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A Raisin in the Sun

by Lorraine Hansberry

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Student Question

Describe the characterization of Big Walter in "A Raisin in the Sun".

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The original question had to be edited down.  I tend to think that Hansberry creates Big Walter as a figure whose only purpose was to take care of his family.  Big Walter is characterized by Mama Younger as one in which his entire sense of purpose was to look out for his family and ensure that his responsibilities were met.  While he might have had his flaws such as "running around," Mama, through her reveries, makes it clear that Big Walter would never let harm come to his family.  He controlled his home, ensuring himself to be the force that would guide his family.  There seems to have been a clear structure and understanding of roles in Big Walter's home.  It is in this where father becomes a stark contrast to the son.  I think that Big Walter is remembered in this manner by Mama because she sees her son, Walter, as not really embodying any of these traits.  Big Walter worked so hard to provide for his family that it ended up leading to his death.  Yet, this providing is evident in the fact that it is his life insurance money that becomes essential to the family's new start, and to Walter's hopeful emergence into being a shadow of the man that Big Walter was.  In this, one sees how Big Walter's presence is large even after his death even though he is never seen in the drama.

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