A Raisin in the Sun Questions and Answers
by Lorraine Hansberry

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What is the conflict between Mama and herself in " A Raisin in the Sun"?

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Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The internal conflict in Lena Younger, or Mama, shapes the entire play, because she is the beneficiary of her husband’s life insurance policy. The other characters express their desires about what to do with the money but then remind themselves and each other that it is Lena’s money. Now that her husband is dead, she is the head of the family, but, with a residue of patriarchal control, she wants to let Walter be the head. Part of the difficulty he has experienced is the constraints of low wages that have kept him, his wife, and their son living with his parents. The paradox for Lena is that his fervent desire to be successful is embedded in her giving him the money to open his business.

Mama experiences a constant struggle over the extent to which she should shape her son’s future and that of his family. When she learns that Ruth is contemplating an abortion, she is aghast but also conflicted, because she knows it is far from her decision to make.

Although Mama does not resolve her inner conflict when she decides to buy the house, she does seem to solve for herself the issue of whose decision it is and whose money it is. The fact that she could think through such a complicated decision, on the practical, social, and financial levels—and that this older lady is the one to take the courageous step to move to a while neighborhood—at first leaves her entire family speechless. She is confident in this decision, however, because she knows that the house is a real gift; she can leave it the family in future as well as provide a home for them all right away.

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Mama sees herself as head of the family and yet wants her son, Walter, to grow up. As a result, she is conflicted about how much freedom she can and should allow Walter. At first, she refuses to even listen to Walter and his dreams of the liquor store. Eventually, she relents and lets Walter have control of what's left of the money after she's put a down payment on a house in an all-white neighborhood. After Walter loses the money, she finally realizes she must support her son's decisions if he is to grow up. She says to Benethea that they must support Walter even when he's at his lowest. Eventually, her faith in her son is rewarded when he refuses Linder's offer and says, "He finally came into his manhood today."

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