Walter is the protagonist in the play simply because he causes the main conflicts in the play with other family members, especially his mother and his sister. He goes against the morals of the family tradition and tries to take the insurance money and use it in an unorthodox manner to make more money for the family while the family traditions dictates honor in using the money to better the family situation as a whole. He is selfish in his endeavors and inevitably is duped by his friend; this raises the question of "honor among thieves." His loyalty is to his friend rather than his family, which is another example of his being a protagonist.
The main theme concerns identity, and it is Walter who needs to deal with this issue. The protagonist usually develops in relation to the main conflict, and the conflict concerning identity develops most importantly around Walter, who, as the new "head" of the family, must assume that role of authority within the context of a strong father figure who is dead, the racism of the early 1960s, and a sense of failure in trying to support his family. Mama knows who she is; she knows how to solve the problems she faces. She has extraordinary wisdom and compassion, generating our love and admiration. Walter must struggle, and it is that struggle which pushes much of the plot. forward.