Abstract illustration of the houses of Clybourne Park

A Raisin in the Sun

by Lorraine Hansberry
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In A Raisin in the Sun, what is Ruth's relationship with the other family members?

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Overall, Ruth’s relations with the other family members are very good. Lena is the family matriarch and the mother of Walter , but she and Ruth generally get along as a mother and daughter would. Lena may empathize with her because she also married into the family. During the...

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Overall, Ruth’s relations with the other family members are very good. Lena is the family matriarch and the mother of Walter, but she and Ruth generally get along as a mother and daughter would. Lena may empathize with her because she also married into the family. During the period the play considers, Ruth and Walter are going through a rocky patch because of the pressure over the insurance money. Ruth has decided that she will stay out of the conflict, but Walter tries to draw her into it. Finally she speaks with Lena but stops short of campaigning for Walter’s projected use of the money because she does not fully support it.

The burden of her responsibilities has taken a toll on Ruth. She takes care of her own son and seems to do much of the cooking and housework. But it is the constant worry over money and the living in shared circumstances because she and Walter cannot afford their own place that really wear her down. Lorraine Hansberry describes her as once having been

a pretty girl, even exceptionally so, but now it is apparent that life has been little that she expected, and disappointment has already begun to hang in her face.

As mother to Travis, she must push and pull at him, worried that their neighborhood will drag him down. She also has the challenge of living with two additional adults in addition to his father, all of whose authority may contradict her own views of childrearing.

Ruth sees that Beneatha will have choices that were not available to her. While she supports the younger woman’s freedom to choose her own path, she also thinks her sister-in-law in spoiled and selfish. She calls Bennie fresh and tells her mother that “this child ain’t sweet on nobody but herself.”

The conflicts with Walter relate both to his personal ambitions, which Ruth thinks are misguided, and his treatment of her. Rather than treat her as an equal partner, Walter withdraws from her to go out with his friends. At one point she exclaims, “let him go on out and drink himself to death! He makes me sick to my stomach!”

After the money situation is settled, Ruth becomes more elated than anyone else. She buys curtains for the new house, and she and Walter go to the movies; when they come out, she tells Beneatha, they are still holding hands. Clearly it is not the money itself but the prospect of transforming their lives that has renewed Ruth’s hope, as well as changing her mind to carry her baby to term.

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In the play Ruth seems to play the role of mother figure to all characters. She acts as peacemaker during the various conflicts that go on between her family. She looks after Travis and does her best to bring him up. She speaks to Mama on behalf of her husband. Note how she tries to sooth Mama after her argument with her children:

RUTH (Soothingly, older than her years) Now.... you taking it all too serioiusly. You just got strong-willed children and it takes a strong woman like you to keep 'em in hand.

It is interesting that Ruth is described as "older than her years." It is clear that in this family she is the mature one that manages to hold all of the disparate elements together.

However, her role as mother figure is most cemented by the discovery that she is pregnant. Her decision to keep the baby is one of the key indicators that suggest hope for the Yonger family as they move to their new place and confirms Ruth's role as nurturer of the Younger family.

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