that occurred in the 1950's include the following:
(a) 1954 ruling of the Supreme Court that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.
(b) 1955 — First, Claudette Colvin and then Rosa Parks refuse to give up their seat to a white passenger. Martin Luther King Jr. organizes a bus boycott, which lasts almost a year
(c) 1956 — Segregation on buses and trains is banned.
(d) 1957 — ln Arkansas, nine black students are prevented from entering school.

The president sends troops to facilitate the school's integration. The nine students became known as the "Little Rock Nine".

The 1950's are widely mocked in modern times as an age of complacency and conformism, symbolized by the growth of suburbs and commercial culture that began in that decade.

Beneath the economic prosperity that characterized America in the years following World War II, there was growing domestic and racial tension.

The stereotype of 19505 America as a land of happy housewives and blacks content with their inferior status resulted in an upsurge of social resentment that would finally find public voice in the civil rights and feminist movements of the 1960's.

A Raisin in the Sun, first performed in the conservative 19505 slid into the radical sixties, explores both of these vital issues.

A Raisin in the Sun was a revolutionary work for its time. Hansberry creates in the Younger family one of the first honest depictions of a black family on an American  stage, in an age when predominantly black audiences simply did not exist.

Before this play, African-American roles, usually small and comic, largely employed ethnic stereotypes. Hansberry, however, shows an entire black family in a realistic light, one that is unflattering and far from comic.

She uses black vernacular throughout the play and broaches important issues and conflicts, such as poverty, discrimination, and the construction of African-American racial identity.

All of this idealism about race and gender relations boils down to a larger, timeless point - that dreams are crucial. In fact, Hansberry's play focuses primarily on the dreams driving and motivating its main characters. These dreams function in positive ways, by lifting their minds from their hard work and tough lifestyle, and in negative ways, by creating in them even more dissatisfaction with their present situations.

For the most part, however, the negative dreams come from placing emphasis on materialistic goals rather than on familial pride and happiness. Hansberry seems to argue that as long as people attempt to do their best for their families, they can lift each other up.

A Raisin in the Sun remains important as a cultural document of a crucial period in American history as well as for the continued debate over racial and gender issues that it has helped spark What makes Hansberry's writing remarkable is not only her accuracy in capturing the racial dynamics of her time, but her foresight in predicting the direction black culture would take subsequent years.

Since its Broadway debut, A Raisin in the Sun has been translated into over thirty languages including the language of the eastern German Sorbische minority, and has been produced in such culturally diverse places as china, the dormer Czechoslovakia, England, France, and the former Soviet Union.

Its universal appeal defies, in retrospect, some of the early critics' views of A Raisin in the Sun as being simply "a play about Negroes".

Although A Raisin in the Sun addresses specific problems of a black family in South-side Chicago, it also mirrors the very real problems of all people. In an interview with social historian Studs Terkel, Hansberry explains, . . in order to create the universal, you must pay very close attention to the specific". .


The title of A Raisin in the Sun comes from the poem "Harlem: A Dream Deferred". by Langston Hughes (1951). Hughes was a prominent black poet during the 1920's.

Harlem Renaissance in New York City, during which black artists of all kinds - musicians, poets, writers - gave innovative voices to their personal and cultural experiences. The Harlem Renaissance was a time of immense promise and hopefulness for black artists, as their efforts were noticed and applauded across the United States.

In fact, the 1920's are known to history as the Jazz Age, since that musical form, created by a vanguard of black musicians, gained immense national popularity during the period and seemed to embody the exuberance and excitement of the decade.

The Harlem Renaissance and the positive national response to the art it produced seemed to herald the possibility of a new age of acceptance for blacks in America.

Langston Hughes was one of the brightest lights of the Harlem Renaissance, and his poems and essays celebrate black culture, creativity, and strength.

However, Hughes wrote "Harlem" in 1951, twenty years after the Great Depression crushed the Harlem Renaissance and devastated black communities more terribly than any other group in the United States. In addition, the post - World War II years of the 1950's were characterized by "white flight", in which whites fled the cities in favour of the rapidly growing suburbs.

Blacks were often left behind in deteriorating cities, and were unwelcome in the suburbs. In a time of renewed prosperity, blacks were for the most part left behind. The poem reads:

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore -
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over -
Like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe itjust sags
Like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
- Langston Hughes

In the poem, Hughes creates vivid images of what happens when a dream becomes postponed, or lost. It dries, it rots, it festers, it sags, and it explodes.

There is a frustration and sadness in the inability to bring a dream to fruition. The images all seem to drag the speaker down, except for that last one where the frustration potentially bubbles in an explosion.  "Harlem" captures the tension between the need for black expression and the impossibility of that expression because of American society's oppression of its black population.

In the poem, Hughes asks whether a "dream deferred" - a dream put on hold - withers up "like a raisin in the sun". His lines confront the racist and dehumanizing attitude prevalent in the American society before the civil rights movement of the 1960's that black desires and ambitions were, at best, unimportant and should be ignored, and at worst, should be forcibly resisted.

His closing rhetorical question - "Or does it (a dream deferred) explode?" — is provocative, a bold statement that the suppression of black dreams might result in an eruption.

It implicitly places the blame for this possible eruption on the oppressive society that forces the dream to be deferred.

Hansberry's reference to Hughes's poem in her play's title highlights the importance of dreams in A Raisin in the Sun and the struggle that her characters face to realize their individual dreams, a struggle inextricably tied to the more fundamental black dream of equality in America.


Set in the aftermath of World War II, A Raisin in the Sun portrays a few weeks in the life of the Youngers, an African-American family living on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950's.

The Younger family is facing its own war against racism in the Chicago slums. America's complicated history of racial tension between black Americans and white Americans is ingrained into the Youngers“ everyday lives. Single mother (and grandmother) Lena Younger, her daughter Beneatha, and her son Walter (place his wife Ruth and their son Travis) squeeze into a run-down two-bedroom apartment.

According to one count, that's five people in a space built for three. Not only do these characters feel confined by the physical home space, they also feel restricted by the social roles they have been assigned. For example socially progressive Beneatha (Bennie) studies to become a doctor, despite the financial strain it puts on the low-income family.

Walter works as a chauffeur for a white man, but he dreams of opening a liquor store with his buddies and making more money for his family.

The play opens with the Youngers about to receive an insurance check for $10,000. This money comes from their deceased father, Mr Younger's life insurance policy. Each of the adult members of the family has an idea as to what he or she would like to do with this money. The matriarch of the family, Mama, wants to buy a house to fulfil a dream she shared with his friends. He believes that the investment will solve the family's financial problems forever.

Walter's wife, Ruth, agrees with Mama, however and hopes that she and Walter can provide more space and opportunity for their son, Travis. Finally Beneatha, Walter's sister and Mama's daughter, wants to use the money for her medical school tuition.

She also wishes that her family members were not so interested in joining the white world. Beneatha instead tries to find her identity by looking back to the past and to Africa.  As the play progresses, the Youngers clash over their competing dreams.

Ruth discovers that she is pregnant but fears that if she has the child, she will put more financial pressure on her family members. When Walter says nothing to Ruth's admission that she is considering abortion, Mama puts a down payment on a house for the whole family.

She believes that a bigger, brighter dwelling will help them all. This house is in Clybourne Park, an entirely white neighbourhood.

When the Youngers' future neighbours find out that the Youngers are moving in, they send Mr Lindner, from the Clybourne Paris Improvement Association, to offer the Youngers money in return for staying away.

The Youngers refuse the deal, even after Walter loses the rest of the money ($6,500) to his friend Willy Harris, who persuades Walter to invest in the liquor store and then runs off with his cash.  In the meantime, Beneatha rejects her suitor, George Murchison, whom she believes to be shallow and blind to the problems of race.

Subsequently, she receives a marriage proposal from her Nigerian boyfriend, Joseph Asagai, who wants Beneatha to get a medical degree and move to Africa with him (Beneatha does not make her choice before the end of the play).

When a white man, Karl, comes to buy out the Youngers' new house, Walter figures that giving in to the man is the only way to get some money for his family.

In the play's climatic moment, Walter must decide between standing up for his family's rights and standing up for his ego and role as the breadwinner of the family. Fortunately for the Youngers, and for Broadway history, Walter sides with his family's rights and declines  Karl's offer.

The family will move into their new home to fulfil the family's long-held dream. The play closes with the family leaving for their new but uncertain future, but  they are optimistic and determined to live a better life. They believe that they can  succeed if they stick together as a family and resolve to defer their dreams no longer. .



A. The play opens in an apartment worn down from generations of ownership. It is in the South Side of Chicago, and it is a three-room apartment - there is a bedroom for Mama and Beneatha, a bedroom for Ruth and Walter Lee, and their son Travis sleeps on a couch in a living room. An alarm clock rings to wake the family.

B. It is on a Friday morning as everyone is getting ready to leave the apartment for their respective obligations: Walter Lee and Ruth have to go to theirjob; Travis and Beneatha have to go to school.

C. Ruth Younger wakes up and feeds her son Travis and husband Walter.

D. While Travis is in the bathroom, which is also the bathroom the neighbours use, his parents discuss the check coming in the mail.

E. The family does not seem all that happy. Ruth in particular is indifferent and irritable.

F. Travis asks them for money - he is supposed to bring fifty cents to school - and Ruth says that they do not have it. His persistent nagging quickly irritates her.

G. Walter admonishes Ruth for telling Travis that they cannot give him fifty cents. Walter, however, gives Travis an entire dollar while staring at Ruth.

H. Travis asks for permission to carry groceries at the supermarket after school for money. Then his daddy hands him a dollar while staring pointedly at Ruth in a how—do—you— like-this kind of way.

Ruth succeeds in teasing him into giving her a goodbye kiss. Travis then leaves for school.


A. At the beginning of the play, money is the focal point of everyone's conversation, leading to arguments and creating a mood of conflict.

B. When the alarm clock rings, Ruth is the first one up, as though it is her responsibility to make certain that everyone else gets up and ready for the day ahead.

C. Walter gives Travis the fifty cents that he has requested, but Walter throws in an additional fifty cents - none of which he can afford. Travis never knows that walter cannot afford to give him the money. This act immediately attracts more sympathy to Walter than to Ruth.

D. Travis' request for fifty cents also suggests the tension evoked by issues of money and manhood. Ruth, the household manager, refuses to give her son the money; Walter, as a father trying to safeguard his son's ability to be accepted, gives Travis twice as much as he asks for. Walter does so knowing that he faces the emasculating task of having to ask Ruth for money himself as a result.


A. After Travis leaves, Walter brings up a business plan he and his friends are concocting,
which triggers an argument between the married couple.

B. Walter says tht he wants to partner up with his friends, Willy Harris and Bobo, to open up
a liquor store. It sounds rather shady, but Walter continues dreaming of it as a way out of

C. Ruth keeps telling him to eat his eggs.

D. Walter gets angry, he wants his wife to nod, smile and support him.

E. Beneatha Younger, also referred to as Bennie, emerges from the left bedroom.

F. She wants to use the bathroom but those dratted (vexing) neighbors and their bodily functions prevent her from doing so.

G. So she stands around and chats with her brother Walter, during which Walter tells her, "woman, what kind of woman studies medicine?" He also point out that her tuition money will cut into the insurance check

H. Aha! Insurance check (cheque). We find out that the big check they are all waiting for is from the insurance accruing from the death of Mama's husband (also known as Bennie and Walter's father). It is for $10,000, which this family could come up with about a million different uses for.

I. Bennie argues that the check belongs to Mama, and Walter leaves for his job as a chauffeur. After asking Ruth for car fare (his money went to Travis, remember?), he leaves for work


A. Ruth's annoyance with Walter is evident in the manner in which she chooses to wake him up. She is "out of sorts" about something that is not yet clear, although it appears to have something to do with Walter. She asks Walter what kind of eggs he wants, yet she ignores his request for "not scrambled" and scrambles the eggs anyway.

B. As the two talk about their entrapping situation, Ruth's reply of "eat your eggs" answer to every statement that Walter offers, reflects the stereotypical perception that blacks have an inability to overcome problems.

C. When Walter expresses a desire to have the insurance money in order to invest in a business venture, he makes sense - even in his argument with Beneatha.

D. Beneatha is a college student who will require a considerable amount of money for medical school, but the reader wonders if Beneatha's dream for her future is more important than Walter's. As far as we can tell, Beneatha has been given every opportunity to develop her potential. Why not the same for Walter Lee, who makes a strong point when he says of Big Walter (whose death has provided the $10,000): "He was my father, too!"


A. Lena (aka Mama) enters and makes a beeline for a plant she keeps outside the kitchen window (which, by the way, is the only window in the apartment).

B. Asks questions on the meal Travis ate before going to school; Ruth feels she is meddling into her family affair.

C. Mama properly lays Travis' bed for him; Ruth interprets this as over-pampering him.

D. Despite Ruth's earlier argument with Walter, she backs the liquor store idea to her mother-in-Iaw. Ruth argues that Walter needs this chance.

E. Mama points out that Ruth looks dead tired and she should stay home from work; Ruth says they need the money.

F. Mama says they are all too obsessed with money.

G. Ruth argues that the money belongs to Mama, . . . and suggests that she take a trip to Europe or South America. Mama is not keen on the idea. She says some of the money will definitely go towards Beneatha's education, and then that some of it could also go towards the down payment on a house.

H. Mama reminisces about her husband, whom she refers to as Big Walter, and their big dreams of buying a house. We learn that Big Walter was a hardworking man who loved his children but was never able to fulfil his dreams.


A. Mama's plant symbolizes her version of this dream, because she cares for it as she cares for her family. She tries to give the plant enough light and water not only to grow but also to flourish and become beautiful,just as she attempts to provide for her family with meagre yet consistent financial support. Mama also imagines a garden that she can tend along with her dream house. The small potted plant acs as a temporary stand—in for her much larger dream. Her relentless care for the plant represents her protection of her dream. Still, no matter how much Mama works, the plant remains feeble, because there is so little light. Similarly, it is difficult for her to care for her family as much as she wants and to have her family members grow as much as she wants.

B. Mama's concern for her family is emphasized, especially her all-consuming love for her grandson, Travis, as she makes excuses for the careles way in which he made his bed, while redoing it correctly for him.

C. Walter and Ruth harbor materialistic dreams; they desire wealth not solely for self- serving purposes but rather as a means to provide for their family and escape the South Side ghetto in which they live.

