Examples of Characterization in "A Raisin in the Sun"
Lorraine Hansberry's play "A Raisin in the Sun" is about a multi-generational African-American family seeking to move from a small apartment on the south side of Chicago to a house in an all-white neighborhood. The decision to move is not an easy one, and the characters within the play struggle with themselves and each other to make choices that will have long-lasting effects on all their lives.
Walter Younger is the father and head of the family. He feels he is suffocating as a black man in a white world. In his job as a chauffeur, he views white men and white success and wants that kind of success for himself and his family. He wants to be a good role model for his family and especially for his son. He uses part of his mother's insurance check and spends it on what he thinks is a down payment on a liquor store partnership, but his friend Willy runs off with the money instead, which leaves Walter in despair. Toward the end of the play, Walter is able to regain some of his pride when he refuses to take money not to move into the house in the white neighborhood.
Ruth, Walter's wife, is a shadow of a character. She works as a maid and also cooks and cleans for the Younger family. She is described as young but with a face growing weary from disappointment in her circumstances. Ruth is quiet and is easily written off as a pushover, but she has the ability to stand up for what she wants, and what she wants more than anything is a home. She is willing to sacrifice nearly everything, including her unborn child, to achieve her dream.
Lena (Mama) Younger
Lena, Walter's mother, also works as a maid. The matriarch of the family, she is described as a traditional African-African woman and a devout Christian. She and Ruth share the same dream -- to move the family into a house. Lena discusses through the course of the play that she suffered, and that she comes from a family of suffering. She is tired and wants Walter to become the head of the family, but she doesn't know if she can trust him yet with that responsibility.
Beneatha, the oldest child of Ruth and Walter, is a completely different woman than the other women in the play. She is in college and wants to be a doctor. Beneatha is privileged and spends money foolishly. She fights with her parents because she does not view the world in the same way as they do. In the play, Beneatha must choose between two different men -- one who represents a "traditional" black man, with traditional black views, and an African immigrant, who represents individualism, self-efficacy and freedom from oppression.
Lori Garrett-Hatfield has a B.J. in Journalism from the University of Missouri. She has a Ph.D. in Adult Education from the University of Georgia. She has been working in the Education field since 1994, and has taught every grade level in the K-12 system, specializing in English education, and English as a Second Language education.