A Raisin in the Sun Questions and Answers
by Lorraine Hansberry

A Raisin in the Sun book cover
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Analyze this quote from "A Raisin in the Sun": "We ain't no business people Ruth, we just plain working folks."

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the opening scene of the play, Ruth asks Lena Younger what she is going to do with the ten thousand dollar insurance check. When Ruth proceeds to bring up Walter's dreams of owning a liquor store, Lena replies,

"We ain’t no business people, Ruth. We just plain working folks" (Hansberry, 45).

Lena's comment is significant and depicts her self-awareness and initial perception of her son's dreams. Lena is a rational individual, who has worked hard her entire life and witnessed her husband do the same. Unlike her free-spirited daughter, Lena is uneducated and she does not share the same aspirations as her son, Walter Lee, which result in conflict between them. Lena's views contrast with her son's audacious dreams, which contributes to his depression when she initially refuses to fund his business ventures.

Lena's comment also foreshadows Walter's lack of business savvy and naive personality. Walter is under the impression that he could quickly and easily transition from being a chauffeur to a successful businessman. However, Walter Lee discovers the hard way that shrewd businessmen like Willy Harris can instantly take advantage of people after Willy runs away with what is left of the insurance money. Despite losing the money, Walter Lee finally acknowledges that he is a family man and not a businessman by refusing to sell their home in Clybourne Park back to Mr. Lindner.

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eabettencourt eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This is Mama's response to her daughter-in-law Ruth's queries about the possibility of Mama giving some of her newly inherited insurance money to her son Walter (Ruth's husband) so that he can go into the liquor store business.  The quote demonstrates the divide between she and her son Walter.  He is striving to move ahead the only way he can think of and feels she is holding him back due to her lack of understanding of the importance of money to life.  She is striving to move her family ahead by refusing, believing that Walter needs to be the man of the family and not be involved in selling liquor, an act she sees as pseudo-sacriligeous.  The two cannot see eye to eye as members of different generations.  Mama does end up being, in a way, vindicated regarding this, as all the money she eventually gives to Walter is stolen because Walter allowed himself to be conned.  At this point, he arguably accepts that he is not a business man, but rather a family man.  He seems to adjust his priorities as such by the play's resolution.

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