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...
(The entire section is 744 words.)
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Joseph Asagai is a friend of Beneatha's who has been out of town all summer. He is from Nigeria and introduces Beneatha to Nigerian culture. He brings her a native African dress, for example, and also encourages her to let her hair grow naturally rather than have it straightened—although this encouragement is phrased in terms of an insult. He, in other words, introduces issues that would become prominent in the United States during the decade following the production of this play (issues related to African American pride and heritage). On the other hand, he discourages Beneatha from acting independently as a woman, arguing that the only true feeling a woman should have is passion for her husband.
Bobo is an extremely minor character. He appears near the end of the scene to convey the bad news that his and Walter's friend has absconded with their money. He feels as dejected as Walter since the amount of money he had contributed consisted of his entire savings.
Mrs. Johnson is a neighbor of the Youngers, and she is portrayed as nosy and manipulative. In her primary scene, she appears to be jealous of the Youngers's good fortune and seems to want to ruin it for them by raising their fears. In some versions of this play, her role is eliminated.
Karl is a white man and the represent of the Neighborhood Welcoming Committee for Clyboume...
(The entire section is 975 words.)