D. Despite her cramped living situation and the lifetime of hard work that she has endured, she maintains her focus on her dream, which helps her to persevere.

E. Her dream of a house and a better life for her family remains tenuous because it is so hard for her to see beyond her family's present situation.


A. Beneatha re-enters and mentions guitar lessons, setting off her mom and Ruth on her case about "flitting" around too many activities. Beneatha claims her right to express herself.

B. The ladies discuss Beneatha's romantic prospects and her date with George Murchison that night.

C. Beneatha thinks he is shallow, but the other women in her family approve of him, mainly because he has got money.

D. Beneatha concludes the discussion by announcing that she is not worried since she does not even know if she will get married, which Lena and Ruth really wanted to hear, and not that she would not.

E. Beneatha goes on to announce that she does not believe in God, and that only humans can make miracles happen, for which Mama gives her a big fat slap.

F. Mama asserts her right as head of the household and makes Beneatha repeat her faith in God.

G. Beneatha then leaves.

H. The two mothers in the family are alone, and Ruth tries to mollify Mama's worries about her children. Mama is overwhelmed by their ambitions - Walter cares only for money, and Beneatha is too intellectual.

I. Mama goes to water her plant, voicing her desire to one day have a garden and a backyard.

J. Ruth is weary and overworked. When Mama turns around, she finds Ruth lying semi- conscious.


A. Beneatha's dream is self-serving. In her desires to "express" herself and to become a doctor, Beneatha proves an early feminist who radially views her role as self-oriented rather than family oriented.

B. For saying to Ruth and Mama that she might not get married, they are astonished because it runs counter to their expectations of a woman's role.

C. They are befuddled by her dislike of the "pretty, rich" George Murchison. That Beneatha's attitude toward him differs from Ruth's or Mama's may result from the age difference among the three women. Mama and Beneatha are, of course, a generation apart, while Ruth occupies a place somewhere in the middle; Hansberry argues that Beneatha is the least traditional of the women because she is the youngest.

D. Mama's strength as head of her household is projected. When Beneatha displays her belligerence and "college girl" arrogance by loudly and emphatically stating that there is no God, Mama slaps her, forcing Beneatha to state aloud, "In my mother's house, there is still God."

E. Mama acknowledges her awareness of a generational rift that appears to be growing between herself and her children.

F. That Ruth is weary and overworked is like a parallel to the apartment, which is worn out and weary in appearance from "accommodating the living of too many people for too many years".

G. We are left with the feeling that everyone else is so self—absorbed that it is only Mama who senses immediately that something seems to be wrong with Ruth, although Ruth insists that she has to go to work regardless of how she feels. However, Ruth's fainting at the end of this sequence is proof that she really does require medical attention.


A. It is the next morning, Saturday, Lena and Beneatha clean their apartment and wait for the insurance cheque to arrive.

B. Beneatha is spraying the apartment with insecticide in an attempt to rid it of cockroaches. Beneatha and Travis start fighting, and Beneatha threatens him with the spray gun.

C. He leaves after asking about his mother's whereabouts; his relatives tell him that Ruth is on an errand.

D. Walter receives a phone call from his friend Willy Harris, who is coordinating the potential liquor store venture. It appears that their plan is moving smoothly. The insurance cheque is all Walter needs to pursue the venture. He promises to bring the money to Willy when he receives it.

E. We find out Ruth has gone to the doctor.

F. Mama (subtly) suggests that Ruth is pregant.

G. Travis plays outside and keeps a lookout for the postman.

H. The phone rings, and Beneatha answers. She invites the person on the phone over to the still-dirty apartment, much to Mama's chagrin. After hanging up, Beneatha explains to Mama that the man she has spoken to on the phone is Joseph Asagai, an African - intellectual whom Beneatha has met at school.

I. She and Mama discuss Beneatha's worries about her family's ignorance about African and African people. Mama believes that Africans need religious salvation from "heathenism", while Beneatha believes that they are in greater need of political and civil salvation from French and British colonialism. Bennie warns Mama not to ask her friend ignorant questions about Africa.

J. Ruth returns and the mood is sombre after she announces that she is two months pregnant. Mama and Bennie ask her if she planned the pregnancy, and if so, where is the baby going to live? In their uncertainty, Mama simply expresses her hope that the baby will be a girl. Ruth calls the doctor "she", which arouses Mama's suspicion because their family doctor is a man. Ruth feels ill and anxious about her pregnancy. Mama tries to help her relax.

K. Ruth looks out of the window to find that Travis and other kids are not playing tag, not kicking a ball around, but chasing a rat in the street. The ladies are not thrilled with this and call him back up.

L. Ruth is on an emotional roller coaster and alternates between screaming and sobbing. Mama takes her to go lie down just as the doorbell rings.

M. Beneatha answers the door to find Joseph standing there. We find out Beneatha and Joseph were romantically involved before he left for Canada. He clearly still cares for her.

N. He brings her some Nigerian clothing and music (vinyl records) as gifts. As Beneatha tries on one of the robes, Asagai asks about her straightened hair; he calls her hair mutilated because she straightens it. Beneatha says that her hair was once like his, but that she finds it too "raw" that way. She argues not to be an assimilationist.

O. He teases her a bit about being very serious about finding her identity, particularly her African identity, through him. Asagai obviously cares for Beneatha very much, and he wonders why Beneatha does not have the same feeling for him. She explains that she is looking for more than storybook love. She wants to become an independent and liberated woman. Asagai scorns her wish, much to Beneatha's disappointment.

P. Mama comes into the room, and Beneatha introduces her to Asagai. Mama puts on a I polite and proper demeanour in the guest's presence; she then recites Beneatha's views on Africa and African people as best as she can. When Asagai says goodbye, he calls Beneatha by a nickname, "Alaiyo". He explains that it is a word from his African tribal language, roughly translated to mean "One for Whom Bread-Food-ls Not Enough".

Q. Joseph leaves, having charmed both women.

R. After Asagai leaves, Beneatha tries on her new identity. Ruth comes into the room just as Travis goes downstairs to get the mail.


A. Even though the play takes place entirely within the Youngers' apartment, Hansberry takes care to introduce external influences. This scene includes two phone calls: one for Walter from Willy about the liquor store investment and the other for Beneatha from Joseph Asagai, her good friend and fellow intellectual. These phone calls serve parallel functions for those who receive them and demonstrate what is important to both of the characters: Walter is waiting to move quickly on the investment, while Beneatha cannot wait to see Asagai and introduce him to her family.

B. Beneatha's spraying of the apartment seems symbolic of her dissatisfaction with her surroundings. She wants to rid herself and her family of what she later refers to as "acute ghetto-it is".

C. Ruth going to see a doctor is good, because falling and lying semi-conscious does not sound the actions of a healthy woman to us.

D. Through the announcement of Ruth‘s pregnancy, we can see the power that Mama wields as the matriarch of the family. She is at the centre of her family's life, and she controls many of the interactions of the members of her household.

E. The "rat scene" dramatically points out the graphic terrors that daily confront the children of the poor and also shows that these children must learn to incorporate such horrific realities into their playtime activities.

F. It is obvious that Beneatha is not proud of her family's economic and social situation and is a bit embarrassed by it when Asagai visits. As she asks him to sit down, she scurries to throw the spray gun off the counch in the hopes that Asagai would not see it.

G. Interestingly, Beneatha's spraying reverses the pattern of the Youngers' dreams. While most of their dreams involve the acquisition of some markers of success, such as a home, large cars, and privileged education, Beneatha has to begin by first ridding herself of the bugs that plague her current situation.

H. The interaction between Beneatha and Asagai reveals how serious Beneatha is about finding her identity.

I. Beneatha does not want to assimilate into, or become successful in, the dominant white culture of the 19505. Yet,while she wants to break free of conforming to the white ideal, she still wants to acclimate herself to an educated American life. Many African-American intellectuals and writers, especially in the 19605, faced this dilemma; Beneatha's character thus seems somewhat ahead of her time. Indeed, her seeking of her roots in Africa to forge her identity (even though her family has been in America for five generations) precedes the New African movement of the 19605. In this movement, African-Americans embraced their racial history, stopping their attemps to assimilate, even in physical appearance.

J. Asagai hints at what is to come by telling Beneatha that by straightening her hair she is "mutilating" it. In his opinion, her hair should look as it does naturally: she should stop straightening it to look like white hair and instead wear an afro. Unsure of her identity as an African-American womanjoining an overwhelmingly white world, Beneatha turns to Asagai to see if he can supply a lost part of herself.

K. The sequence significantly dramatizes the lack of understanding between parent and child. An intellectual gap, however, also compounds the generational difference between Mama and her daughter Beneatha. Mama tries so hard to impress Beneatha's Nigerian friend that her remarks are almost comical, clearly not her intent.


A. The mail arrives and Mama does not seem to know what to do with herself. She asks Ruth to clarify just which doctor she went to, and it becomes clear that Ruth went to see about getting an abortion.

B . Walter returns home, wants to talk about his liquor store plans and is eager to win Ruth and Lena over to support his plan and becomes upset when they will not listen.

C. Both ladies have the pregnancy on the brain, Ruth wants to discuss it with Walter but he is not in the mood to listen. Exasperated, Ruth finally leaves and shuts herself into their bedroom.

D. Frustrated that his mother and wife refuse to listen to him, Walter gets all pouty. And then wants to deal with it in the most irresponsible way possible: by getting drunk.

E. Before he leaves, Mama stops him and in the following conversation, the generation gap and difference in priorities are evident. Mama emphasizes that things used to be worse, when racism was a threat to every day existence, but that all Walter cares about now ismoeny. Walter admits that he's frightened of a future of nothingness.

F. Mama tells Walter that he better shape up because his wife is not only pregnant but also thinking about aborting the baby.

G. Walter does not believe that Ruth would do such a thing until Ruth comes out of the bedroom to confirm that she has made a down payment of five-dollars on the service. Mama challenges Walter to be the man that his father was.

H. Walter is really cheered up now. He goes out to the bar.


A. This sequence reveals Walter's growing restlessness, as well as the desperation with which Ruth is trying to hold her family together. Ruth does not want to have an abortion, but she considers it because she sees it as the only way to keep the family together.

B. It is possible that Hansberry is attempting to make a bold feminist statement with this plot twist. During the 19505, abortion was illegal, but Ruth has valid reasons for not wanting her pregnancy. Obviously, Ruth is not an immoral or evil woman. She simply wants to do the best for the family that she already has.

C. Walter, on the other hand, Iacks this singular dediction to his family. His character is meant to represent a kind of broken masculinity that society perceived among African- American men of the 19505, men who were shut out of the American dream by racism and poverty. Because of this exclusion, Walter's dreams of money and success in business become inextricably linked to his image of himself as a man.

D. When Walter enters and begins talking about his plans for the money, everyone ignores him. So he resorts to shouting: "WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE LISTEN TO ME TODAY?" It shows how genuinely desperate Walter is to prove himself to his family.

E. Even if Walter's ideas were unacceptable and offensive, he ought to be listened to. The frustration Walter Lee exhibit in this sequence is recognizable by everyone who has ever felt ignored in spite of loud cries to be heard. It is difficult in such a crowded atmosphere as the Younger household for one person to be singled out and heard. The Youngers probably do not mean to ignore Walter Lee and are not totally aware that they are doing so. They are simply caught up in the excitement of the moment — the receipt of the cheque.

F. Mama as a hardworking, powerful, all-knowing matriarch reminds the family of the importance of family and history, and she holds the power to make economic decisions. She does so literally in this scene by holding the insurance cheque.


A. Later on the same Saturday, Beneatha emerges from her room cloaked in the Nigerian clothes that Asagai has brought her. She is radiant and plays Nigerian music and dances around the apartment, claiming to be performing a tribal dance while shouting "OCOMOGOSIAY" and singing with Ruth (who is ironing) as her audience.

B. Ruth finds Beneatha's pageantry silly and questions her about it.

C. Drunk, Walter returns home and digs the Nigerian music. Seeing Beneatha all dressed up, he acts out some made-up tribal rituals with her; at one point standing on a table and pronouncing himself "Flaming Spear" thereby tapping into old myths and conceiving of himself as a fine African warrior. Ruth looks on wearily.

D. George Murchison enters to pick up Beneatha on his way to the theatre. Beneatha removes her headdress to reveal that she has cut off most of her hair, leaving only an un-straightened afro. Everyone is shocked, amazed, and slightly disappointed with Beneatha, prompting a fierce discussion between Beneatha and George about the importance of their African heritage.

E. It is a big 'fro! Others in the room express their shock and disapproval, and Ruth hustles Beneatha off to change into more suitable attire.

F. Walter tries to talk business with George, who brushes him off; does not seem interested. Walter then becomes belligerent as he makes fun of George's white shoes. Embarrassed, Ruth explains that the white shoes are part of the "college style".

G. George obviously looks down on Walter - calling him "Prometheus" - and Walter gets even angrier at him. George remains indifferent and compliments Beneatha when she re-emerges in a dress. George and Beneatha finally leave.


A. Beneatha's exploration of her African heritage and her entrance with her afro and Nigerian garb were perhaps the first such appearance on an American stage. Hansberry creates a radical character in Beneatha, one who does not willingly submit to what she calls "oppressive" white dominance was extremely revolutionary.

B. Beneatha's naivety about African culture is emphatized. Even though she is wearing the Nigerian robe and headdress, she is "fanning herself with an ornate oriental fan" and inadvertently appears more Asian than African. Also, Ruth reveals her lack of knowledge about things African as she questions Beneatha about the Nigerian outfit and dance.

C. The dancing scene with Beneatha and Walter is difficult to interpret, as the drunken Walter seems to mock the African dances and practices, while Beneatha seems not to comprehend this mocking.

D. Walter's sudden intrusion into the dance is comical on the surface, but on a deeper level, Walter Lee appears somewhat tragic as he attempts to recapture his lost African past. Even though Walter knows little about Africa, he immediately falls into step with the ritualistic dance and chants as though a psychic memory serves him.

E. Hansberry uses Beneatha's change of hairstyle to validate the natural hairstyle (un- straightened hair on black women) - a very new concept in 1959 - and even considered somewhat radical when this play opened, but a hairstyle which became popular in the ' late sixties as the "Afro" hairstyle. When Beneatha re-enters, dressed for her date with George, she is wearing a natural hairstyle. Ultra-conservative George surprises everyone with his praise of Beneatha's new look; however, his attitude is patronizing and condescending, as though she requires his approval.

