Analysis of Major Characters
In A Raisin in the Sun.
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,