Abstract illustration of the houses of Clybourne Park

A Raisin in the Sun

by Lorraine Hansberry

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Extended Character Analysis

Walter Lee Younger, Lena Younger’s thirty-five-year-old son, lives at home and works as a chauffeur. Walter is deeply unhappy with his life and his job. His relationships with his family members are tenuous: his wife, Ruth, almost gets an abortion when she thinks Walter doesn’t love her anymore, and his sister, Beneatha, grows angry when Walter disparages her desire to become a doctor.

Walter is a serious and intense man who believes that the only way he can escape his working-class status and improve his life is through acquiring financial wealth. He dreams of becoming a wealthy business owner, investing his father’s life insurance money in a liquor store, and assuming his mother’s role as head of the family. However, he doesn't believe the women in his life support his aspirations. When Lena—who is in charge of her deceased husband’s life insurance—puts a down payment on a house in Clybourne Park, Walter becomes depressed and starts drinking. To boost his spirits, Lena provides him with a large portion of the money to invest in his liquor business. She also creates a fund for Beneatha's education. Walter feels immediately rejuvenated, and he gives this money to his friends Bobo and Willy. When Willy runs away with the money, Walter once again becomes deeply depressed. His mother physically attacks him for irresponsibly losing the money his father, Walter Sr., had worked for his entire life.

At the end of the play, Walter makes amends with his family. He stands up against Karl Lindner by refusing his offer and declaring that the family will move into the home in Clybourne Park. Walter describes how his father paved the way for the family to finally buy this new house and move to a new neighborhood. He realizes that having a real home is more important than his aspirations of owning a liquor business. Walter’s drastic character development in the final scenes demonstrates a newfound maturity and acceptance. In the words of Lena, Walter “finally [came] into his manhood.” Despite the harsh and difficult circumstances Walter faces throughout the play, he emerges as the new patriarch of the Younger family.

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