A Raisin in the Sun portrays a few weeks in the life of the Youngers, an African-American family living on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s. When the play opens, the Youngers are about to receive an insurance check for $10,000. This money comes from the deceased Mr. Younger’s life insurance policy. Each of the adult members of the family has an idea as to what he or she would like to do with this money. The matriarch of the family, Mama, wants to buy a house to fulfill a dream she shared with her husband. Mama’s son, Walter Lee, would rather use the money to invest in a liquor store with his friends. He believes that the investment will solve the family’s financial problems forever. Walter’s wife, Ruth, agrees with Mama, however, and hopes that she and Walter can provide more space and opportunity for their son, Travis. Finally, Beneatha, Walter’s sister and Mama’s daughter, wants to use the money for her medical school tuition. She also wishes that her family members were not so interested in joining the white world. Beneatha instead tries to find her identity by looking back to the past and to Africa.

As the play progresses, the Youngers clash over their competing dreams. Ruth discovers that she is pregnant but fears that if she has the child, she will put more financial pressure on her family members. When Walter says nothing to Ruth’s admission that she is considering abortion, Mama puts a down payment on a house for the whole family. She believes that a bigger, brighter dwelling will help them all. This house is in Clybourne Park, an entirely white neighborhood. When the Youngers’ future neighbors find out that the Youngers are moving in, they send Mr. Lindner, from the Clybourne Park Improvement Association, to offer the Youngers money in return for staying away. The Youngers refuse the deal, even after Walter loses the rest of the money ($6,500) to his friend Willy Harris, who persuades Walter to invest in the liquor store and then runs off with his cash.

In the meantime, Beneatha rejects her suitor, George Murchison, whom she believes to be shallow and blind to the problems of race. Subsequently, she receives a marriage proposal from her Nigerian boyfriend, Joseph Asagai, who wants Beneatha to get a medical degree and move to Africa with him (Beneatha does not make her choice before the end of the play). The Youngers eventually move out of the apartment, fulfilling the family’s long-held dream. Their future seems uncertain and slightly dangerous, but they are optimistic and determined to live a better life. They believe that they can succeed if they stick together as a family and resolve to defer their dreams no longer.


This play tells the story of a lower-class black family’s struggle to gain middle-class acceptance. When the play opens, Mama, the sixty-year-old mother of the family, is waiting for a $10,000 insurance check from the death of her husband, and the drama will focus primarily on how the $10,000 should be spent.

The son, Walter Lee Younger, is so desperate to be a better provider for his growing family that he wants to invest the entire sum in a liquor store with two of his friends. The mother objects mainly for ethical reasons; she is vehemently opposed to the idea of selling liquor. Minor conflicts erupt over their disagreements.

When Mama decides to use part of the money as a down payment on a house in a white neighborhood, her conflict with Walter escalates and causes her deep anguish. In an attempt to make things right between herself and her son, Mama entrusts Walter Lee with the rest of the money. He immediately invests it secretly in his liquor store scheme, believing that he will perhaps quadruple his initial investment.

One of Walter Lee’s prospective business partners, however, runs off with the money, a loss which tests the spiritual and psychological mettle of each family member. After much wavering and vacillating, the Youngers decide to continue with their plans to move — in spite of their financial reversals and in spite of their having been warned by a weak representative of the white neighborhood that blacks are not welcome.


How It All Goes Down

Set in the aftermath of World War II, the Younger family is facing its own war against racism in the Chicago slums. America’s complicated history of racial tension between black Americans and white Americans is ingrained into the Youngers’ everyday lives. Single mother (and grandmother) Lena Younger, her daughter Beneatha, and her son Walter (plus his wife Ruth and their son Travis) squeeze into a run-down two-bedroom apartment. According to our count, that’s five people in a space built for three.

Not only do these characters feel confined by their physical home space, they also feel restricted by the social roles they’ve been assigned. For example, socially-progressive Beneatha (Bennie) studies to become a doctor, despite the financial strain it puts on the low-income family. Walter works as a chauffeur for a white man, but he dreams of opening a liquor store with his buddies and making more money for his family. His wife Ruth draws no attention to her own desires, cleaning up after the rest of the family members as well as the houses where she works. Toward the beginning of the play, we learn that Ruth is pregnant, which only complicates the family situation. The family is not affluent enough to provide for another life, so Ruth prepares to abort her child.

But the Youngers have a chance at a new beginning. Ten thousand dollars is coming in the mail, and Lena must decide what to do with it. Bennie hopes for tuition money, Walter hopes for the down payment on his liquor store, and Ruth just wants her family to be happy. Then three huge events happen: 1) Lena decides to buy a house for the family…in a white neighborhood, 2) Lena entrusts the rest of the money to Walter, advising him to save a good amount for Beneatha’s schooling, and 3) Walter loses all the money in the liquor store scam. Morale goes from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.

When a white man, Karl, comes to buy out the Youngers’ new house, Walter figures that giving in to The Man is the only way to get some money for his family. In the play’s climactic moment, Walter must decide between standing up for his family’s rights and standing up for his ego and role as the breadwinner of the family. Fortunately for the Youngers, and for Broadway history, Walter sides with his family’s rights and declines Karl’s offer. The family will move into their new home.

Regents English Prep Online


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