What sympathy does the writer convey for Walter in this play and why?

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mvmaurno | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Hansberry demonstrates her sympathy for Walter by allowing Walter to redeem himself at the end of the play.  Throughout the play, Walter makes many poor decisions from his treatment of his wife and older sister to his decision on how to use his dead father's money given to him in full love and trust by his mother.  At the end of the play, Walter realizes the errors of his ways.  After investing money in a liquor store, so he can make money, be successful, and nurture his ego, he loses it all, and consequently shatters his mother's dream for their own home.  However, he doesn't resort to "selling his soul to the devil", otherwise known as the the neighborhood association, that tries to buy out the family, so they wouldn't move into a primarily white neighborhood. Although Walter would have regained the money he lost in his shady dealings with Bobo, he gains his self-respect and mama's admiration for being a man and not compromising what is right for the sake of money. By turning Walter's life and priorities around, we are able to fully sympathize with him and forgive his past errors.

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Hansberry feels sympathy for her character, Walter, for a number of reasons.  An African-American herself, she personally watched men struggle with issues of racism that kept them working in subserviant jobs.  Also, Hansberry was raised by parents who were very progressive and politically active.   Engendering a proud racial identity was something Hansberry frequently championed  in her work. 

As for the her character, Walter longs for the respect and opportunities that white Americans enjoy for himself, his son, and his wife.  In Act 2.2, he dreams aloud,  saying:  "You wouldn’t understand yet, son, but your daddy’s gonna make a transaction . . . a business transaction that’s going to change our lives. . . . That’s how come one day when you ‘bout seventeen years old I’ll come home . . . I’ll pull the car up on the driveway . . . just a plain black Chrysler, I think, with white walls—no—black tires . . . the gardener will be clipping away at the hedges and he’ll say, “Good evening, Mr. Younger.” And I’ll say, “Hello, Jefferson, how are you this evening?” And I’ll go inside and Ruth will come downstairs and meet me at the door and we’ll kiss each other and she’ll take my arm and we’ll go up to your room to see you sitting on the floor with the catalogues of all the great schools in America around you. . . . All the great schools in the world!"

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