F. Beneatha's two suitors embody this dichotomy between the conflicting identities available to blacks; the identity that seeks assimilation and the identity that rejects assimilation. This scenario separates George and Asagai into completely different categories where George, as his common name suggests, represents a black person assimilating into the white world, while Asagai, with his ethnically rich name, stands for the New Africanist culture that those who oppose assimilation pursue.

G. Although Asagai has received a Western-stylee education, as George Murchison has, Asagai does not have a problem of identity. He knows who he is because he is African. Murchison, on the other hand, knows nothing of his African past, despises the little he knows of his heritage, and, therefore, hates himself. His self-hatred manifests itself in his contemptuous attitude toward other blacks, especially toward less wealthy and less educated blacks like Walter.

H. As Beneatha dances in a robe that Asagai gives her, George deems her interest in her African roots absurd. His comments put him further at odds with Beneatha, and she begins to feel more of an affinity with Asagai and her African roots than with George and what she considers to be his false roots in American society.

I. Most blacks wanting to gain acceptance and possible wealth would have to throw off their African past and assimilate, as George has done, which includes deriding and belittling their African culture.

J. Both Beneatha and George Murchison seem to be pedants, showing off their learning, but George is offensive when he flaunts his knowledge in order to insult and degrade others. Although George suspects that Ruth has never been to the theatre - and certainly not a theatre in another state - he insists on giving Ruth unnecessary information about the difference between curtain times in Chicago and New York's theatres.

K. George calls Walter Lee "Promotheus" in order to subtly insult Walter, but mainly to point out Walter's lack of learning. This scene clearly reveals Walter Lee's lack of formal education because Walter assumes that George has simply invented the name "Prometheus" to annoy him.

L. This sequence illustrates how difficult it is to be Walter Lee Younger without being bitter. . When George Murchison refers to Walter Lee as "bitter", Walter Lee agrees that he's bittter; Walter also wonders how George can be content having to live as a second-class citizen - in spite of his wealth - and not be bitter himself.


A. After George and Beneatha finally leave, Ruth and Walter then begin to fight about Walter going out, spending money, and interacting with people like Witty Harris. They do begin to make up, though, by acknowledging that a great distance has grown between them. Things calm down and timid conversation leads to a kiss.

B. Mama comes home and announces that she has put a down payment on a house with some of the insurance money. Ruth is elated to hear this news because she too dreams of moving out of their current apartment and into a more respectable home.

C. Meanwhile, Walter is noticeably upset because he wants to put all the money into the liquor store venture. Walter turns away from her, outraged.

D. Shocked, Ruth is the first to recover and embrace the happy prospects of moving into an actual house, but Walter feels betrayed, his dream swept under the table. Walter makes Mama feel guilty, saying that she has crushed his dream. He goes quickly to his bedroom, and Mama remains sitting and worrying.

E. They all become worried when they hear that the house is in Clybourne Park, an entirely white neighborhood. Mama asks for their understanding - it was the only house that they could afford. She feels she needs to buy the house to hold the family together. But Walter thanks her for crushing his dreams.


A. Ruth and Walter's conversation reveals that they do have love left in their marriage and that they have both been oppressed by their circumstances. Their entrapment in the ghetto, in theirjobs, and in their apartment results in the desire to leave physically, to escape mentally through alcohol, and to lash out at those involved in the entrapment.

B. One way for them to escape this entrapment, though, seems to be through a reliance on each other. Yet, often, circumstances are so difficult for them that they cannot even do that. They continue to fight, as they put their own concerns before each other's and before their marriage.

C. Mama's down payment on a house reveals her belief that to be a happy family the Youngers need to own space and property. Her dream is a perfect example of the quintessential American dream.

D. She believes to some degree that ownership can provide happiness. Therefore, although she means only to find the best for her family, she also succumbs to the powerful materialism that drives the desires of the society around her.

E. Mama's desire is somewhat radical, because African-Americans were largely left out of depictions of the American dream during this period. Only white families populated suburban television programs and magazine advertisements. Therefore, Hansberry performs a radical act in claiming the general American dream for African-Americans.

F. The radical nature of the Youngers' desire to participate in the American dream does bring along some hardship. Ruth and Walter's concern about moving into a predominantly white neighbourhood reflects the great tension that existed between races - even in the Northern states.

G. Their concern foreshadows, among other developments, the arrival of Mr Lindner, who reveals that the white people of Clybourne Park are just as wary of the Youngers as the Youngers are of white people.

H. Hansberry makes an emphatic statement about integration here. Ruth is apprehensive, almost frightened, when she hears that the new house is located in the all-white neighbourhood of Clybourne Park. But Mama explains that a comparable house in a black neighbourhood would cost twice as much. Mama is not moving to Clybourne Park because she wants to integrate a neighbourhood; instead, she simply wants the best deal for her money.


A. On a Friday night a few weeks later, packing boxes fill the Younger apartment in
preparation for the move to their new house in a white neighbourhood.

B. Beneatha and George return from another outing. George wants to kiss Beneatha, but she does not want to kiss. Rather, she wants to engage George in a conversation about the plight of African-Americans.

C. George says there's no point to such political mumbo-jumbo. It appears that George wants to marry a "nice simple sophisticated girl". Beneatha is not impressed and kicks : him out.

D. Lena returns with groceries and asks if she had a good time with George, and Beneatha tells her that George is a "fool". Mama replies, "I guess you better not waste your time with no fools". Beneatha appreciates her mother's support.

E. Mrs Johnson - the Youngers' neighbour - visits. Mama and Ruth offer her food and drink, and she gladly accepts. She brings the Youngers a newspaper that tells of a bombing of a black family's home in an all-white neighbourhood. Mrs Johnson's intent is clearly to belittle the importance of the Youngers getting away from the horrid conditions of their cramped apartment. She is generally insensitive and unable to speak in a civil manner.

F. She predicts that the Youngers will also be scared out of the all-white neighbourhood once they move in and insults much of the family them a "proud-acting bunch of coloured folks". She then quotes Booker T. Washington, a famous African—American thinker and assimilationist. A frustrated and angered Mama retaliates by calling him a "fool". Mrs Johnson leaves the apartment.

G. Mrs Arnold, Walter's employer calls, telling Ruth that Walter has not been to work in three days. Walter proudly explains that he has been wandering all day (often way into the country playing hooky with Willy) and drinking all night (at a bar with ajazz duo that he loves). He says that he feels depressed, despondent, and useless as the man of the family. He feels that hisjob is no better than a slave's job.

H. Mama feels guilty for his unhappiness and tells him that she has never done anything to hurt her children. She apologizes if she has ever done him wrong and reaffirms her faith in him. She gives him the remaining $6,500 of the insurance money, telling him to deposit $3,000 for Beneatha's education and save the rest in a checking account under Walter's name. With this money, Mama says, Walter should become - and should become - and should act like he has become - the head of the family.

I. Walter suddenly becomes more confident and energized. He talks to Travis about his plans, saying that he is going to "make a transaction" that will make them rich. Walter's excitement builds as he describes his dream of their future house and cars, as well as Travis's potential college education and becoming anything he wants to be.


A. Hansberry makes it clear here that George and Beneatha are not compatible. Because of their strong philosophical differences, any marriage between these two is destined to fail. George tells Beneatha that she is too much of an intellectual and that men don't like opinionated, liberated women. He also says that Beneatha is a bit too "moody" and artistic; he tells her that he didn't ask her to go on a date with him to discuss her "thoughts".

B. Beneatha uses George's weak attempts to change her personality as the excuse that she needs to end their relationship. Later, Beneatha is surprised that Mama agrees with her decision about George, which indicates a softening of the tensions that had previously plagued their relationship.

C. Hansberry reveals two sets of values regarding education. Beneatha believes in education as a means to understanding and self-fulfilment, while George sees education as a means to get a good job. The difference in their views about education displays a deeper divergence between the two, one of idealism versus pragmatism. Beneatha believes that society must be changed through self-knowledge and, thus, through consciousness and celebration of one's heritage. George and his family, however, believe that they should become wealthy and perhaps achieve respect through their economic status, which demands a certain degree of assimilation into the dominant, while culture.

Though George's wealth and bearing impress Mama at first, she eventually shares Beneatha‘s point of View.

D. The "Mrs Johnson" character brings laughter to the scene, for she is a comical figure, but she also expresses sentiments that have always been prevalent in the black community. She compares, for example, the overt racism of the South at that time with the covert racism found in the North. In 1959, when this play opened, many blacks who had only recently left the South were surprised to find a different type of racism in the North. Mrs Johnson's implication is that it is easier to survive the blatant racism of a 1959 southern town than it is to be prepared for the hidden, and therefore more dangerous, racism of the urban ghettos.

E. Mrs Johnson's warning to the Youngers was a realityin 1959, when this play opened, and, unfortunately, in some communities.

F. Mama refers to both assimilationists as "fools". While Mama calls George a "fool" only in response to Beneatha's remark, her branding of Booker T. Washington with such an insult has profound historical and cultural implications. Washington, historically a hero to ’ many in the black community, preached assimilation into mainstream America as the primary goal of African—Americans. Though he attained him by the late 19505. Many African-Americans had begun to reject assimilationist ideals, believing by this time that mainstream America would always mean white America and that assimilating into this culture would always mean degrading themselves to fit white society's perceptions of how blacks should be and act. These African-Americans thus sought an independent identity that would allow them to embrace and express their heritage and culture.

G. Mama feels responsible for Walter's despair and therefore responded by handing over the remaining money to him.

H. Walter's description to Travis of his materialistic fantasy about the future shows that he still wants to be a part of the culture that excludes him. He wants to be rich if being rich is the solution to his family's problems. Most of all, he wants his son to have a better life than he has had and wants to provide him with the education he deserves. His wish for Travis seems selfish as well; he wants desperately to feel like a man, and he believes that Travis's success would reflect on his own success as the man of the house.

I. Walter's already exaggerated dreams, however, suddenly turn into an avalanche of pitiful prattle. He says, for example, that one day he will come in from work, "home from my office downtown", and even Travis is incredulous as he reminds his father, "You don't work in no office, Daddy“. Walter cannot seem to stop, though, and the more he talks to Travis about his dream, the bigger the dream gets.

J. Walter's view of education seems to fall somewher between Beneatha's and George's views. Walter seems to care more for Travis's education than for Beneatha's, partly because Travis is his child and partly because Beneatha is a woman. Within the marginalized group of blacks exists the even more marginalized group of black women who have to fight with prejudice across both racial and gender lines. Walter, whether , consciously or not, is acting as if his and his son's interests are more important than _ Beneatha's, even though Beneatha has proven she is intellectually capable. Walter
believes that the insurance money Mama gives him can provide him with financial success and educational resources for his son, a priority he values more highly than his sister's goal of becoming a doctor.


A. On Saturday, a week late, it is moving day; we can hear Ruth singing "Oh, Lord, I don't feel no ways tired! Children, oh, glory hallelujah!" (p. 90) Ruth shows Beneatha the curtains she has bought for the new house and tells her that the first thing she is going to do in their new house is take a long bath in their very own bathroom.

B. Ruth is in a good mood; she comments on the changed mood around the household. She tells Beneatha about how she and Walter went to the movies together for the first time in a long time. And they even held hands.

C. Walter comes in and seduces Ruth into a slow dance. Beneatha teases them about acting in a stereotypical fashion but does not really mean any harm. Ruth and Walter understand and join in the light-hearted teasing, and Walter claims that Beneatha talks about nothing but race.

D. The mood isjolly until a man appears at the door, introducing himself as Karl Lindner, a member of the Clybourne Park Improvement Assiociation. He asks for Lena Younger. Walter tries on his new status as "head of the household", telling the stranger that he handles his mother's "business matters".

E. He tells the Youngers that problems arise when different kinds of people do not sit down and talk to each other. The Youngers agree, until he reveals that he and the neighbourhood coalition believe that the Youngers' presence in Clybourne Park would destroy the community there.

F. The current residents are all white, working-class people who do not want anything to threaten the dream that they have for their community. In fact, they don't want them there to the point of offering to buy the house for more than it was sold for!

G. Karl claims the whole proposal is reallyjust in the Youngers' best interest. Isn't that ironic?

H. Ruth, Beneatha, and Walter all become very upset, but they manage to control their anger. Walter firmly tells Mr. Linder that they will not accept the offer and urges Mr Lindner to leave immediately.


A. When the curtain rises, Ruth is singing a well-known spiritual song, "No Ways Tired", the
same song that Mama asked Ruth to sing at the close of Act I, Scene l,just before she realized that Ruth had fainted. At the end of Act 1, Scene I, Ruth is overwhelmed with fatigue, compounded by an unplanned pregnancy. These facts provide the underlying meaning to the title of the song and end the act with dark irony.

B. Ruth now sings the same song without waiting for someone to ask her. The significance of the song lies in its words: I don't feel no ways tired. I've come too far from where I started from I don't believe He brought me this far - to leave me. The song is proof that there has been a resurgence of faith among the members of the Younger household.

Mama, however, it is important to note, never relinquishes her faith - not even after she learns that Walter has lost their money; rather than succumb to feelings of despair, Mama cries out to God for strength in dealing with her new crisis.

C. The song also foreshadows the Youngers' decision to occupy their new home in a new neighbourhood - in spite of their fears of what might await them. Interestingly, the song eventually became one of the songs sung by civil rights demonstrators in the early sixties, perhaps because of the popularity of Hansberry's play.

D. Here in this scene, Hansberry highlights Lindner's weakness in negotiating with the Youngers. He is not straightforward or honest, so considerable time is wasted before they actually know what he is actually proposing.

E. Beneaths, however, distrusts Lindner immediately; the "thirty pieces of silver" to which she alludes refers to the betrayal of Christ for that paltry sum. But neither Walter nor Ruth trusts Beneatha's quickjudgement of a white person because of Beneatha's almost obsessive pro-African stance. Walter even tells Beneatha to be quiet and "let the man talk" when Beneatha tries to interrupt Lindner.

F. The incident with Mr Lindner of the Clybourne Park Improvement Association reveals the power of both dreams and racial prejudice. Mr Lindner's comments do not intimidate the members of the Younger family. Rather, they see to expect the conflict. The Youngers know that they are about to achieve some of their dreams and are not to let racism get in their way.


A. When Mama comes home, Walter, Ruth, and Beneatha tell her about Mr Lindner's visit. It
shocks and worries her, but she supports their decision to refuse the buyout offer.

