A Raisin in the Sun Questions and Answers
by Lorraine Hansberry

A Raisin in the Sun book cover
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What is the conflict between Walter and Mama in A Raisin in the Sun?  

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Olen Bruce eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Walter and Mama disagree about what to do with the insurance money that the Younger family will inherit. Walter wants to open a liquor store, while Mama is totally opposed to the idea. Mama wants to use the money buy her family a larger house in a different neighborhood.

Their conflict involves not only what they will do with the insurance money, but also their different belief systems. Walter pessimistically believes that the only way to achieve one's dreams is to prove one's material wellbeing. In Act I, Mama says, "Once upon a time freedom used to be life—now it’s money. I guess the world really do change." Walter replies to her, "No—it was always money, Mama. We just didn’t know about it." Mama believes that her life's goal is to achieve greater freedoms as an African-American woman, as she still remembers when her community was subject to lynching, and she wants to achieve greater freedom and a better chance for her family by moving to a house that they own. Walter concentrates on the material aspects of the American Dream until the end of the play, when he realizes his pride and freedom are worth more than money.

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lsumner eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Walter and Mama have a major conflict. Walter desires to take the insurance money and open an ABC store. Mama is totally against selling alcohol. She is against Walter's dream. She and Walter argue. Mama believes that Walter's dream is superficial. She is very religious. She does not believe in Walter's dream.

Walter argues with Mama. He is convinced that the ABC store will be a success. He believes his mother is against him without good reason. For this reason, he spends much of his time drinking and coming home in an argumentative mood.

Mama begins to see that Walter is suffering beyond words. He feels that he is a black man who has the odds against him. He does not want to spend the rest of his life driving as a chauffeur for a white rich man.

When Walter is at his lowest point, Mama decides to give Walter the money for his dream. Unfortunately, Walter gives the money to Willy. Willy runs off with the money.

Mama was right about Walter's dream. She knew that the dream and Walter's friends were artificial. Nevertheless, Mama trusted Walter with the insurance money. She put her faith in him. This helped change Walter for the better:

When his friend runs off with the money, Walter feels particularly hopeless, ironically, however, he achieves a sense of himself as an adult and leader of his family in part through this event.

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