A Raisin in the Sun Additional Summary

Lorraine Hansberry


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Walter Younger, Sr., known as Big Walter, has died, leaving his widow, Lena, with a life insurance policy worth ten thousand dollars. Lena wants to use the money as a down payment on a house in the suburbs so that her family can leave their crowded and shabby Chicago apartment. Lena’s son, Walter, disgusted with his job as a rich white man’s chauffeur, wants to invest the insurance money in a liquor store with two partners, Willy and Bobo. Beneatha, Walter’s younger sister, a college student, wants to use part of the money to pay for medical school.

The family argues over how to spend the insurance money. Walter tells his sister to forget about medical school and become a nurse or get married like other women. He appeals to his mother to give him the money so that he can pursue his dream of entrepreneurship and thereby improve the family’s circumstances, but Lena is skeptical about investing in the liquor business. Beneatha and her mother also argue about religion. Lena maintains that Beneatha needs God’s help to become a doctor, and Beneatha asserts that God has little to do with her educational achievements.

Lena informs Walter that his wife, Ruth, is pregnant and is considering terminating her pregnancy because she does not wish to add another family member to their crowded household. Lena encourages Walter to confront his wife and express his desire to have another child, but Walter storms out of the apartment in anger. As he leaves, Lena calls him a disgrace to his father’s memory.

Beneatha is visited by two suitors, Joseph Asagai and George Murchison. Asagai, who has recently returned from his native Nigeria, brings Beneatha a traditional African gown and headdress and encourages her not to become an assimilationist Negro by forgetting her African heritage. George, the son of a well-to-do African American family, urges Beneatha to divorce herself from her heritage and not to take her studies too seriously.


(The entire section is 805 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

A Raisin in the Sun is a moving drama about securing one’s dignity within a system that discriminates against, even enslaves, its racial minorities. Crowded into a tenement apartment, Lena (“Mama”) Younger and her adult children—a son, Walter Lee, Jr. (husband of Ruth and father of Travis) and a daughter, Beneatha—await the arrival of a ten-thousand-dollar insurance payment on Walter, Sr., in the expectation that dreams long deferred might be realized. As the children lay claims to the money—Walter for buying into a liquor store, Beneatha for her medical school tuition—Mama acts on the family’s need for a place to hold them together, purchasing a home in a white neighborhood.

Another leading black dramatist, Amiri Baraka, wrote of his play Dutchman (1964) that it concerns “the difficulty of becoming a man in America.” The same is true of A Raisin in the Sun, as Walter Lee attempts to define a rightful position for himself. A chauffeur for a well-to-do white, he feels himself restricted not only by class and racial boundaries but also by a mother who will not condone his business venture and a wife who seems not to support his pursuit of the dream. To his mother’s dismay, he equates money with life, having things with being somebody; he tries to live by white values, as exemplified in George Murchison, Beneatha’s assimilationist suitor. Like Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (1949), Walter looks to material success to satisfy essentially spiritual longings, not understanding that his own dream is flawed by the same class and sexual biases as that of his oppressors.

When Mama realizes what her son’s perceived lack of power is doing to him as a man, she entrusts the remaining insurance money to Walter, who is promptly bilked of it by his partner in the liquor store scheme. In his desperation, he tells the representative of the white community association...

(The entire section is 800 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Act I, Scene One
The opening scene of A Raisin in the Sun occurs on a Friday morning when the...

(The entire section is 1135 words.)