B. Then, as she is making sure that her plant is well packed for the trip, the rest of the family surprises her with gifts of gardening tools and Travis chimes in and presents her with a gaudy gardening hat. Mama has never received presents other than at Christmas, ’ and she is touched by her family's generosity.

C. They continue packing and still in celebrative mood, someone knocks at the door.

D. Walter is joyful with expectation and answers the door to find Bobo, one of his friends.

E. Unfortunately, it becomes clear that Bobo is not happy to be there. Ruth does not know what's going on but she senses danger immediately.

F. Finally Bobo drops the bomb; Walter's supposed friend, Willy Harris, has run off with all of the money that Walter invested in the liquor store deal.

G. Walter tries to deny and defend the situation and plots on how to track down Willy. Bobo points out that it is really a lost cause.

H. By now the family has entered the room and has heard everything.

I. Lena asks Walter if all of it is gone - even Beneatha's portion - It turns out that Walter had invested not only his $3,500 but also the $3,000 intended for Beneatha's education.

J. Mama is 'furious' and starts beating him on the head, guilt-tripping him about how he just flushed his dad's life's work down the drain in one day.

K. Mama turns to God and asks for strength.


A. Mama's careful packing of her plant when she hears of the incident shows she is proud of her fortitude in holding onto her dream. She knows that she needs a token of the dream's power in order to face hardship in the all-white neighborhood.

B. The plant symbolizes her dream of escaping from their poverty—stricken life. It also represents a dream for African-American equality and acceptance in the general culture. In addition, this sequence shows that the fact that Mma holds onto her dream is as important as the realization of this dream.

C. The housewarming gifts given to Mama signify that Mama's dream of having a garden is about to become a reality. Gardening tools are appropriate, as Travis' special present of a gardening hat indicates. Travis intended his present to be a symbol of Lena 's new "rich woman's" status, for he has seen wealthy women in magazines wearing similar hats. Ironically, though, Travis' gift serves more to make Mama look like a field hand than a I wealthy woman, ready to go out and inspect her spacious garden.

D. Walter too sings a Negro spiritual song, anticipating all the money he will make from his secret deal. The song "Heaven" was sung by the slaves in order to ridicule the slave owners in code. The line "Everybody talkin"bout heaven ain't goin' there" (p. 102) was the slaves' way of poking fun at the slave owners who were often "religious" and had no doubts that they would eventually get to heaven. Walter's singing the song has a special meaning to him because he is "on top of the world", anticipating a happy future for himself. However, Bobo's arrival proves that the one key line in the song which Walter does not sing will have major significance in Walter's fortunes - that is, for the present at least, Walter is not "gonna fly all over God's heaven".

E. Walter's "dubious" investment of the insurance money and its disastrous result, evokes much greater strife and discord.

F. When Bobo arrives and announces that the money is gone, Walter yells, "THAT MONEY IS MADE OUT OF MY FATHER'S FLESH", (p. 108) reflecting his belief that money is the lifeblood of human existence.

G. Walter tries to deny and defend the situation and plots on how to track down Willy. Bobo points out that it is really a lost cause.

H. In the face of the loss of the money, Mama's idealism about family falters. Mama's sudden sad ralization that her husband's life boil down to a stack of paper bills compels her to turn on Walter as if he had killed his father himself. This anger is uncommon for Mama, and it is significant because it demonstrates that her compassion is not born of passivity.

I. Mama cares too much for the memory of her husband, for their mutual dream of buying a home, and for her family to let Walter off the hook Her beating him is the only way for her to force Walter to realize his mistakes and to look for a way to correct them.

J. Though the other characters talk about Willy Harris, the man who runs away with Walter's and Bobo's money, he never makes an appearance onstage. Willy remains a faceless symbol for Walter's negligence and risky handling of the money.

K. The focus in this sequence is not on the act of theft but rather on the Younger family and the reactions of its members to adversity - both Mama and Walter explode with feelings of loss, anger, helplessness, and grief.


A. The mood in the house is spiritless and everyone is still melancholic. Asagai shows up to help them pack, jolly and naive to what has happened. He finds Beneatha questioning her choice of becoming a doctor. She no longer believes that she can help people. Instead of feeling idealistic about demanding equality for African-Americans and freely Africans from the French and English colonizers, she now broods about basic human misery. Never-ending human misery demoralizes her, and she no longer see a reason to fight against it.

B. Asagai reprimands her for her lack of idealism and her attachment to the money from her father's death. He tells Beneatha about his dream to return to Africa and help bring positive changes. He gets her excited about reform again and asks her to go home with him to Africa, saying that eventually it would be as if she had "only been away for a day". He leaves her alone to think about his proposition.

C. Walter comes in and begins searching frantically for Lindner's telephone number while ignoring Beneatha's insults.

D. Walter leaves and returns, only to announce that he is going to put on a show for The Man. It turns out that he has called Karl Lindner back to accept the offer. He gives a speech about how you can dream about making a difference, but in the end, it is a dog eat dog world.

E. Mama suggests that they give up on their dream of moving and that they make themselves satisfied with the apartment in which they are presently living, a suggestion that seems to upset Ruth more than anyone else. Walter returns, having called Mr Lindner and invited him back to the apartment - he intends to take his offer of money in exchange for not moving to Clybourne Park

F. Everyone objects to this plan, arguing that they have too much pride to accept not being able to live somewhere because of their race. Walter, very agitated, puts on an act, imitating the stereotype of a black male servant. When he finally exits, Mama declares that he has died inside.

G. Beneatha expresses her disgust for her brother. Suprisingly, Lena stands up for her son, saying that just when people seem to deserve compassion, he should not be abandoned. It seems that Walter has truly dragged the family down to rock bottom.

H. The movers and Mr Lindner arrive. Mama tells Walter to deal with Mr Lindner, who is laying out contracts for Walter to sign.

I. Walter starts hesitantly and struggles to form sentences. Knowingly giving into racism tends to produce that effect. Especially when your son is looking at you.

J. After a lot of stammering, his speech builds in power. Walter rejects Mr Lindner's money. He says that the family isn't out to fight any big causes or cause trouble.

K. He tells Mr Lindner that the Youngers are proud and hardworking and intend to move into their new house. Mr Lindner appeals to Mama, who stands by Walter's statement.

L. Everyone (except Karl) breathes out a collective sigh of relief. Ultimately, Mr Lindner leaves with his papers unsigned.

M. Beneatha and Walter argue over whom she should marry.

N. Ruth and Mam share a material moment, glowing with pride from Walter's strong stand. Mama tells Ruth that she thinks Walter has finally become a man by standing up to Mr Lindner. Ruth agrees and is noticeably proud of her husband.

O. Lena has a last moment to herself in the apartment, then takes the plant and goes downstairs.


A. The Youngers regan hope and motivation to pursue their dreams as it continues. Asagai renews Beneatha's courage and pride. His discussion of colonial Africa and his stated belief that the ruling powers must fall predicts the unrest that was to occur in those countries in the decades following th 19505.

B. Asagai's claim that when Beneatha arrives in Africa she will feel as if she has been gone for only a day is a claim that America can never be home to blacks, no matter how long they have lived there.

C. Through Asagai, we see that the African struggle for independence is similar to Walter's struggle for independence, however, at the same time, Hansberry expresses her own fears that the new black leadership of the emerging African nations might prove to be as corruptly oppressive as the previous colonial rulers. Ironically, Walter achieves his independence - that is, he comes "into his manhood" without the money that has been his obsession throughout the play.

D. Previously, Walter stated that his self worth was predicated on the amount of money he could garner or generate. He is broke now and feeling foolish over his egregious error, but he has a more realistic and mature vision of what independence means and demands of individuals.

E. It is also through Asagai's desire to leave white America and Mr Lindner's desire to keep African-Americans out of his neighbourhood have a similar basis - the rejection of integration. Each man wants to preserve his notion of cultural identity, one through returning to an African homeland and the other through racist extortion tactics. After all, as a Nigerian, Asagai has a distinct cultural identity to preserve, and arguably, Mr Lindner has one as well. But Beneatha, as a black American, does not have a clear-cut cultural identity. Her ancestry may originate in Africa, but she has never been there. She and her immediate relatives have all grown up in Chicago.

F. Though racial lines definitely exist between the area in which the Youngers currently live and the area to which they plan to move, it seems that the colour lines that engender wrongful prejudice on the part of some (white society at large) are being reinforced by a movement (black anti-assimilationism) to establish a minority characterized by those lines.

G. Beneatha's acceptance of Asagai's marriage proposal and rejecting the financially secure and socially acceptable George Murchison, secures her independence from people's will for her life.

H. Walter's dream for money and material goods remains unrealized, but he has modified his dream as he matures. While he almost succumbs to accepting Mr Lindner's money, his family convinces him that they have worked too hard to have anyone tell them where they can and cannot live. In otherwords, his pride, work, and humanity become more important to him than his dream of money.

I. Walter finally "comes into his manhood", as Mama says, recognizing that being proud of his family is more important than having money. For Walter, the events of the play are a rite of passage. He must endure challenges in order to arrive at a more adult understanding of the important things in life.

J. While both of her children active happiness but incomplete fulfillment of their dreams, Mama realizes her dream of moving at last. As the matriarch and oldest member of the family, Mama is a testament to the potential of dreams, since she has lived to see the dream she and her husband shared fulfilled.

K. The younger Youngers, aptly named to show the shifting emphasis from old to young, are at midpoints in their lives. With the new house, they are well on their way to the complete fulfilment of their dreams. Mama's last moment in the apartment and her transporting of her plant show that although she is happy about moving, she continues to cherish the memories she has accumulated throughout her life. Hansberry implies, then, that the sweetness of dream fulfilment accompanies the sweetness of the dream itself.

L. Mama pauses on her way out of the apartment to show respect and appreciation for the hard work that went into making the dream come true. Her husband lingers in her recollections, and when she says to Ruth a few lines earlier, "Yeah - they something all right, my children," it becomes almost an invocation of their unmistakably solid futures.

M. Hansberry also uses the final scene to show us the maturation of each character, including Mama, who has learned while teaching. When she tells Beneatha that the true test of love is the ability to love a person when he is at his lowest, we realize that Mama has had time to reflect upon this fact herself.


Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work The major conflict of A Raisin in the Sun revolves around the Youngers, a working-class black family, that struggles against economic hardship and racial prejudice. Dreams are set but dashed. These dreams and others are at the core of the play; they are as valuable as gold for the Youngers. It is Hansberry's exploration of how each family member meets these dreams, with dignity or otherwise, that imbues the story with touching honesty and a winning pathos. On a large scale, dream and other thematic concerns of the play are discussed below.


"Then isn't there something wrong in a house — in a world — where all dreams, good or bad, must depend on the death of a man?" (Act Three) A Raisin in the Sun is essentially about dreams. Each character in the play has a very specific dream. Walter dreams of success. Mama dreams of a proper home for her family. Ruth dreams of a place for her family to thrive. Beneatha dreams of becoming a doctor. The Youngers struggle to attain these dreams throughout the play, and much of their happiness and depression is directly related to their attainment of, or failure to attain, these dreams. These dreams both spur the characters on and frustrate them, as each passing day fails to bring about a foreseeable plan to obtain these dreams. The characters become consumed by their dreams and make decisions they might not ordinarily make because they are so frustrated by their lack of fulfillment. By the end of the play, they learn that the dream of a house is the most important dream because it unites the family.


In the play, it is noteworthy that some words are given prominence by their recurrent use while some others are not so emphasized, but important. The following words are found this number of times:

J = 536

They = 93

We = 157

You = 794

Dream(s) = 14

This is a play about dreams, dreams that are put on hold or made impossible by society. We know it is a play about fighting to make dreams come true. The first thing we notice in our tally is how infrequently the words "dream" or "dreams" actually appear. Only fourteen times. This perplexes our detective minds, because we thought dreams were the star of the show. It looks like there are other things (and words) that get in the way.

We notice how often the word "I" shows up - 536 times. This makes sense to us - dreams can't happen without an "I" involved. But "I" doesn't hold a candle to the word "you", which surfaces a whopping 794 times, earning a gold medal in word count. "We" and "they" appear a good deal too, but not nearly as much as "I" and "you". From this, we can deduce that individual choices must matter a lot when it comes to dreaming. So what does all of this tallying tell us? That individual choices can make or mar dreams. In A Raisin in the Sun, Walter destroys the family dream by losing their money, but then restores the dream again by standing up to Karl and deciding the family should remain in their new neighbourhood. So dreaming is a complicated and frustrating art, but it can lead to incredible victories. If we need a lesson on dreaming and on being brave enough to dream, a great first stop on the literary highway is A Raisin in the Sun.


Individuals in A Raisin in the Sun frequently assert their right to make choices without consulting other family members. Ruth decides to put a down payment on the abortion of her unborn new child without telling anyone. Lena decides to spend $3500 on a house for her family in a white neighbourhood, also without consulting anyone. Walter decides to invest in a liquor store over the objections of his family, and Beneatha faces a choice between marrying for financial stability and marrying for sociopolitical reasons. All of these choices ultimately follow a money-versus-principle paradigm, which culminates in the play's final scene, where principle wins.


Ruth takes matters into her own hands and consults an abortionist before telling any of her family members about her pregnancy. This choice is a major sacrifice for Ruth on a personal level, but she feels like it's a necessary sacrifice for her family. Lena announces to Travis and the family that she has purchased a house with Big Walter's life insurance money. She did not consult anyone about it beforehand. Lena stands up for her right to use the money the best way she sees fit. She feels that she has made the right choice for her family and that, as head of that family, she had the right to do it.


In A Raisin in the Sun, the Younger family is given an opportunity to actualize its various dreams, hopes, and plans when a $10,000 cheque comes in the mail. The play explores the complications inherent in turning dreams into reality. In particular, A Raisin in the Sun creates a situation where the Younger family is asked to put its dreams on hold in exchange for money, setting up the play's central conflict. Beneatha sarcastically apologizes for having dreams. To Walter, her dream seems kind of far-fetched. However, Beneatha is determined and she stands up to her brother for her right to want to become a doctor. Walter is incredibly dissatisfied with his life, and he's taking it out on everybody around him. Poor Ruth feels the brunt of her husband's unhappiness. She seems to be afraid of what will happen between them if Walter doesn't get the chance to attain his dream. Lena's life's dreams are not for herself but for her family's future generations. Big Walter's mention in the play serves as a reminder of the sacrifices parents make for their children.

