Abstract illustration of the houses of Clybourne Park

A Raisin in the Sun

by Lorraine Hansberry

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Who are characters that appear in act 1 of A Raisin in the Sun, and what specific character traits do we learn about them?

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In act 1 of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, we meet Lena Younger (known as Mama); Walter Younger, along with his wife, Ruth, and their son, Travis; Beneatha Younger; and Joseph Asagai, and we get a strong sense of their characters almost at once.

Mama is the matriarch of the family, but she is very much bothered by the behavior of her children. She is a woman of faith who tries to keep the peace and a sense of morality in her family, and she is detail-oriented and committed to making a nice home. In fact, she wants to use the money from her husband's life insurance check to purchase a new home for the family so they can have a nicer place to live and a garden. She thinks back to the past and recalls her struggles then and now.

Walter Younger is a selfish man. He is convinced that he needs the insurance money to invest in his scheme of buying a liquor store, and he doesn't care much about what the rest of the family needs or wants. Walter is irresponsible, too, and he acts before he thinks, giving Travis money, for instance, and then needing to borrow from Ruth for his car fare. Walter is dissatisfied with his life, argumentative, and seemingly uncaring.

Ruth is a practical woman who is tired of her husband's drinking and angst. She works hard and tries to raise her son responsibly. Now, Ruth has found out that she is pregnant again, and she is so upset about the situation that she considers having an abortion. Ruth is also against Walter's liquor store scheme because she wants a respectable life.

Travis is a ten-year-old boy who is mostly content with his life. He is willing to work for the fifty cents he needs for school but is glad enough to accept money from his father. Travis is especially close to his grandmother.

Beneatha Younger is a bitter young woman who wants to become a doctor. She seems to think that the whole world, and especially her family, is against her, and she has lost her faith in God. Beneatha wants to rediscover her African heritage, but mostly as a vehicle for her pride. Beneatha cannot seem to settle to anything, and she tends to be confrontational.

Finally, Joseph Asagai encourages Beneatha to explore her African roots, and he would very much like to be closer to her. Joseph is an intellectual, but he is also rather contradictory in his opinions.

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