Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Lena Younger, called Mama, a retired domestic and the matriarch of the Younger family. In her early sixties, she is a religious, optimistic, and proud black woman. Recently widowed, she speaks of her departed husband with love and presents him as a role model for other family members to emulate. She is a self-sacrificing woman, and the well-being of her family occupies her thoughts. She does not hesitate to rebuke family members for actions that oppose the values that she and her husband promoted. Her husband’s ten thousand dollar life insurance policy gives Mama the means to purchase a house in the suburbs as a means of escaping the debilitating effects of their current slum living conditions.
Walter Lee Younger
Walter Lee Younger, a chauffeur and Lena’s son, still living at home in Mama’s crowded apartment. He is a slim, intense, thirty-five-year-old black man. Walter believes wealth to be the answer to his feelings of desperation and hopelessness as a slum resident and employee in a dead-end job. He has contempt for the women in his family, who, he thinks, do not support his aspiration to break from his working-class life to become a prosperous businessman. In such a prestigious position, Walter believes, he can finally assume his mother’s role as the head of the family and have the means to leave an admirable legacy to his son. To realize his dream, he wants to use the insurance money to invest in a liquor store with two of his friends.
Ruth Younger, a domestic and Walter’s wife. Thirty years old and in the first few months of pregnancy, she is a practical woman who, like Lena, cares deeply for the welfare of her family. The circumstances of her life have taken their toll: Her beauty has faded, and...
(The entire section is 744 words.)
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