A Raisin in the Sun

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A Raisin in the Sun Act 2, Scene 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A week later, it is Saturday, moving day for the Youngers. Before the curtain rises, Ruth’s joyful singing “cuts through the silence” as she finishes the family’s packing. Beneatha enters and Ruth happily shows her some curtains that she bought for the new house. Ruth is exuberant and light-hearted and she tells Beneatha how Walter has “done changed so ‘round here.” Beaming, Ruth tells Beneatha that she and her husband went on a date to the movies last night and even held hands.
With the opportunity to fulfill his dream, Walter has become a new man, rededicating himself to his duties as a husband and father. With the confidence boost that accompanied his appointment as head of the household, Walter feels more self-assured and makes progress towards improving his relationship with Ruth.
Themes
Dreams Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Walter enters, carrying a large package. Like Ruth, he is happy and exuberant. He places the package in a corner and puts on a record. He and Ruth begin to dance “a classic, body-melding ‘slow drag,’” which prompts Beneatha to call them “old-fashioned [Negroes].” Continuing to dance, Walter playfully tells his sister, “Damn, even the N double A C P takes a holiday sometimes!” Beneatha and Ruth laugh. The doorbell rings and Beneatha answers it while Ruth and Walter continue their “clowning.” Beneatha is “surprised” to find a white man in a business suit at the door.
Walter lampoons his sister’s hardline views on race in a playful manner, in contrast to the siblings’ frequent arguments earlier in the play. The characters display a light-heartedness that was largely unknown in the earlier parts of the play, highlighting the redemptive power of dreams, when those dreams no longer seem entirely out of reach.
Themes
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
The man tells Beneatha that he is looking for Lena Younger. She briefly excuses herself, closes the door, and “soundlessly” explains to the oblivious Ruth and Walter that a white man is at the door. They stop dancing, turn off the music, and Beneatha reopens the door to invite the man inside. Beneatha tells the man that her mother isn’t home and Walter, “freely” and proudly, tells the man that he looks after his mother’s “business matters.” The man then introduces himself as Karl Lindner, a representative of the Clybourne Park Improvement Association. Walter is comfortable and at ease as he urges Lindner to have a seat and offers him a drink. Shuffling his hat and briefcase, Lindner is visibly uneasy.
Walter takes obvious pride in his new position as head of the household, as evidenced by his proud assertion that he handles Mama’s finances. From the Younger's actions it is clear that the arrival of Lindner, a white man, at their door is a very unusual circumstance, highlighting the deeply segregated nature of Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Themes
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
As Lindner sits and begins to explain the purpose of the Clybourne Park Improvement Association, Beneatha grows suspicious of Lindner’s explanation that the association exists to solve “special community problems.” The double meanings of Lindner’s statements escape Ruth and Walter, and Walter urges his sister to be quiet and allow Lindner to speak.
Beneatha quickly interprets the double meaning in “special community problems,” understanding that the Youngers’ move may be seen as a “community problem” by the (white) people of Clybourne Park. With racial issues at the forefront of her mind, Beneatha is extremely skeptical of and sensitive to Lindner and his mission in a way Walter and Ruth are not at first.
Themes
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
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Seeing that Lindner still looks uncomfortable, Ruth offers Lindner another chair to sit in, but “more frustrated than annoyed,” he declines. With a “great breath,” he launches into a speech about the “incidents” that have happened “when colored people have moved into certain areas.” Lindner states that the Clybourne Park Improvement Association is a “unique type of organization” because “not only do we deplore that kind of thing – but we are trying to do something about it.” This seemingly open-minded statement piques Beneatha’s interest and she begins to listen with “genuine interest.”
Extending the family’s hospitality, Ruth offers Lindner the chance to make himself more comfortable. He declines, perhaps embarrassed by the family’s dignity and politeness. When Lindner appears to show some support of racial tolerance, Beneatha momentarily reconsiders her assumptions about Lindner.
Themes
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Lindner continues his speech, “gaining confidence in his mission” when he sees the interest in his listeners’ faces. Lindner explains that the “hard-working, honest” people of Clybourne Park have “a dream of the kind of community they want to raise their children in.” He adds that, “right or wrong,” a man “has the right to want to have the neighborhood he lives in a certain kind of way.” Coming to his conclusion, Lindner says that the “overwhelming majority” of Clybourne Park believes, “rightly or wrongly,” that “for the happiness of all concerned that our Negro families are happier when they live in their own communities.” He tries to convince his listeners that “race prejudice simply doesn’t enter into” the association’s beliefs.
