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.)