Abstract illustration of the houses of Clybourne Park

A Raisin in the Sun

by Lorraine Hansberry

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Act 3 Summary

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Last Updated on November 3, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1098

An hour later, gloom pervades the apartment. Asagai arrives in good spirits to visit Beneatha, but she is deeply depressed about the lost money. Asagai expresses sympathy for the family’s misfortune, asking Beneatha how she is feeling. She explains that she feels as though she has lost her entire future in an instant, with the decision being made by people who didn’t even bother to consult her first. She tells him about why she wanted to be a doctor, wanting to “fix up the sick” after seeing how doctors were able to cure a childhood friend who had a bad sledding accident. However, she fears that she has lost her idealism, and she dismisses dreams as pointless and childish. 

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Asagai argues in favor of idealism, gently reminding Beneatha that progress is not linear. She mocks his dreams of African independence, stating that once the colonizers are defeated, there will be a new generation of Black “thieves and crooks and just plain idiots” to take their place. However, Asagai passionately rebukes her arguments, stating that progress is not a circle of “misery” but a long line of idealists working continuously toward something better. He encourages her to look past the money, pointing out that it was never truly hers to begin with. Instead, he reflects on his own future after returning home to Nigeria, where he hopes to spread revolutionary ideas. He knows that he may be assassinated in his sleep, but he may also become a “great man” who leads his people to liberation. Some day, when he is old and his ideals are no longer needed, his death—at the hands of his own countrymen, rather than white colonizers—may help “replenish” his people and usher forth further progress.

Beneatha seems to recover her former spirits somewhat following his speech, but she is still at a loss when Asagai asks her what she wants from her future. He then quietly proposes that someday she might join him in Africa as his wife. Beneatha is receptive to his suggestion, but she tells him that she needs time to think, as too much has happened too quickly. Asagai leaves Beneatha to her thoughts. 

Walter then enters the room in a manic state, searching for something. Beneatha hurls insults at him, but he ignores her. After finally recovering what he seemed to have been looking for—a small, white piece of paper—he leaves the apartment. 

Ruth and Lena then enter, with Lena indicating that they should call the movers and cancel, since they charge for travel time. She seems resigned to not moving, her spirits crushed. She recalls how people from her hometown used to call her prideful and “high-minded,” saying she would someday get “her due.” Ruth frantically tries to reassure her mother-in-law that they can still make things work, as the four of them put together should be able to pay the monthly dues on the house. However, Lena seems to have given up on her dream of owning a house, instead focusing on how they might improve the apartment with some new furniture. 

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Walter reenters with a new sense of vigor. He tells Ruth, Lena, and Beneatha that he has invited Mr. Lindner over and intends to accept the association’s offer to buy the Youngers out of their house. He explains that being scammed by Willy has taught him that life is divided up between the “takers and the ‘tooken.” Good people like the Youngers get taken advantage of because they are always concerned with morality. He sardonically thanks Willy for teaching him this lesson, vowing to keep his eye on “what matters” going forward.

The rest of the Youngers are shocked and outraged by Walter’s decision, unable to believe that he would stoop so low. Lena tells him that even her enslaved and sharecropping ancestors had never stooped so low as to “let nobody pay 'em no money that was a way of telling us we wasn’t fit to walk the earth.” However, Walter ignores her distress, telling her that he is making this decision as “a man.”

His resolve falters somewhat when Lena asks him how groveling for Mr. Lindner will make him feel. Walter begins practicing the speech he will give to Mr. Lindner, faltering as he injects it with racial stereotypes and humiliating rhetoric. He breaks down completely by the end, retreating to the bedroom. Beneatha calls him a “toothless rat” who is “no brother of” hers. However, Lena rebukes her, stating that people most need love when they are at their lowest. She encourages Beneatha to view Walter with compassion rather than scorn.

Travis enters to report that the moving men have arrived just as Mr. Lindner also appears at the door. Ruth informs Walter of Lindner’s arrival, and he sheepishly emerges from the bedroom. Mr. Lindner expresses satisfaction over hearing that the Youngers had changed their minds. Ruth tries to send Travis downstairs, but Lena stops her and instead insists that Travis stay and watch the proceedings. She tells Walter to “teach him good . . . like Willy Harris taught you.”

Walter, with the mannerisms of a “young boy,” haltingly begins explaining to Mr. Lindner that his family is made up of “plain people” who have all worked hard in life. However, after mentioning his father, he takes on a sudden intensity, informing Mr. Lindner that his father once almost beat a man to death for calling him a bad name. He then points out that Beneatha is someday going to be a doctor and that the family is “very proud.” He then calls Travis over to him and informs Mr. Lindner that the family will not be accepting the buyout. Instead, they will strive to be “good neighbors.”

Mr. Lindner appeals to Lena, who tells him that her “son said we was going to move” and that she has nothing else to add. Mr. Lindner then departs, telling the family that he hopes they know what they are getting into. The Youngers all ignore his departure, instead focusing on reigniting the moving effort. Lena and Ruth begin directing the movers. As they work, Beneatha tells her mother about Asagai’s proposal, but their conversation is interrupted as Walter questions why Beneatha would want to go to Africa. The siblings begin bickering in their usual manner as they carry boxes out of the apartment.

Ruth and Lena, left alone in the apartment, reflect on the fact that Walter finally “came into his manhood.” Ruth then departs, leaving Lena to look around the apartment one last time.

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Act 2, Scene 3 Summary