A Raisin in the Sun portrays a few weeks in the life of the Youngers, an African-American family living on the Side of Chicago in the 1950s. When the play opens, the Youngers are about to receive an insurance check for $10,000. This money comes from the deceased 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 fulfill a dream she shared with her husband. Mama’s son, Walter Lee, would rather use the money to invest in a liquor store 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 neighborhood. When the Youngers’ future neighbors find out that the Youngers are moving in, they send Mr. Lindner, from the Clybourne Park 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). The Youngers eventually move out of the apartment, fulfilling the family’s long-held dream. Their future seems uncertain and slightly dangerous, 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
Analysis of Major Characters
Walter As 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. The plot revolves around him and the actions that he takes, and his character evolves the most during the course of the play. 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.
Mama is Walter 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. Mama requires that the apartment in which they live always be neat and polished. She stands up for her beliefs and provides perspective from an older generation. She believes in striving to succeed while maintaining her moral boundaries; she rejects Beneatha’s progressive and seemingly 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. 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.
Beneatha is an attractive college student who provides a young, independent, feminist perspective, and her desire to become a doctor demonstrates her great ambition. 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 “Alaiyo,” which means “One for Whom Bread—Food—Is Not Enough.” 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.
One of Beneatha’s fellow students and one of her suitors, Asagai is from Nigeria, and throughout the play he provides an international perspective. Proud of his African heritage, he hopes to return to Nigeria to help bring about positive change and modern advancements. He tries to teach Beneatha about her heritage as well. He stands in obvious contrast to Beneatha’s other suitor, George Murchison,
List of all character and their roles
Walter Lee Younger -
The protagonist of the play. Walter is a dreamer. He wants to be rich and devisesplans to acquire wealth with his friends, particularly Willy Harris. When the play opens, he wants to invest his father’s insurance money in a new liquor store venture. He spends the rest of the play endlessly preoccupied with discovering a quick solution to his family’s various problems.
Beneatha Younger (“Bennie”) -
Mama’s daughter and Walter’s sister. Beneatha is an intellectual. Twenty years old, she attends 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. She dreams of being a doctor and struggles to determine her identity as a well-educated black woman.
Lena Younger (“Mama”) -
Walter and Beneatha’s mother. 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.
Ruth Younger -
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. 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. Her almost pessimistic pragmatism helpsher to survive.
Travis Younger -
Walter and Ruth’s sheltered young son. Travis earns some money by carrying grocery bags and likes to play outside with other neighborhood children, but he has no bedroom and sleeps on the living-room sofa.
Joseph Asagai -
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. He eventually proposes marriage to Beneatha and hopes she will return to Nigeria with him.
George Murchison - A wealthy, African-American man who courts Beneatha. The Youngers approve of George, but Beneatha dislikes his willingness to submit to white culture and forget his African heritage. He challenges the thoughts and feelings of other black people through his arrogance and flair for intellectual competition.
Mr. Karl Lindner -
The only white character in the play. Mr. Lindner arrives at the Youngers’ apartment from the Clybourne Park Improvement Association. He offers the Youngers a deal to reconsider moving into his (all-white) neighborhood.
One of Walter’s partners in the liquor store plan. Bobo appears to be as mentally slow as his name indicates. Willy Harris - A friend of Walter and coordinator of the liquor store plan. Willy never appears onstage, which helps keep the focus of the story on the dynamics of the Younger family.
Mrs. Johnson -
The Youngers’ neighbor. Mrs. Johnson takes advantage of the Youngers’ hospitality and warns them about moving into a predominately white neighborhood.
Themes of A RAISIN IN THE SUN
7] RACIAL AFFIRMATION
8] RIGHT OF CHOICE
10] DREAMS HOPE AND PLAN