A Raisin in the Sun Characters
by Lorraine Hansberry

A Raisin in the Sun book cover
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A Raisin in the Sun Characters

The main characters in A Raisin in the Sun are Lena Younger, Walter Younger, Beneatha Younger, Ruth Younger, and Travis Younger.

  • Lena Younger is the matriarch of the Younger family. With her steady and resolute nature, she supports her family members.
  • Walter Lee Younger is Lena's son and Ruth's wife. He hopes to begin a new life by opening a liquor store.
  • Beneatha Younger is Lena's daughter. She is in college and dreams of becoming a doctor.
  • Ruth Younger is Walter's wife. She feels overworked in her roles as a domestic worker and mother.
  • Travis Younger is Walter and Ruth's 10-year-old son. He is unique in his contentedness with life.

Characters

Lena Younger (Mama)

Lena Younger, also known as Mama, is the matriarch of the Younger family and plays a significant role in the events of the play. A retired domestic worker, she works tirelessly to ensure the well-being of her family, keeping her religious faith and remaining optimistic in spite of financial and social challenges. As shown through her actions and her faith, Lena is a proud Black woman and serves as the family's source of strength, stability, and spiritual center. (Read our extended character analysis of Lena Younger.)

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Walter Lee Younger

Walter Lee Younger, Lena Younger’s 35-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. (Read our extended character analysis of Walter Lee Younger.)

Beneatha

Beneatha “Bennie” Younger is Lena’s 20-year-old daughter. A college student, Beneatha aspires to be a doctor, and she relies on her father’s life insurance money for her medical school tuition. Beneatha is attractive and well educated but still young, immature, and, at times, selfish. She argues with her brother, Walter, who believes she should become a nurse, and she rebels against her mother’s traditional view on religion. Still unsure of her identity, Beneatha explores various hobbies like horseback riding and playing guitar, despite her mother's accusation that she simply moves from one interest to the next. Throughout the course of the play, she dates two men: the wealthy George Murchison and the Nigerian-born Joseph Asagai. Beneatha dislikes George because he eschews his African heritage; however, she falls for Joseph Asagai, who embraces his African identity and encourages her to wear an afro instead of a straightened hairstyle.

Ruth

Ruth Younger is Walter’s thirty-year-old wife. Once an attractive woman, Ruth’s “disappointment has already begun to hang in her face.” She is a domestic servant who, like Lena, works tirelessly to keep her family together. At the start of the play, Ruth and Walter’s relationship is strained, and Walter blames Ruth for his life’s misfortunes. Despite these strains, Ruth goes to any and all lengths to save their marriage, from trying to persuade Lena to allow Walter to invest in the liquor store to even considering aborting their unborn child to save their family from additional financial and emotional burdens. However, when she discovers that Lena has put a down payment on a larger house in Clybourne Park, Ruth’s hope is renewed, her marriage improves, and she keeps the baby.

Travis

Travis Willard Younger is Ruth and Walter’s ten-year-old son. He is a handsome boy and everyone dotes on him. He is content with how things are and enjoys the attention he receives from his family. Unlike his father, who aspires to rise above...

(The entire section is 805 words.)