Abstract illustration of the houses of Clybourne Park

A Raisin in the Sun

by Lorraine Hansberry

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Act 1, Scene 2 Summary

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Last Updated on November 3, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 942

A few days later, Beneatha and Lena are in the middle of cleaning the apartment. They send Travis out to play while telling him to keep a watch for the postman, who is scheduled to deliver the letter that day. Beneatha asks Lena where Ruth is, and Lena tells her that Ruth is at “the doctor” while giving her a meaningful look. Beneatha seems to understand the implication, but the conversation is interrupted by a phone call. Beneatha answers it and invites the person on the other end to visit the apartment.

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Lena scolds Beneatha for inviting someone over when they are in the middle of cleaning. Beneatha explains that Joseph Asagai does not care “how houses look.” Asagai is a Nigerian student that Beneatha met at college. He has just returned from a semester abroad in Canada. She cautions her mother not to ask any “ignorant” questions about Africa.

Ruth returns home from the doctor and realizes that Beneatha and Lena are already aware of her condition: she is pregnant. Lena expresses enthusiasm over the idea of being a grandmother, and she hopes it will be a girl so that Travis can have a sister. However, Beneatha seems to share Ruth’s trepidation, wondering aloud where the child will sleep. A commotion from outside distracts the three women, and Ruth begins urgently calling Travis to come back inside.

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Travis returns and recounts how he and some of the other neighborhood children were chasing a rat. Once they had cornered it, several of the children worked together to kill it. Ruth, Lena, and Beneatha are all dismayed, and Ruth pulls Travis into a tight hug. Lena separates them as Ruth begins to cry, sending Travis back outside to play but advising him to stay away from any more rats.

The doorbell then rings, and Lena ushers Ruth to the bedroom while Beneatha greets Asagai at the door. Asagai has been courting Beneatha, but she has thus far been reluctant to commit to him seriously. He presents her with gifts: a traditional Nigerian robe and a set of records. Beneatha excitedly tries on the robes, and Asagai tells her she looks beautiful, even with her “mutilated” hair. A distraught Beneatha asks him what he means, and he explains that straightening her hair makes her an “assimilationist.”

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After finding out the robes are from Asagai’s sister’s wardrobe, Beneatha is shocked by his willingness to go to such lengths for her. He explains that he has romantic feelings for her, but Beneatha continues to rebuff his advances, telling him that sentiment alone “won’t do.” Further conversation is interrupted as Lena emerges from the bedroom.

Lena charms Asagai by parroting information Beneatha had earlier told her, including expressing sympathy over Nigeria’s ongoing colonial struggles. She also invites him to return for home-cooked meals, expressing dismay that he is so far away from his own family. As Asagai leaves, he refers to Beneatha as “Alaiyo,” a nickname. Lena asks what it means, and Asagai explains that it is a Yoruba term meaning “One For Whom Bread—Food—Is Not Enough.” Beneatha seems to understand his meaning, and Asagai departs with a promise to come visit again.

After Asagai’s departure, Lena remarks that he is quite handsome and mockingly tells Beneatha she now understands her sudden interest in African culture. Beneatha places the headdress that matches her new robes atop her head, but she seems dissatisfied with how it looks. She departs, exclaiming that she is going to become a “queen of the Nile.”

With Travis having returned from playing and Ruth having emerged from the bedroom, the mailman arrives and delivers the check the Youngers have been waiting for. Ruth and Travis are ecstatic over the prospect of being “rich,” but Lena seems conflicted, explaining that if it weren’t for her family, she likely would have either put the money into savings or donated it to her church. Ruth gently scolds her, stating that Big Walter wouldn’t want to hear her talk that way.

After sending Travis back outside to play, Lena begins interrogating Ruth about where she went earlier that day. However, their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Walter, who immediately asks about the check. He pleads with his mother to give him the money to invest in the liquor store, but she rebuffs him. She instead tells him to have a conversation with Ruth. However, Walter, angered by what he perceives as a lack of support, instead hurls insults at Ruth, who slams the door to the bedroom without getting the chance to tell him that she is pregnant.

Lena scolds Walter for treating Ruth badly before asking him what has been wrong with him the past few years. He has been dissatisfied with seemingly everything in life, despite having a wife, child, job, and place to live. Walter explains that he hates his job as a chauffeur and feels limited by life as a part of the working class. He longs to be wealthy and not have to serve others all day. Lena expresses dismay over his preoccupation with money before revealing that Ruth is pregnant. She also indicates that Ruth may be considering an abortion, which Walter dismisses, believing his wife would never do that. However, Ruth emerges from the bedroom and admits that she has already put a down payment on the procedure. Lena urges Walter to comfort his wife and discourage her from “destroying” their child. However, he is unable to find the words and instead walks out of the apartment, with Lena calling him a “disgrace to [his] father’s memory.”

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Act 1, Scene 1 Summary

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Act 2, Scene 1 Summary