Walter's desires are complex to the point of becoming a hazard to him. To dream big can be dangerous if one's dreams are not given a chance. Walter and Ruth have lost sight of their dreams, but both realize that there is hope for change. However, if they don't do something soon, things will not get better. Walter wants to encourage Travis's dreams. He's willing to give his son everything he has,just as Lena is. This dedication to his son is what make it impossible for him to give in to Lindner at the end of the play. Big Walter was never able to attain his dream. He still had hopes, though, that his children would have a chance to see their come true. This makes it even sadder when, both Beneatha's dreams of medical school and Walter's dreams of being a business owner are jeopardized (and possibly destroyed) by Walter's foolish business dealings with Willy Harris. Walte believes his dreams of a better future have come true when he expects Willy to be at the door with good news.

Unfortunately, it is just Bobo with some awful news instead. It is really sad to know that Walter's dreams will soon be crushed.

Walter desperately holds onto the possibility of his dreams coming true, denying the fact that he has been swindled. He knows that he has not only ruined his own dreams by trusting Willy Harris, but he has also dashed Beneatha's plans of going to medical school. Her idealistic nature was sorely damaged when Walter lost the money meant for her to go to medical school. The girl struggles to remain hopeful in the face of mounting despair.

Asagai urges Beneatha to live her dreams instead of depending on someone else to make them possible. He admires her independent spirit and hopes to ignite it in her again. Asagai explains his vision for the future. He sees it as difficult and not always immediately rewarding, but ultimately he knows it will be for the betterment of his people. Asagai will actively pursue his dreams even when the going gets rough. Asagai is not certain about the future, but he is determined in his dreams for a better Nigeria. In order to achieve his dreams, he is willing to put his life at stake. We find it really
poignant that he has put his dreams ahead of hers, making it impossible for her to go to medical school. Beneatha blames her brother's dreams for the family's downfall. She seems to think that he deserves to have bad things said to him and the rest of the family needs to stop making him a baby.

Mama's loss of hope is expressed in her physicality and also in the casting out of her beloved little plant. She put all her faith her son Walter, but he has sorely disappointed her. With his failure, her dreams have died. Lena blames herself for dreaming too big, figuring that she was wrong to buy the house. She even seems to imply that maybe she was wrong to ever migrate north from the south in the first place. Her family has had to deal with a lot of hardship in Chicago, which makes her doubt if any of it was worth it.


"I always thought it was the one concrete thing in the world that a human being could do. Fix up the sick, you know - and make them whole again. This was truly being God (Act Three, p. 112). The power that people have, the power they hold over others, and conversely the powerlessness of people, are all explored in varying ways throughout the play. There is a clear demonstration of power through what one can achieve based on one's race. Mama, Walter and Ruth all hold subservientjobs and do not seem to be able to reach higher than what they have. They move in endless circles of backbreaking work serving others that will get them ahead. In fact, Mama's husband, Big Walter, died in that circle of worlc "I guess that's how come that man finally worked himself to death like he done. Like he was fighting his own war with this here world that took his baby from him" (Act One, Scene One, p. 33). Beneatha shakes this line of power by getting an education and having aspirations beyond what her family has been able to achieve. Her education gives her the self-perceived power to speak out on racial topics such as assimilation ("It means someone who is willing to give up his own culture, and submerge himself completely, in the dominant and this case oppressive culture!" Act Two Scene One, p. 67) and on what Africa means to her identity. But Beneatha likes to lord her power over others.


A Raisin in the Sun depicts ordinary Americans who happen to be black - and explored how the fact of their race inhibits them from accomplishing their dreams. In other words, A Raisin in the Sun demonstrates how race can complicate the American Dream. For the most part, however, race is a latent backdrop in the play; this enables Hansberry to craft a universally appealing tale and allows us to understand the precise influence of race in one family's life. The character of Mr Lindner makes the theme of racial discrimination prominent in the plot as an issue that the Youngers cannot avoid. The governing body of the Youngers' new neighbourhood, the Clybourne Park Improvement Association, sends Mr Lindner to persuade them not to move into the all-white Clybourne Park I neighbourhood. Mr Lindner and the people he represents can only see the colour of the Younger family's skin, and his offer to bribe the Youngers to keep them from moving threatens to tear apart the Younger family and the values for which it stands. Ultimately, the Youngers respond to this discrimination with defiance and strength. The play powerfully demonstrates that the way to deal with discrimination is to stand up to it and reassert one's dignity in the face of it rather than allow it to pass unchecked.


Asagai playfully teases Beneatha about her green but earnest wish to learn more about African culture. A few years after the play was produced many blacks in America became very interested in exploring their African roots. In a way, the character of Beneatha can be seen as a precursor to this movement in African-American culture. Walter isjealous of businessmen who can afford a high standard of living. He is tortured by the fact that men of the same age as him have more of a chance in the world because of their race. Hansberry offers an example of institutional racism through Lena's search for housing in Chicago. Racist laws made leaving the slums much more difficult for African-Americans.


Family is portrayed in A Raisin in the Sun as an incredibly discrete unit that must project a certain image in the world. Within the family, relatives may quarrel, nag, and insult each other, but when guests come over, certain proprieties must be observed. A Raisin in the Sun explores these complex family dynamic. Furthermore, this theme intersects with dreams, hopes, and plans as children in a family inspire dreams and keep them alive. In the opening scene, Ruth and Travis bicker over money. It gets kind of heated, but in the end it's clear they love another even when they fight. Though the Younger family may have it rough, they still love each other deeply. Walter tries to prevent their economic status from affecting his son. He wants his son to have everything he ought to have. He would seem like an awesome dad in this scene if it wasn't clear that part of the reason he's giving Travis money is to deliberately undermine his wife. Walter expects Ruth to show her support for him by doing what he wants her to do. Ruth's husband never stops to consider what she might want of him. Of course, Ruth does keep her desires quiet for a lot of the play. Basically, these two barely communicate. The Youngers struggle socially and economically throughout the play but unite in the end to realize their dream of buying a house. Mama strongly believes in the importance of family, and she tries to teach this value to her family as she struggles to keep them together and functioning.

Walter and Beneatha learn this lesson about family at the end of the play, when Walter must deal with the loss of the stolen insurance money and Beneatha denies Walter as a brother. Even facing such trauma, they come together to reject Mr Lindner's racist overtures. They are still strong individuals, but they are now individuals who function as part of a family. When they begin to put the family and the family's wishes before their own, they merge their individual dreams with the family's 'aII-embracing dream'.


Socioeconomically, the Youngers are at the bottom of the ladder. This not-so-great position affects Walter Younger the most. While his wife and mother are reasonably accepting of their situation, and Beneatha is more concerned with sociopolitical issues, Walter has an obsession with money and views it as a transformative power. Due to his poverty, money has a particularly strong hold on Walter's psyche. The ten thousand dollars is the first thing on everyone's mind because they are so accustomed to being worried about having enough money. Like many Americans, the Youngers have had to struggle to make ends meet. The Younger family is so poverty-stricken that Ruth must deny her child money required for class. She's really 'crossed' or 'unfriendly' with Travis about this. We wonder if her 'rudeness' or 'abruptness' belies a sense of shame. Walter tries to prevent the family's economic status from affecting his son. He wants his son to have everything he ought to have.


The Younger family is cooped up inside a small apartment in the slums, barely making ends meet with Walter, Ruth, and Lena all doing menial jobs. Throughout their sufferings, they keep dreams and pride alive. Their suffering makes it much harder to turn down Karl Lindner's offer to buy out their home. Suffering imbues the play via the set design and the actors' portrayals of their characters - rather than being a blatant statement, suffering is treated as a fact of the Younger family's life. The worn—down fighting spirit of the Younger family is represented in the set onstage. The room definitely reflects the hard times that the Youngers have faced over the years. The Younger apartment barely gets any sunlight at all. This seems to parallel the dreary condition of their lives. Ruth is weary from hearing her husband have the same complaints and the same half-thought-out idea to fix their troubles. The family's suffering has really put a strain on their relationship.


With all the suffering and sacrifice going on in the play, it is not difficult to predict that the characters in A Raisin in the Sun are, for the most part, dissatisfied. This dissatisfaction affects Walter Younger the most, however, because it prompts him to undertake foolhardy actions. The rest of his family, in contrast, have learned to deal with their dissatisfaction in a more controlled manner. Ruth has grown accustomed to being dissatisfied with her life to the point where it is evident even in her face. Ruth is already crabby when Walter says that she looks prematurely old. Although Walter attempts to compliment his wife, her move away from him suggests that she is disinterested, which leaves Walter unsatisfied. The couple's dissatisfaction with life in general is turning into dissatisfaction with one another. Ruth is vocal about her dissatisfaction. She's so frustrated about the hardships of her life that she finds it hard to be cheerful about anything.


A Raisin in the Sun takes place entirely in the Younger family's cramped apartment. Although it is technically their home, Mama dreams of shifting their home to a bigger house because she believes owning their own, larger space will create a better home.
Mama offering her home to Asagai, shows that the Younger household is hospitable to others, even in their poverty. Mama also worries that if her son starts going outside of their home to find peace then one day he might not come back She feels that a man's house should be his safe haven, and that there's a serious problem in that home if he can't find rest there. Lena hopes that owning a house will give Walter a sense of pride. In her mind, it will give him something in the world that is truly his. Of course, Walter sees this as an unwise investment. He's rather invest in a business than a home.


Notions of masculinity and femininity are woven throughout the play. Walter, in particular, feels his socioeconomic situation much more strongly given that he's supposed to be the "man" of the family. He uses manhood as an argument for why his wife should support himm, why his mother should give him money, and why he needs a better career. The play also represents various women: the traditional Mama, the supportive Ruth, and the progressive Beneatha, who are alternately praised or demeaned for their adherence or disobedience to traditional feminine standards. Walter says that money is a man's domain, and that Ruth, being a woman,just wouldn't understand. This sexist remark seems to come from his own lack of self-esteem. Unfortunately, for walter and those around him, he feels the need to put people own in order to feel more powerful. Here, Walter seems to accuse not only Ruth but all women of holding back their men. He implies that women are only interested in domestic things and don't have a head for the big picture. Walter wants the women in his life to make him feel like a man. Being manly means having the fredom to act according one'sjudgement. He's also making blanket statements about black women.


In A Raisin in the Sun, incredible sacrifices are madee for the benefit of the family. Some family members are more willing to shoulder sacrifice than others, however, which leads to conflict. Accepting sacrifice for the benefit of the family is a recurring theme throughout the play, culminating in its final scene. Walter accuses Beneatha of not making enough sacrifices for their family. At the same time, Walter resents Beneatha for the sacrifices he has made. Walter wants to make Beneatha feel bad for benefiting from Ruth's hard work However, Ruth does not seem to begrudge making the sacrifice for her sister-in-Iaw.


Pride is portrayed in an extremely positive light in A Raisin in the Sun. The Younger family's history of pride is visually represented in their furniture. When Mama and Big Walter, Beneatha and Walter's father, first moved into the apartment and bought what was then new furniture they felt like they'd really achieved something. They saw the ' apartment as a stepping-stone to a better future for their family. Now, though, many years have gone by and the family struggles to maintain their pride in the face of poverty, Lena is hurt that Walter doesn't feel proud of the family legacy he comes from.

She worked hard with her husband to provide a future for their children. Now, though, Walter is ashamed of their working-class lifestyle and shabby apartment. Walter dreams of "bigger and better" things. Despite their background, the Youngers are a proud people. Like his father, Walter wishes to be more than somebody's servant. He wants to be his own man. Since the play is depicting people who have little else to their name, pride is a means for them to hold on to their dignity and affirm their worth as human beings. When a neighbourhood representative shows up and offers to buy out their house, the family doesn't hesitate to kick him out. The drama frames this decision as pride versus money, and although money does win out for a little bit, the Younger family maintains its pride in the end.


The Younger family's fulfillment/non-fulfillment of their dreams mirror how black Americans as a whole had gained some concessions while still being oppressed in other respects. A character like Beneatha, however, is way ahead of her time. The play opened in 1959, remember, which is before all the feminists started demanding their rights, and before black Americans began embracing Africa as part of their identity. Beneatha embodies both movements before they ever existed. A Raisin in the Sun explores not only the tension between white and black society but also the strain within the black community over how to react to an oppressive white community. Hansberry's drama asks difficult questions about assimilation and identity. Through the character of Joseph Asagai, Hansberry reveals a trend toward celebrating African heritage. As he calls for a native revolt in his homeland, she seems to predict the anti-colonial struggles in African countries of the upcoming decades, as well as the inevitability and necessity of integration. Hansberry also addressed feminist questions ahead of their time in A Raisin in the Sun. Through the character of Beneatha, Hansberry proposes that marriage is not necessary for women and that women can and should have ambitious career goals. She even approaches an abortion debate, allowing the topic of abortion to enter the action in an era when abortion was illegal. Of course, one of her most radical statements was simply the writing and production of the play - no small feat given her status as a young black woman in the 19505.



A. Walter Younger is Mama's only son, Ruth's defiant husband; Travis's caring father; and Beneatha's belligerent brother. Walter serves as both protagonist and antagonist of the play.

B. Walter Lee Younger, sometimes called "Brother" is passionate, ambitious and bursting with the energy of his dreams. Walter Lee is a desperate man, shackled by poverty and prejudice, and obsessed with a business idea that he thinks will solve all of his economic and social problems. He is groggy after Ruth wakes him up for the day. He smokes cigarettes.

C. He is the protagonist of the play and a dreamer. He wants to be rich and devices plans to acquire wealth with his friends, particularly Willy Harris.

D. He can really be hard to get along with. For most of the first act, he's nasty tojust about every other character in the play. He picks fights with his sister, Beneatha. He says all kinds of mean things to Ruth, his wife and is even short wit his long-suffering mother, Lena.

E. All this nastiness seems to come from the fact that Walter is totally disgusted with his life. Working as a chauffeur for a rich white man has got him totally dissatisfied. There's no room for advancement, and he hates having to suck up to his boss all the time.

F. The only time Walter seems to get excited in the early sections of the play is when there's talk of the $10,000 life insurance check (Walter's father has died) that's soon to come in the mail. Walter plans to use the money to invest in a liquor store with his "buddy", Willy Harris. He sees this investment as an opportunity to be his own boss and to finally provide for his family the way he feels he should. Walter confesses he is afraid of a life of nothingness.

G. Walter hopes to invest liquor store with friends. He dreams of creating more out of his life and offering more to his family.

