Describe the relationship between Mama and Walter in the play "A Raisin in the Sun"?

Expert Answers
gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lena Younger and her son, Walter Jr., have a unique, complex relationship throughout the play. Initially, Lena dismisses Walter Jr.'s wish to use the insurance money to invest in a liquor business. Lena's initial decision to not support Walter Jr.'s dream creates conflict in their relationship, and Walter feels that his mother is overlooking him like the rest of society. Walter becomes deeply depressed, refuses to go to work, and drinks all day long. After Lena witnesses her son's reaction to her spending most of the insurance money to buy a home in Clybourne Park, she sympathizes with her son and decides to give him the remainder of the money to invest in his liquor business and pay for Beneatha's education. Mama displays her affection for her son by telling Walter Jr.,

Listen to me, now. I say I been wrong, son. That I been doing to you what the rest of the world been doing to you.

Walter Jr.'s attitude instantly improves after receiving the insurance money, and the audience gets a glimpse of what life would be like for the Youngers if they were financially stable. Before Walter Jr. loses the money to a shady business partner, he treats his mother kindly and even buys her a gift. In the absence of financial difficulties, Lena and Walter Jr.'s relationship instantly improves.

Even after Walter Jr. loses the money, Lena displays her love and affection for her son by showing him sympathy and challenging Beneatha to have empathy for Walter. Lena clearly cares about her son and influences him to not sell the home to Mr. Lindner at the end of the play. Walter Jr. reveals his change of heart and love for his mother by refusing to sell her home back to the white community. Overall, Lena and Walter Jr. have a turbulent relationship, but their love for one another perseveres, and they decide to move into the new home in Clybourne Park together.

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is a power struggle going on between Mama and Walter that infuses the entire play with tension between the two. Walter is in his 30's and still lives with his mother along with his wife and son. He truly believes that no one really listens to him and he wants to be thought of as the man of the house. However, to Mama and, even to Ruth, Walter's actions seem immature and untrustworthy. Walter wants to invest the money from his father's insurance in a liquor store, something Mama is stubbornly opposed to. Mama says point blank, "I'm too old to have that [ the liquor story] on my ledger ( or list of sins). Mama controls the house and even her other child Beneatha. When Beneatha implies there is no God, Mama slaps her and makes her say, "In my Mama's house there is God." Mama has to learn to let her go enough so they can make decisions on their own. Walter desperately needs some practice making decisions. When Mama finally gives Walter some of the inheritance money, Walter foolishly loses it. However, realizing that Walter needs her support, she says to Beneatha, "When do you think the time to love someone is." She also wisely makes Travis stay when Lindner returns with his offer. Thus, Mama finally sees that the way to help Walter is to make him see the consequences of his actions through his son. Finally, Walter does "come into his manhood" when he rejects Lindner's offer and Mama finally feels she can trust her son.