In A Raisin in the Sun, why does Mrs. Johnson say that the Youngers are proud?

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Mrs. Johnson is a black neighbour of the Youngers who comes and visits them in Act II scene 2, after the Youngers have announced their intentions of moving into a white neighbourhood. She brings news of a black family who was bombed out of a white neighbourhood. However, she calls the Younger's proud after what Mama says about her son, Walter, and how he was not meant to be a servant to another man. It is clear that Mrs. Johnson feels the Youngers are trying to leave their community, and she interprets this as pride:

You sure one proud-acting bunch of coloured folks. Well--I always thinks like Booker T. Washington said that time--"Education has spoiled many a good plow hand"--

For Mrs. Johnson, the Youngers' desire to move on in the world is interpreted as a sign that they feel they are better than other blacks and don't want to associate with them any more. Hansberry here very astutely draws attention to the ways in which African Americans wanting to buy houses in white neighbourhoods not only faced opposition from whites, but also from their own friends and neighbours in their black communities.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Mrs. Johnson accuses the Youngers of being "proud" because she thinks that the Youngers feel that they are better than the others who live in the inner city with them.

After the life insurance check on Mr. Younger has been received and cashed, plans get under way for the Youngers to move from their shabby dwelling that is much too small for two families. In Act II, Scene 2, Mrs. Johnson, a rather intrusive neighbor, stops by and is artificially friendly. When she sees the packing crates, she remarks,

"Oh, ain't we getting ready round here, though! Yessir! Lookathere! I'm telling you the Youngers is really getting ready to "move on up a little higher! --Bless God."

Mrs. Younger understands the tone of Mrs. Johnson, who obviously is envious of the Youngers. She sits patiently while Mrs. Johnson looks around and then says with exaggeration, "I'm just sooooo happy for y'all." Then, she accepts a piece of sweet potato pie, even though she has said she cannot stay. She asks Mrs. Younger if she has read her copy of the news. Mrs. Younger replies that she has not received hers yet. Quickly Mrs. Johnson hands a newspaper to the mother. In this paper is an article about a black family who have moved into a suburb with headlines that read, "Negroes invade Cybourne Park--Bombed!"

Continuing her petty innuendos, Mrs. Johnson asks where Walter is, then makes remarks about Ruth's pregnancy. This prying neighbor further remarks that Beneatha is the only member of the family to make something of herself. Saying that she knows that working as a chauffeur has not satisfied Walter, she adds,

"He shouldn't feel like that though. Ain't nothing wrong with being a chauffeur."

Mrs. Younger disagrees, saying that her husband always felt that no man should work as a servant. Better that he work with his hands or to farm. "He [Walter] wasn't meant to wait on nobody!" When she hears this, Mrs. Johnson is offended and rises and says, "The Youngers are too much for me! You sure one proud-acting bunch of colored folks!"

Mrs. Johnson pretends that the Youngers are "uppity" now that Mrs. Younger has received the ten-thousand dollar insurance check, and they are forgetting their place in desiring to move to a suburb. Also, thinking that being a maid or a chauffeur is not a job for any of her children demonstrates Mrs. Younger's arrogance, Mrs. Johnson believes. In truth, she is probably envious of the Youngers because she would like to have a nicer place, too. That she greedily takes a piece of sweet potato pie and that she practically begs for a cup of coffee are, perhaps, indications that she has less than the Youngers. After all, it is rare that anyone is content to live in a tenement.

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