H. Everybody tries to warn Walter against investing in the liquor store. Ruth tells her husband that he shouldn't trust Willy Harris. And Lena , a devout Christian, thinks it is sinful to sell liquor. Lena even flat out refuses to give the money to Walter at first; the insurance policy is in her name, so she has control over it.

I. Walter goes into depths of despair because his mother made a down payment on a house in a white neighbourhood instead of giving him money in liquor business. He goes on a three-day drinking binge and refuses to go to work.

J. Walter proves throughout the drama that he does not possess the entrepreneurial skills necessary to succeed in business. His education is sorely lacking, a fact made most clear in his confrontation with George Murchison. When George says, "Good night Prometheus", Walter not only does not know what "Prometheus" refers to, but he actually thinks that George,just that moment, made up the word.

K. Eventually, Lena gives in and lets Walter have a big chunk ($6500) of what's left to invest however he sees fit. She also trusts her son to put some of the money in a bank account so that Beneatha can go to medical school. Walter doesn't do this, however, and just hands it all over to Willy Harris for the liquor store.

L. He's friendly to his sister, hugs his mother, and even takes his wife out on a date, where they get super-frisky and hold hands. The Walter that we see here is a Ioveable, friendly, family man.

M. Walter promises Travis that he'll give everything in the world to him.

N. Unfortunately, thisjust doesn't last. Everybody's doubts about the liquor store investment are proven right when Willy takes off with all the money. Things get really bad here. Earlier, Mr Lindner, a white man from the new neighbourhood, tried to pay the Youngers not to move into their new house. Back when Walter was on top, he proudly kicked Mr Lindner out and told him that they didn't need his money.

O. Now, though, Walter is desperate. He sinks to a new low and calls Mr Lindner back, saying that he'll accept the money. Walter tells his family that he's prepared to bow down to "The Man" to get the money. This is really Walter's lowest point in the whole play. He's prepared to totally shame himself for the money.

P. In the end, though, Walter is redeemed when he eventually refuses to take the money from Mr Lindner. When the white man returns, Lena forces Walter to talk to him in front of Travis, Walter young son. Walterjust can't bring himself to act so shamefully in front of Travis.


A. Basically, Walter feels like less of a man, because he's in his thirties and can still barely
provide for his family. I

B. Walter believes one has to take big risks in order to win big.

C. Although Walter makes the worst mistakes out of any other character in the play, he also undergoes the greatest transformation. Hisjourney takes him from total jerk obsessed with get-rich-quick schemes, to a man worthy of respect.

D. Most of his actions and mistakes hurt the family greatly, but his belated rise to manhood makes him a sort of hero in the last scene.

E. In Walter Younger, Lorraine Hansberry shows how poverty and racism can twist and depress people, turning them against those that they most love.

F. Of course, with Walter, the playwright also shows us how these social barriers can be overcome through personal determination and staying true to one's own beliefs.

G. His mother opposes his liquor business proposal solely on moral grounds. Nowhere in the play does Mama indicate that she would not give Walter the money for some other business idea; it'sjust that she resists the idea of his selling liquor.

H. Walter's singular obsession causes him to lose sight of his possible alternatives and of a compromise that might have led to his goal of economic independence.

I. Walter's chauvinism is evident immediately when he tells his wife, Ruth, that for a fleeting moment, she "looked young, real young but it's gone now". Walter Lee is older than Ruth, but, to him, looking young is important only to a woman.

J. However, it is, perhaps, the disturbing realization of his own aging that prompts his sarcasm, for shortly after these remarks to both, he admits that he has been contemplating his own aging, without having realized any of his dreams, when he says, "This morning, I was lookin' in the mirror and thinking about it. I'm thirty-five years old; I been married eleven years and I got a boy who sleeps in the living room" (p.22).

K. Walter's chauvinism is further apparent when he questions Beneatha about her decision to become a doctor: He asks why she couldn'tjust become a nurse or get married "like other women".

L. When he comes home after a drinking bout with his friends and Beneatha is dancing to the African music, he says, "Shut up" to Ruth,just before joining Beneatha in the dance. Walter is obsessed with getting money so that he can buy "things for Ruth", he is unaware that treating Ruth more kindly and with more respect would be more appreciated and valued than any "gifts".

M. The word "Prometheus" fits Walter's fiery personality. Prometheus, the god who was
punished for bringing fire to mortals, was chained to Mt. Caucasus, where every day an eagle tore out his liver, which grew back each night. Prometheus' suffering lasted for - thousands of years - until Hercules killed the eagle and freed Prometheus.

N. As a parallel, Walter, too, is chained, and likewise, his obsessive dream restores what his frustrations devour. Sadly, Walter never sees any way out of his economic distress other than the liquor store.

O. Walter often fights and argues with Ruth, Mama, and Beneatha. Far from being a good listener, he does not seem to understand that he must pay attention to his family members“ concerns in order to help them. Eventually, he realizes that he cannot raise the family up from poverty alone, and he seeks strength in uniting with his family.

P. Once he begins to listen to Mama and Ruth express their dreams of owning a house, he
realizes that buying the house is more important for the family's welfare than getting rich quickly. Walter finally becomes a man when he stands up to Mr Lindner and refuses the money that Mr Lindner offers the family not to move in to its dream house in a white

Q. He dreams of ways to bring his life and family out of poverty. Trouble is, his judgement is really bad. Although he makes some bad decisions, what redeems Walter is his rejection of Karl Lindner's offers. His stand for principle over money is celebrated in the play and makes him the protagonist.


A. Mama's daughter and Walter's sister. Beneatha is an intellectual. Twenty years old, she attended college and is better educated than the rest of the Younger family. Some of her personal beliefs and views have distanced her from conservative Mama.

B. An attractive college student who provides a young, independent, feminist perspective. She dreams of being a doctor and struggles to determine her identity as a well- educated black woman.

C. Because Beneatha is the most educated of the Youngers, she sometimes seems to be obnoxious and self-centred; especially in the early scenes, she freely verbalizes her views in a household that has difficulty understanding her perspectives.

D. She favours her African suitor over her rich boyfriend, much to the puzzlement of her family.

E. Throughout the play, she searches for her identity. She dates two very different men: Joseph Asagai and George Murchison. She is at her happiest with Asagai, her Nigerian boyfriend, who has nicknamed her "Alariyo", which means "One for Whom Bread—Food— Is Not Enough".

F. She is at her most depressed and angry with George, her pompous, affluent African— American boyfriend. She identifies much more with Asagai's interest in rediscovering his African roots than with George's interest in assimilating into white culture.

G. Beneatha prides herself on being independent. Asagai criticizes her for being both too independent by not wanting to marry and too dependent by not wanting to leave America. Asagai's wish that Beneatha be quieter and less ambitious obviously outrages her.

H. Asagai criticizes her, saying that she's "assimilated", meaning that she tries to hide her Africanness by acting white. He uses her hair as an example. Asagai can't understand why she and most other black women in America straighten their hair instead of leaving it naturally curly.

I. Even though her family is clearly poor, Beneatha has no reservations about feeding her ego. We learn that she "flits" from one expensive hobby to another as her mood dictates, even though it often seems that the family could use the money spent on Beneatha's horseback riding, her camera equipment, her acting lessons, and her guitar lessons for other, more financially relevant things.

J. Beneatha's “schooling" is a privilege that Walter Lee has not had, yet Beneatha appears to believe that a higher education is her right. Everyone in the family is making a sacrifice so that Beneatha can become a doctor - a fact pointed out by Walter Lee as they clash in the first scene of the play.

K. Yet beneath what seems to be selfishness, Beneatha's strengths are her spirit of independence, the fact that she is a "new woman" who refuses to accept the traditional, spineless female role, and the fact that she is so knowledgeable about Africa that her self-esteem is enhanced.

L. Beneatha's search for her identity is a motif carried throughout the play; the closer she gets to Africa via her relationship with Joseph Asagai, the more she develops into a pleasant, likeable and less egocentric person.

M. Beneatha's relationship with her mother is largely one of conflict because of their many differences, but it is not a strained relationship, for even after her mother slaps her for her blasphemous talk, Beneatha later hugs and thanks her mother for understanding her dismissal of George. She clearly loves her mother even if they do not always agree.

N. She stops Mama from beating Walter on the head after he gambles away their money.

O. Beneatha is opinionated, especially in her dealings with her brother, Walter Lee; she clearly lives up to her name, an obvious pun, for, especially at the beginning of the play, everything and everyone seem to be "beneath her".


A. That Joseph Asagai calls Beneatha "Alaiyo", which means something like "One for Whom Bread - Food - is Not Enough" thrills her and she is very touched by it. It shows that he really understands her.

B. She wants more than to just get by; she wants to find ways to truly express herself. The other Youngers tease her about herjourney of self-expression, but Beneatha remains determined to broaden her mind.

C. Unlike the rest of her family, Beneatha looks beyond her immediate situation in an effort ‘ to understand herself as a member of a greater whole.

D. Her high education affects the way she now relates to the rest of her family, thus becoming a bit condescending and seeming to forget that her family members (especially her mother) all work very hard to help put her through school. However, this character flaw only serves to make her seem all the more understandable and human.

E. Ultimately, Beneatha is a kind and generous person, who seeks to become a doctor out of a desire to help people.

F. Beneatha's college education has helped to make her progressive, independent and a total feminist. She brings politics into the apartment and is constantly talking about issues of civil rights.

G. The realization that she needs Walter to realize her dream of becoming a doctor brings her closer to him. When she realizes this dependence, she gains a new perspective on her dream and a new energy to attain it in her own way.

H. Her quest for identity as an African-American woman makes her take Asagai's criticism seriously and lets her hair go natural. She also tries on the Nigerian robes he brings her and dances around to African music.

I. Although Beneatha's family has been in America for several generations, and Beneatha has never been to Africa, Asagai insists that once in Africa, she will feel as though she has been away for only one day. Historically, this attitude gained some popularity among black Americans as they felt that no matter how long they had been in America, they could never truly call it home.

J. It is not surprising that Beneatha does not like George at all by the end of the play because of his Western ideals. When we leave Beneatha at the play's conclusion, she is even considering marrying Asagai and practising medicine in Africa.


A. Mama is Walter's and Beneatha's sensitive mother and the head of the Younger household. She demands that members of her family respect themselves and take pride in their dreams.

B. The matriarch of the family, Mama is religious, moral, and maternal. She wants to use her husband's insurance money as a down payment on a house with a backyard to fulfill her dream for her family to move up in the world.

C. She is a down-to-earth and hard-working black woman who is rational. Mama requires that the apartment in which they live always be neat and polished.

D. Mama is the most nurturing character in the play, and she constantly reminds Walter that all she has ever wanted is to make her children happy and provide for them. She cares deeply for Walter and shows this care by giving him the remaining insurance money. She cares deeply for Ruth as well, consoling her when Walter ignores her. Mama respects Beneatha's assessment of George Murchison as being arrogant and self-centred, telling her daughter not to waste time with such a "fool". Mama loves Travis, her grandchild, and hopes their new house will have a big yard in which he can play. She is also very fond of caring for her plant, though in a different way.

E. She stands up for her beliefs and provides perspective from an older generation.

F. She believes in striving to succeed while maintaining her moral boundaries; she rejects Beneatha's progressive and seeming un-Christian sentiments about God, and Ruth's consideration of an abortion disappoints her. Similarly, when Walter comes to her with his idea to invest in the liquor store venture, she condemns the idea and explains that she will not participate in such un-Christian business.

G. Mama dedicates her life to her children and struggles to instil her values in them - with mixed results. One of Lena's most poignant moments might be when she admits to Ruth that sometimes her children frighten her. This is one of those sad and beautiful moments that make her character seem truly human.

H. Throughout the play, Lena struggles to connect with her children, Beneatha and Walter. She's extremely worried about Walter's obsession with money and is totally disapproving of Beneatha's lack of faith in God. Mama even goes so far as to slap Beneatha in the face when the girl says that God doesn't exist.

I. Except for the face-slap moment, Mama is mostly kind and patient with her family. Her nurturing personality is symbolized by the way she treats her houseplant. Though it is wilting, Mama loves it unconditionally. Just like her family, Lena's plant lacks the necessary resources to flourish. Rather than giving up, however, Mama does all she can for it and has faith that one day it will truly thrive.

J. Mama's faith is put to the test near the end of the play when she entrusts Walter with the $6,500 that's left from the insurance check At first, it seems like her trust was totally misplaced when Walter loses all of the money. However, Lena's faith is redeemed when her son refuses to accept the bribe from Mr Lindner.

K. In the last moments of the play, we see Mama taking pride in her children. Like her plant, they're far from perfect, but still there's hope for them yet.


A. Mama is significant as a strong motivational force in this drama which . . . greatly influenced by her. A proud woman, Lena Younger does not have much material wealth, but she walks tall, exudes dignity, and carries herself, as Hansberry says, with the "noble bearing of the women of the Heroes of Southwest Africa (a pastoral people)," as though she walks with a "basket or a vessel upon her head". Her children are her life; she refers to them as her "harvest". With no significant dreams of her own, she lives vicariously through her children, for even her dream of having a house is motivated only by her desire to make living conditions better for her family. She says upon receiving the $10,000 insurance check, that, for her part, she'd just as soon donate the entire sum to her church.

B. Suffering toughens as Mama reflects in the play. Because Mama seems to be accustomed in suffering and enduing hardships, the Lindners of the world cannot disturb her inner peace, for she has previously suffered the death of a baby and, more recently, the death of her husband of many years. Her strong faith and deep religious convictions give her the psychological and physical mettle she needs in order to rise to life's challenges. At her lowest point, she asks God to replenish her waning strength and is immediately possessed of a more compassionate perception of Walter Lee's folly.

C. Mama's old-fashioned and conservative views are her strength that gives her the capacity to tolerate and accommodate. For instance, she speaks of her husband's past "womanizing" and chauvinistic behaviour as being something that she could overlook Mama actually believes that accepting such behaviour as being something that she overlook Mama actually believes that accepting such behaviour is a woman's lot in life. Ruth, however, is only slightly more liberated as she, too, would accept such behaviour in her man, but she would at least address the problem. Beneatha, in contrast, represents a new, liberated generation of women; she would never accept such behaviour in a man and would, perhaps, have spoken out against Mama's lack of spunk in dealing with a sexist mate had Mama reminisced about life with "Big Walter" with Beneatha instead of  Ruth.

