In A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry shows three major female characters in very different stages in their lives. Lena wants to save her family from dissolution by resolving conflicts, remaining righteous and being the rock and the leader of the Youngers. Beneatha wants to both develop her intellect by attending school and be of service to humanity by practicing medicine; Ruth, on the other hand, wants Travis to grow up in a decent home in a decent neighborhood. However, they all share a common goal for their family.
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Although different from each other, the women remain unified at the end of the play when the whole family decides to move into a new house, significant because they would rather face the dangerous risk of moving into a racist neighborhood than stay in their poor situation. Mama portrays the traditional, holy, black woman during the period of the civil rights movement, much like that of the time she is the backbone in their house and supports the family through their many trials and tribulations. Throughout the play Walter, Lena Younger’s son, is undoubtedly a catalyst in the troubles the family faces.
He seems helpless and feels he is less than a man because his family is poor and he has so many aspirations. During the play he lobbies for the support of the family to give him the money to invest in a liquor store, and finally in a critical scene, even though she has her doubts, Mama hands over part of the ten thousand dollars of his father’s life insurance to him. Walter may not know it but she is handing over the duty as the head of the household to him. After their heart-wrenching face to face talk with her son, Lena doesn't want his dream to be deferred, she says, "Listen to me now. I say I've been wrong, son.
That I been doing what the rest of the world been doing to you" ( ). Through giving this money to Walter, Lena hopes his spirits will lift before the family loses him. She then says, "There ain't nothing worth holding on to, money, dreams, nothing else if it means it's going to destroy my boy". ( ). It is evident that there is nothing more important to Lena than her family's happiness, and as a mother she only has Walter's best interest in mind. Although Lena can be seen as an old-fashioned black woman she also displays some forward thinking on her part when she buys a house for her family.
Not only does she just buy a house but she dares to buy one in a white neighborhood. She knows she is taking a risk but she does it anyway to improve her family's living situation, advancing on the concept that her family always comes first. The house that she brought was the best she could find for her money and she wasn't going to be denied such an opportunity because of the racist neighborhood. She is tired of her family being held back by white society in which Walter is mostly the victim. At one point Lena waivers at moving because Walter loses the money. She loses hope for a moment.
This scene is the most dramatic scene because when Lena learns that Walter lost the money, she slaps him with anger. She then illustrates how hard his father worked for the money. She says "I seen... him... night after night... come in ... and look at that rug... and then look at me... the red showing in his eyes... the veins moving in his head... I seen him grow thin and old before he was forty ... working and working like somebody's old horse ... killing himself ... and you - you give it all away in a day... " ( ). Lena just couldn't stand the thought of her husband working everyday for nothing.
However, even though she didn't like what he did, she later scolds Beneatha for criticizing him because she doesn't want Walter to be hurt any further. Ruth and Lena show tremendous understanding with Walter. In the story Hansberry describes Ruth by writing, "We can see that she was a pretty girl, even exceptionally so, but now it is apparent that life has been little that she expected, and disappointment has already begun to hang in her face" ( ). It is apparent by the way Hansberry describes Ruth that times have been hard for her.
It is understandable though, black women were expected to do domestic work as well as work outside the home to complement their husband's income and effectively handle both major tasks. Ruth also displays a lot of strength when she deals with a pregnancy that the family may not be able to support. Through all of these responsibilities more stress is added on to the fact that Walter shuts her out emotionally. Ruth’s relationship with Walter becomes distant as the play goes on, Walter simply doesn't feel the support he needs from her and he doesn’t know how to get back to a good place with their relationship.
Ruth doesn't seem supportive at first, however she really understands him, she wants a better life for her family, too but she's just more of a realist. Ruth does tip-off Lena that Walter wanted the money to start a business when she says, "Ain't nobody business people till they go into business. Walter Lee say colored people ain't never going to start getting ahead till they start gambling on some different kinds of things in the world - investments and things". ( ).
After Lena mentions buying a house Ruth gets excited because she knows that to save her marriage and her family they must move into the new house, it also means that she can keep the new baby on the way. Beneatha's character in A Raisin in the Sun portrays how a radical, independent black female would act, she represents a new generation of women that to be free. In one part of the play Beneatha rejects God, saying “I’m sick about hearing about god” Her intense personality and stubborn attitude is probably what causes her to lose her faith.
She doesn't realize that faith is what helped her family through hard times. Beneatha's main goal throughout the play was to pursue her education and become a doctor. During the civil rights movement a black female doctor is very rare and even thinking about entering practice may be looked down upon. In the beginning Beneatha was not supported by her brother Walter, he may have felt jealousy and couldn't stand the thought of part of the insurance money going to her schooling. He criticized Beneatha's dreams, which is hypocritical because he does not want anybody criticizing his.
Walter doesn't support his sister's dream of being a doctor because he wants the money for himself. Beneatha's love interests in the story confirm her beliefs. George Murchinson essentially believes in what her brother thinks and Asagai supports her. George is not sensitive enough to notice that Beneatha is an intellectual and only feels he needs to suit her physical needs as well. Asagai, on the other hand, appeals to Beneatha's intellectual and psychological needs. Beneatha is at a stage where she wants to feel at ease and be encouraged to philosophize and express her opinions.
She is definitely more receptive towards Asagai because he supports her dreams. The Younger women may argue and disagree but would never betray their family or their race. They, as a whole, act not only as the rock of the family, but the glue that bonds everyone together. Walter would be lost without the support he receives and although he does not show it very often, he loves all of them very much. The women of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun play a key role in the stability of the family and a clear picture into the hearts and minds of the characters, they are an integral part of the play.
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