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When the play opens, the relationship between Ruth and Walter is definitely strained. At the time, we don't know it but Ruth is pregnant and unsure if she will be able to have the baby because there is simply not enough space in their cramped apartment. Walter and Ruth even struggle over Travis, Walter playing "the good guy" and Mama being the disciplinarian. In addition, there is a struggle for leadership of the family between Mama and Walter. Walter is already a husband and father yet he still lives with his mother and sister. He desperately wants something better and thinks this will come if he is allowed to spend his father's life insurance money on a liquor store. Mama, who is devoutly religious, simply refuses to have the money spent on what she considers to be a sinful business. In addition, Walter's sister, Beneatha, manages to be an irritant because of her haughty attitude and constant insistence that she will be a doctor. As Beneatha says, "We've all got ghetto-itis". During the play, the dynamics of the family changes as they are forced to confront racism that affects them all.
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