D. Her all-consuming love for her grandson, Travis, seems to be her single weakness. This extreme love causes her to spoil him and causes her also to act in a somewhat meddlesome manner with her daughter-in-law. Mama impresses us with her strength, but this strength appears to have been down-played or "re-directed during her marriage". It seems that it is only after the death of "Big Walter" when Mama has to become head of the household, that she can summon the herculean strength she exhibits throughout the drama.

E. Money is only a means to an end for Mama; dreams are more important to her than material wealth, and her dream is to own a house with a garden and yard in which Travis can play.

F. As her name suggests, Lena's entire family "leans on" her and draws from her strength in order to replenish their own. I

G. Lena (known as Mama) has qualities of a guide/ mentor and also assumes the status of a protagonist because of her self-direction and somewhat independent thinking. Mama continually has her family's best interests at heart, she encourages and safeguards her children, although they may not always listen to her advice (case in point: Walter); but that doesn't exclude her from having an agenda that gets fulfilled. She buys a home for her family without consulting them. She also intervenes when she deems it necessary, such as when Walter refuses to listen to Ruth's baby news.

H. Mama's plant which she tries to nurture throughout the play is a metaphorical representation of the family's wellbeing. The passionate attention she gives to the flower is just as much as that she gives to her family.


A. Walter's wife and Travis's mother. Ruth takes care of the Youngers' small apartment. Her
marriage to Walter has problems, but she hopes to rekindle their love.

B. She is about thirty, but her weariness makes her seem older. Constantly fighting poverty and domestic troubles, she continues to be an emotionally strong woman.

C. Ruth is in some ways like a typical housewife of the 19505. She makes breakfast, cleans the house, supports her husband, and keeps her own desires to herself. Unlike the stereotypical 19505 housewife, though, she also goes out into the world and works her butt off. Not only does she struggle to maintain her own household, she goes out to work in the households of rich white people as well.

D. Ruth is a "soft" personality type. She is not aggressive; she just lets life "happen" to her. She is the "worn-out wife" with a tedious, routine lifestyle. Hansberry describes Ruth as being "about thirty" but "in a few years, she will be known among her people as a "settled woman". Ruth has only simple dreams and would be content to live out her life being moderately comfortable. Her biggest dream blossoms only after Mama's news of I the possibility of their moving to a better neighbourhood.

E. Ruth is easily embarrassed and tries too hard to please others. When George Murchison arrives in the middle of Walter and Beneatha's frenzied African dance, Ruth is overly apologetic to George about their behaviour. When Walter and Beneatha argue, Ruth asks Walter not to bring her into their conflict. And even though Ruth is annoyed by Lena's (Mama's) meddling, she still allows her mother-in-Iaw to influence her at times about the correct way to raise Travis.

F. Very low key, Ruth reveals the most emotion when Mama tells her that they may not be able to move, it is only then that Ruth assertively expresses her views. Lacking education and sophistication, Ruth relies upon the suggestions, advice, and even what she thinks might be the wishes of others.

G. Her husband Walter is incredibly dissatisfied with his life, and he constantly takes it out on her. Ruth is far fro a doormat and tells her husband off when he starts acting like a jerk However, it is clear in the play that the turmoil in her marriage is taking a real toll on Ruth. She often seems irritable, depressed, and at times sinks into despair.

H. This all comes to a head for Ruth, when she finds out she is pregnant and considers an abortion. In the '505, an abortion would have been (a) illegal and (b) dangerous. But according to Mama; "When the world gets ugly enough - a woman will do anything for her family. The part that's already living". Though Ruth hates the idea of aborting her child, she feel it's the best decision for her financially strapped family.

I. In the end, though, Ruth chooses to keep her child. She finds hope in the fact that the Younger family will soon be moving out of their cramped, roach-infested apartment and into a new house. She'll still have to work to help pay the mortgage, and they'll all have to deal with the racist backlash of living in a white neighbourhood.


A. Ruth's close relationship with her mother-in-Iaw and with her family is comparable to the biblical Ruth, who tells her mother-in-law, Naomi, that she will travel with her wherever she goes and that "your people shall be my people". Unlike the biblical story, though, no mention is ever made of Ruth Younger's parents or siblings or background. We are never told from whence this Ruth has come before joining the Younger household.

B. The Youngers' financial difficulties make it impossible for Ruth to just work in her own home. As a character, then, Ruth exposes the difficulties of being a working-class

C. Ruth's contemplation of an abortion is not because she wants to, but because she is worried about the additional burden she would bring to the family that she already has.

D. Still, Ruth is not an "emotional weakling". She never realises her voice (as Walter does quite often), but she exhibits a remarkable strength. With all of her economic and marital problems, Ruth never succumbs to despair.

E. In her 'matchless calmness', she has a charming manner of always getting her way. She forces Travis to kiss her goodbye even though he is too angry at her to do so on his own. She persuades her mother-in-law to stop meddling with just one glance of disapproval. And she manages to save her marriage even when things look hopeless for the relationship.

F. Yes, times will still be tough for Ruth, but with her family around her she feels ready to face the struggle.

G. Ruth's character is a significant opposite of her husband's. Whereas Walter dreams big of money, hardworking Ruth doesn't ask for much. We see her constantly cleaning and working in the house - occupations which Walter never engages in. While Ruth constantly supports the other members of her family and rarely, if ever, confronts anyone, Walter comes across as moody and confrontational throughout the play. As the couple embodies gender opposites, they also embody character opposites.

H. Her almost pessimistic pragmatism helps her to survive.


A. Walter and Ruth's sheltered young son. Travis earns some money by carrying grocery bags and likes to play outside with other neighbourhood children, but he has no bedroom and sleeps on the living-room sofa.

B. Travis is by far the youngest member of his family (stage directions describe him as ten or eleven years old).

C. Clearly, Travis is spoilt. In the first scene of the play, we watch him cleverly get what he wants (the fifty cents his teacher has told him to bring to school) from his father after his mother has emphatically stated that theyjust don't have fifty cents. Earlier, Travis said that he could get it from his grandmother, which implies that she gives him what ever he asks for.

D. In spite of his manipulative nature, however, Travis is a likeable child because, although he might be mischievous at times, he is always mannerly. He seems sheltered and overprotected by the numerous adults in the household, yet he is a "street kid", drawn to the life of his ghetto neighbourhood. In Act I, Scene 2, Travis and his neighbourhood pals are chasing a large rat for "sport".

E. Travis plays a symbolic role again in the last scene of the play. When Walter, Travis's father, is planning to take the money from Mr Lindner to not move into the white neighbourhood, Mama insists that Travis stay and watch his father give in to "The Man". Travis's eyes are just too innocent, though, and Walter can't bring himself to do it in front of his son.


A. Travis represents the future of the Younger family. Hansberry drops some not-too—subtle symbolism on us when we hear that one of Travis's favourite pastimes is playing with rats. This symbolism definitely doesn't slip by Lena and Ruth. It is frustrating when your "future" is hanging out with vermin. Mama and Ruth understand that if they stay living in their crappy apartment, Travis is destined to always settle for less than he deserves. Symbolically, the Younger family will never escape the slums.

B. Travis shows remarkable maturity by requesting permission to make some money by "bagging groceries" at the local supermarket.

C. He is not so spoiled nor so pampered that he shirks responsibility. This is another of Hanberry's attempts to pay homage to the "children of the poor", those whom she admired for their "spirit of independence".

D. The significance of Travis' presence is that it compels the father, Walter, to show character before his. If he had taken the money from Mr Lindner to not move in before his son, Walter would always feel like a giant tool and a bad father. And symbolically the future of the Younger family would always be one of shame.

E. Travis is like a symbol. The youngest Younger never really gets fleshed out as a character. For the most part, he's a kind, innocent, and good-hearted child, who hasn't yet been corrupted by the big, bad world. Still, though, he plays an important part in the play. Without Travis serving as his father's good angel in the final scene, the play's conclusion would go from bittersweet to tragic ordeal.


A. A Nigerian student in love with Beneatha. Asagai, as he is often called, is very proud of his African heritage, and Beneatha hopes to learn about her African heritage from him.

B. Asagai is charming, mannerly, personable and quite intelligent; in spite of the cultural differences between him and the Younger family, he appears to "fit in" more with them than does George Murchison, who argues with Beneatha in front of her family and then clashes with Walter as he leaves.

C. In trying to win her affections, he is persistent but never overbearing. He flatters her with
gifts (something that George Murchison has not done).

D. Asagai really works the Nigerian thing to get ahead with Beneatha. Knowing that Beneatha has a longing for identity and roots, he tells her all about Africa and gives her African musical records and a robe. If Asagai had his way, she's be a straight-up African woman, instead of an African-American one. He even goes so far as to suggest her straightened hair is a sign that she 'assimilated' into white American culture.

E. Asagai is proud of his African heritage. He is zealously idealistic about the future of his country and has even expressed his willingness to sacrifice his own life for the independence of his country. He hopes to return to Nigeria to help bring about positive change and modern advancements.

F. Although Asagai has been afforded a Western education, his basic beliefs are grounded
in his own African culture.

G. He tries to teach Beneatha about her heritage as well. He stands in obvious contrast to Beneatha's other suitor, George Murchison, who is an arrogant African-American who has succeeded in life by assimilating to the white world.

H. Asagai criticizes Beneatha a few times in the play: he criticizes her straightened hair, which resembles Caucasian hair, and persuades her to cut it and keep a more natural, more African look He criticizes her independent views and that she is not as independent as she believes herself to be because her dream of attending medical school is bound up in the insurance money from her father's death and her reliance on Walter's investing scheme.

I. Asagai is helpful and concerned about the welfare of others. He volunteers to assist in the move to Clybourne Park and offers much-needed consolation and good advice to Beneatha when she is at her lowest. He counsels Beneatha spiritually and emotionally, helping her to get back "on track" as she rails against her brother's foolishness in having lost the money.

J. Asagai's philosophy runs counter to the Western perception of success at any cost. He questions, for example, the satisfaction of receiving money through misfortune while calling it "success".

K. Eventually, Asagai proposes to beneatha and asks her to come back to Nigeria with him. In the play's final scene, Beneatha is seriously considering his proposal. We never find out if these two lovebirds run off into the African sunset together, but we hope it works out for them.


A. The name of Hansberry's African character is taken from the word "assegai", which
means a short—handled stabbing spear, famous in the successful war of Shaka Zulu.

B. Asagai's peaceful ways and calm manner give Beneatha an appreciation of his views even when they disagree. Contrasted with George Murchison's abrasive put-downs of Beneatha and George's insistence on retaining his narrow-minded views, Asagai appears as Beneatha's saviour from the potential tragedy of her eventually becoming George's wife.

C. Asagai's gifts are not meaningless trinkets but are things that are both useful to and desired by Beneatha - such as the Nigerian robes he clearly has gone to a lot of trouble to obtain. Asagai's compliments to Beneatha are sincere and therefore believable.

D. Asagai's character gives Beneatha political focus and nourishes her idealism. Being a true African, Asagai is grounded in his "Africanness" while Beneatha is trying, almost too hard to connect with an African past that she knows so little 'about'. Note that it is Beneatha and not Asagai who is constantly singing the praises of Africa.

E. Asagai's grounded belief in his own African culture was, as of 1959, somewhat chauvinistic and old-fashioned. But it creates an undercurrent of tension in his relationship with Beneatha, which nonetheless is something Hansberry hints could be overcome.

F. He insists that "making it" via insurance money gained through misfortune is not really "making it". One's personal genuine effort is what should really count in defining success.

G. Asagai's criticisms of Beneatha are not meant to condemn but done out of a desire to help her. He criticizes her straightened hair and persuades her to cut it so that she keeps a more natural, more African look Criticizing her independent views is meant to give her new energy and strength. Holding a contrary view that Beneatha's dependence on the father's insurance money and Walter's investing schemes cannot be equated to success, helps to open Beneatha's eyes to the necessity of probing her own existence and identity.

H. The text's implication that Beneatha intends to accept Asagai's proposal of marriage and move to Nigeria with him suggests that he is, in a way, a saviour for her.

I. Asagai as an African from Nigeria provides an international perspective for the play.

J. Asagai's main function as a character seems to be to inject the play with symbolism. Basically, Asagai is Africa. He represents one extreme of the American debate on assimilation. His presence in the play forces the audience (and Beneatha) to ask what it truly means to be an African-American. How can blacks live in America and yet retain some of their unique cultural identity? Is it possible?



A. George Murchison represents the black person whose own self-hatred manifests itself as
contempt for other blacks.

B. George is pedantic - an academic show off - constantly asking literary allusions even when he knows that this information is lost upon his audience. When Ruth asks George what time the play begins that he's taking Beneatha to see, he answers pompously, "It's an eight-thirty curtain. That's just Chicago, though. In New York, standard curtain time is eight-forty." Such information is wasted on Ruth, who has probably never seen a play and certainly has never been to New York Note here that Ruth asks, "What time is the I show?" as if it is a movie or entertainment other than the legitimate theatre.

C. George's pomposity won't even permit him to ignore Walter's desperate lie that he knows what New York is like; "Oh, you've been?" George asks in order to further belittle a man whose self esteem is already zero.

D. When Beneatha mentions Africa, George begins immediately to recite everything he knows about African civilizations.

E. Even though he clearly has no respect for any of the accomplishments of the black people, George is compelled to match his knowledge against Beneatha's.

F. The phrase "quiet desperation" comes from a line in Henry David Thoreau's Walden: "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation".


A. He is the only white character in the play. Mr Lindner arrives at the Youngers' apartment
from the Clybourne Park Improvement Association.

B. Mr Lindner seems like a nice enough person at first. He says he represents a kind of "welcoming committee" from Clybourne Park, the predominantly white neighbourhood where the Youngers are planning to move.

C. Unfortunately, Lindner's committee doesn't plan to "welcome" the Youngers at all. Mr Lindner's idea of resolving the "problem" of a black family moving into the neighbourhood is to try and bribe the Youngers.

D. He offers the Youngers a deal on behalf of other homeowners who contributed enough money together, to reconsider moving into his (all-white) neighbourhood.

E. His fellow homeowners are willing to buy the house that Mama bought for more than what she paid for it.


A. As the only white character in the play, Mr Lindner represents the white majority that controls the country. He also represents the racism of the white majority that segregated America (officially and unofficially) and helped to perpetuate the cycle of poverty which many African-American families had been caught in since rthe time of slavery.

B. Lindner is really polite at first and implies that if people of different races would just sit down and talk to each other a lot of problems could be resolved.

C. The Lindner character, although basically a "flat character", is still developed by , Hansberry as a human being and not simply a stereotype of a bigot. For example, when ‘ Mr Lindner arrives at the Younger household, he is extremely shy and timid, not threatening or abrasive or loud.

D. He may be polite and mannerly but everthing he says is insulting to the Youngers. It is immediately apparent to us that Mr Lindner is not even aware of his insults to them. He is simply a courier from the Clybourne Park neighbourhood, bringing a message to the Youngers that he, himself, had no part in originating. He has been sent by the organization which he represents, and he naively believes in the correctness of this organization.

E. But never do we get the impression that Lindner is filled with hatred that would make him knowingly insult the Youngers or hurt them physically in any way. Lindner does not realize the scope of his mission. When he says that "people want to live among their own kind", he firmly believes that he is doing the Youngers a favour by offering to pay them not to move into Clybourne Park

F. The Youngers are kind to Lindner when he first enters their apartment, and Lindner's amazement turns into discomfort. When they offer Lindner refreshments, he declines because he realizes at this point that the Youngers are decent people, which makes his mission uncomfortable for him. Lindner appears almost pathetic as he tries to explain his point of view to a fiery Beneatha, an angry Walter, and a surprised Ruth.

G. What makes Karl worse as an antagonist is that he represents notjust himself, but an entire community of whites who do not want the Younger family neighbourhood.

H. For offering to buy the house higher than the Youngers bought it, Mr Lindner and the other white homeowners are trying to do everything they can to keep black families outof their neighbourhood.


A. Bobo is Walter's buddy and one of his partners in the liquor store plan.

B. Just like Walter, he gets ripped off by Willy Harris in the great liquor store catastrophe.

C. Bobo is not a bright mind. His thought processes are sluggish; we see that he hardly knows the right words to use as he tries to explain to Walter what happened to their money. We know that Bobo is not bright when he says, "Me and Willy was going to go down to Springfield and spread some money 'round so's we couldn't have to wait so long for the liquid license everybody said that was the way you had to do".

D. Poor Bobo only gets one extremely short scene so we never learn much about him. He pretty much just shows up, gives Walter the bad news, gets throttled by Walter, then shuffles off.


A. Bobo appears to be as mentally slow as his name indicates; he is somewhat dim—witted, but he is basically honest and appears to be a loyal friend. When he comes to Walter's apartment to deliver the bad news about the insurance money, he is so mannerly and polite to the women in the Younger household that he appears almost ridiculous.

B. As soon as we meet Bobo, we know instantly why Walter's business idea did not work out as he hoped it would.

C. Bobo looks to Walter for direction, for even as unschooled as Walter might have appeared to us initially, we see that Walter is far brighter than Bobo.

D. We pity Bobo because of his shabby appearance, his limited intelligence, and his inability to ever escape his environment. We, the audience, are more aware of his suffering than Bobo, who is throughout, a pathetic intellectual dwarf.


A. A friend of Walter and coordinator of the liquor store plan. We constantly hear from Walter about his great friend Willy, who gets him interested in a liquor store business, takes him drinking when he skips work.

B. Willy never shows up onstage, but he plays a significant role in the Youngers' story. And by " significant", we mean, " very, very negative". After convincing Walter that investing in the liquor store is a great idea, Willy takes Walter's money and runs.

C. Willy is the smartest of the three because he has no illusions about getting rich through Walter's liquor store idea. Willy feels that the most realistic method of his ever escaping poverty is to take the money that Walter and Bobo are foolish enough to entrust to him.

D. Willy would never have entrusted his life savings with either of them. Willy has learned, as Walter says in his speech about the "takers" and the "tooken", how to survive on the streets.

E. He is not bound by moral codes or religious convictions and, therefore, feels no compunction about taking advantage of anyone - not even his close friends.


A. That Willy never appears onstage helps to keep the focus of the story on the dynamics of the Younger family.

B. Although we never meet Willy, we know a lot about him based upon things that are said about him by the other characters.

C. Yes, he never set foot onstage, yet he is one of the drama's villains.

D. He steals all Walter's money. It is because of the thieving Willy Harris that Walter's dream is deferred.

E. For absconding with his friends' money shows that Willy has no loyalty Walter or Bobo. AI-though he knows that he is robbing two people who have as little as he has, this does not stop him, he takes their money and runs off anyway.


A. The Youngers' neighbour. Mrs Johnson takes advantage of the Youngers' hospitality and warns them about moving into a predominantly white neighbourhood.

B. Mrs Johnson is totally hilarious. She's like the nosey neighbour in most popular dramas.

C. She has a real skill at getting free food out of her neighbours, the Youngers. She's only onstage for a few minutes and she manages to gain/earn some coffee and a piece of pie. Pretty slick Mrs Johnson.

D. While the Youngers' nosey neighbour definitely provides some comic relief, she also brings a darker tone of the play. She carries with her a newspaper that reports that a black family, living in a white neighbourhood, has recently been bombed out of their house.

E. Even though Mrs Johnson seems friendly on the outside, she also seems to kind of resent the Youngers. She insinuates that they think they are "too good" to live in the mostly black neighbourhood anymore.

F. Mrs Johnson almost seems to enjoy sharing the information that a black family was bombed by racist whites. She leaves the paper in the Youngers' apartment on her way out.


A. The character of Mrs Johnson appears mostly for comic relief. She is a flat caricature of the nosey, jealous neighbour.

B. Hansberry appears to employ the Mrs Johnson character in order to point out the explosive realities that await the Youngers for being the first blacks to move into Clybourne Park

C. Although her warnings are about a very real danger to the Youngers, Mrs Johnson's manner is so offensive that she appears almost ludicrous.

D. Mrs Johnson's bomb story, shows her insensitivity and unkindness. The bomb news totally raises the stakes of the Youngers' upcoming move and adds a lot of tension to the play as a whole.

E. Essentially, Mrs Johnson represents the feelings of resentment that some blacks felt when others started to climb the socioeconomic ladder.

F. By leaving the paper in the Youngers' apartment, Mrs Johnson in a way implies that, if the Youngers find trouble in their neighbourhood, then they're only getting what they deserve.


A. Big Walter is another character whom we never meet and only learn about through the dialogue of others.

B. Although we never see Big Walter onstage, his legacy pervades the play.

C. When Mama reminisces about her life with Big Walter, she speaks of him with admiration.

D. Mama says, with a little laugh, that Big Walter was a womanizer.

E. We get the impression that he was a very old-fashioned man who dominated his household by his imposing presence.

F. We do learn that Big Walter valued his family over all other priorities.


A. Mama sets Big Walter up as a role model for the rest of the family to follow.

B. The man might be buried, but he's definitely not dead as his family constantly evokes his memory.

C. Mama's tolerance of some of her husband's past behaviour is called to question here by her little laugh on the information that Big Walter was a womanizer. This likely implies that at some point as a young wife, she might have been deeply hurt over Big Walter's antics.

D. We learn that Big Walter deeply invested in his kids' futures. Thus, even if Big Walter did "run around", as Mama Laughingly puts it, the implication is that Big Walter would never have left his family - not for any woman.


A. No speaking parts of them, but their few moments on stage are memorable.

B. They are admonished by Mama for not handling her furniture with the care she feels her furniture deserves.

C. The moving men remind us of Walter; maybe their dreams are as intense as Walter's. As they look around the apartment, it appears that they are impressed by the YounIgers' dramatic move out of the South-side neighborhood.



Regional Chicago Dialect: The Youngers

The fact that the Youngers live on the South side of Chicago implies a certain regional accent. In the story, Hansberry notes that certain characters, like Beneatha and Mama, slur their speech. Most of the family doesn't speak using correct grammar, which simply reflects their working-class roots. The dialects of black communities differ from the dialects of other communities and Lorraine Hansberry makes her characters speak in the very real language of their community. Although Hansberry's own immediate family were all college educated and spoke Standard English all the time at home, Hansberry herself spent a lot of time in poor Southside households that were similar to that of the Younger family in A Raisin in the Sun. Naturally, Mama's speech is different from Beneatha's; however, there are even subtle differences among the speech patterns of Mama and Walter and Ruth and Bobo.

The language of many of the characters of A Raisin in the Sun is unconventionally non- Standard English; the black characters are not merely speaking English that is ungrammatical; rather, they are speaking a dialect common in the black communities that are heavily populated by migrants from the South. At that time, slaves were forbidden a formal education and therefore mimicked whatever English they heard, ending up with a "Pidgin English" not unlike the English spoken by many of the Native- American population. In the same way, the slaves, many of whom were from West Africa, superimposed their own grammatical structure upon their new master's language, ending up with what linguists define today as "Black English". Broadly explained, Black English has its own grammatical structure - even though it is non-Standard English. It is not soley "bad grammar", for in some cases, the "errors" are intentional for effect.

In the black dialect, the word "done" means something completely different from the Standard English past principle of the verb "to do". Note the following examples:

(a) It's too late to ask her cause she done gone.

(b) Mrs Jackson done burned the cabbage again.

(c) I done told you - I didn't do it!

In the above examples, "done" means "has already" or "have already". Note the following examples from A Raisin in the Sun:

Ruth: You done spoiled that boy so . . . (p. 28)

Mama: What done got into you, girl? Walter Lee done finally sold you on investing? (p. 30)

Mama: And all that money they pour into these churches when they ought to be helping you people over there drive out them French and Englishmen done taken away your land. (p. 51)

Mama: Much baking powder as she done borrowed from me all these years, she could of done gone into the baking business. (p. 54).

Mama: [The check] .. . you mean it really done come? (p. 55) Ruth: Girl, you done lost your natural mind? (p. 67)


Elevated Language: Beneatha

Beneatha's language is difficult from the rest of the family's and marks her formal education. To Mama's dismay, Beneatha is also unafraid to say things like " Christ!" Mama finds this blasphemous.


Symbols are objects, characters, figures and colours used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.


This phrase appears early in the play, as an instruction from Ruth to Walter to quiet him. Walter then employs the phrase to illustrate how woman keep men from achieving their goals - every time a man gets excited about something, he claims, a woman tries to temper his enthusiasm by telling him to eat his eggs. Being quiet and eating one's eggs represents an acceptance of the adversity that Walter and the rest of the Youngers face in life. Walter believes that Ruth, who is making eggs, keeps him from achieving his dream, and he argues that she should be more supportive of him. The eggs she makes every day symbolize her mechanical approach to supporting him. She provides him with nourishment, but always in the same, predictable way.


The most overt symbol in the play, Mama‘s plant represents both Mama‘s care and her dream for her family. The plant that Mama keeps near the apartment's sole window is barely surviving because it lacks adequate nourishment. She confesses that the plant never gets enough light or water, but she takes pride in how is nevertheless flourishes under her care. Yet she is completely dedicated to the plantand lovingly tends it every single day in the hope that it will one day be able to flourish. Her care for her plant is similar to her care for her children, unconditional and unending despite a less-than- perfect environment for growth. In her first appearance onstage, she moves directly toward the plant to take care of it. The plant also symbolizes her dream to own a house and, more specifically, to have a garden and a yard. With her plant, she practises her gardening skills. Her success with the plant helps her believe that she would be successful as a gardener. Her persistence and dedication to the plant fosters her hope that her dream may come true. This is by far the play's most overt symbol; the plant acts as a metaphor for the family.


Radical Afro represents her embracing of her heritage. Beneatha's cutting of her hair is a very powerful social statement, as she symbolically declares that natural is beautiful, prefiguring the 19605 cultural credo that black is beautiful. Rather than force her hair to conform to the style society dictates, Beneatha opts for a style that enables her to more easily reconcile her identity and her culture. Beneatha's new hair is a symbol of her anti- assimilationist beliefs as well as her desire to shape her identity by looking back to her room in Africa.


Hansberry writes about sunlight and how the old apartment has so little of it. The first thing Ruth asks about in Act Two, Scene One is whether or not the new house will have a lot of sunlight. Sunlight is a familiar symbol for hope and life, since all human life depends on warmth and energy from the sun.


These creatures heavily reinforce the Younger family's undesirable living situation.


We have Protagonist like Walter Younger, Lena Younger; Antagonist like Willy Harris, Karl Lindner; Guide Mentor like Lena Younger, Big Walter, Foil like Ruth Younger and Walter Younger


Hansberry utilizes the traditional classic European dramatic forms: A Raisin in the Sun is divided into three conventional acts with their distinct scenes. Yet, Hansberry employs techniques of the absurdist drama - particularly in the scene in which a drunken Walter Lee walks in on Beneatha's African dancing and is able to immediately summon a memory which psychically connects him with an African past that his character, in reality, would not have known. Walter Lee is able to sing and dance and chant as though he had studied African culture. Hansberry's skilful use of this momentary absurdity makes Walter's performance seem absolutely plausible to her audience.


A portmanteau word is the fusion of two meanings packed into one word. In A Raisin in the Sun for instance, Ruth refers to Travis' "stubborn" ways, when she really means both "sloppy" and "stubborn". Because of Ruth's lack of formal education, she is not aware (but the audience is) that this is not a real word.


The German critic Gustav Freytag proposed an analysis of a play as: rising action, climax and falling action. The use of this style is apparent in the play:

The rising action of the play at the following dramatic points - when Ruth discovers that she is pregnant; Mama makes a down payment on a house; Mama gives Walter the remaining insurance money; Walter invests the money in the liquor store venture. Rising action begins immediately with Walter's obsession with the insurance check that the family is waiting for. He wakes up talking about it, he argues with his sister about it, and he suggests that his wife assist him in his plan to get Mama to sign the check over to him for his business venture. Aristotle used the term complication for rising action.

The climax of A Raisin in the Sun occurs with Bobo's telling Walter that Willy has run off with all of Walter's invested insurance money and includes the family's immediate response to this tragic news, Asagai makes Beneatha realize that she is not as independent as she thinks.

The falling action occurs as Walter is contemplating selling his pride for Lindner's money and then deciding not to do so; the Youngers move out of the apartment to their new house in the white neighbourhood; Beneatha finds new strength in Asagai.


Mrs Johnson's news that a black family's house has been bombed foreshadows the objections that the Clybourne Park Improvement Association will raiseto the idea of the Youngers moving in; Walter's hints to Travis that he is investing the insurance money foreshadows the disappearance of the money.

With that, moving day is back on. Everyone finishes packing up as the movers come to take the furniture.