Lindner tarnishes the family’s dream of moving to Clybourne Park by supporting the "dream" of the people of Clybourne Park to live in a segregated community. In vain, Lindner attempts to distance himself from the message that he delivers to the Youngers, telling them that he cannot judge if Clybourne Park’s dream is “right or wrong.” Despite Lindner’s assertion, it is clearly apparent that some sort of race prejudice does factor into Clybourne Park’s decision, otherwise why would he be there at all?
Themes
Dreams Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
With this evidence of Lindner’s true motive in visiting the family, Beneatha bitterly denounces the so-called “Welcoming Committee.” Walter is “dumbfounded.” Lindner adds that the association is willing “to buy the house from you at a financial gain to your family.” Walter and Ruth are both appalled, and Walter tells Lindner to leave the apartment. Seeing the “hostile faces” of the Youngers, Lindner questions what the family hopes to gain “by moving into a neighborhood where you just aren’t wanted.” Before he exits, Lindner places his card on the table, in case the family changes its decision.
The family collectively maintains its pride by resoundingly rejecting Lindner’s degrading offer. Fortified by dignity, they refuse to sell their pride in exchange for money. The family refuses to succumb to racial prejudice, although Lindner’s closing words hang ominously in the air after he exits.
Themes
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Mama and Travis enter the apartment. “Smiling,” Beneatha says that Mama had a “caller,” and Beneatha, Walter, and Ruth “saucily” and playfully relate the story of Lindner’s visit. Visibly concerned by this news, Mama tends to her plant and asks whether Lindner threatened the family. Beneatha explains that Lindner’s efforts were much more subtle than that, summarizing his remarks as, “Everybody ought to learn how to sit down and hate each other with good Christian fellowship.”
Mama carefully tends to her plant, showing her concern for the survival of the family’s dream following Lindner’s visit. While the rest of the family makes light of Lindner’s visit, Mama worries about the physical dangers that may await the family in Clybourne Park. Beneatha's joke highlights the utter hypocrisy of Lindner's efforts.
Themes
Dreams Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Beneatha “laughingly” notices that Mama is carefully tending to her plant during this conversation. She asks Mama what she is doing, and Mama replies that she is fixing her plant so that it will survive the upcoming move. Beneatha is shocked that Mama plans to take “that raggedy-looking old thing” to the new house, to which Mama wittily snaps back, “It expresses ME!”
This conversation recalls an earlier exchange between Beneatha and Mama regarding Beneatha’s hobbies. For Mama, the plant represents the family’s perseverance and dedication to its deferred dreams. She takes great pride in its dogged survival, which symbolizes her own strength, her efforts to express herself through the survival and thriving of her family.
Themes
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Walter comes over to Mama and bends down, squeezing her in a tight embrace. Mama is “overwhelmed” but “delighted” by this unexpected show of affection, “gruffly” but very happily telling Walter to leave her alone while she tends to her plant. Walter “sweetly” and “playfully” begins to sing, and Ruth brings Mama the package that Walter carried in earlier. They tell Mama to open the package, which she does slowly, carefully lifting out “one by one” a “brand-new” set of gardening tools. Mama is deeply touched by the gift from Walter, Ruth, and Beneatha, which is the first gift that she has received in her life “without its being Christmas.” Mama is delighted that she won’t have to use “knives and forks” as gardening tools anymore.
Mama is deeply touched by the gift of gardening tools, which she hopes to use to make a small garden at the family’s new house. The tools represent just how close Mama is to finally realizing her long deferred dream. Mama finally has the proper tools with which to tend to her garden and houseplant, and she will use them with pride to help her garden thrive. Similarly, Mama hopes that the new house will provide the right setting in which the Youngers’ themselves can grow and prosper.
Themes
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Travis eagerly asks his father if he can give Mama his gift, and Walter agrees. “Racing back” with a large hatbox, Travis proudly presents Mama with a “very elaborate, wide gardening hat.” The adults are overcome with laughter at the sight of the hat. Out of concern for Travis’ feelings, Mama defends the gift, telling her grandson that it is “the prettiest hat I ever owned.” When Mama puts on the hat, Walter tells her that she looks like she is “ready to go out and chop you some cotton.”
Travis takes pride in his gift for Mama, although he misses the implications of the large, elaborate gardening hat. Walter’s comment on the hat points to the racial stereotypes that the hat encompasses.
Themes
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
The doorbell rings and Beneatha heads to her room to continue packing. Mama and Travis go to exit. Walter sings to himself and throws open the door to reveal Bobo, a “very slight” man with “haunted frightened eyes.” Walter asks Bobo where Willy Harris is, and Bobo responds that he isn’t with him. Walter remains jubilant and is unfazed by this news, but Ruth is already “a mood apart,” standing “stiffly” in the background and somehow sensing “death.”
Seeing the “haunted” look in Bobo’s eyes, Ruth perceptively senses that his arrival heralds the “death” of the family’s dreams. Walter, singularly focused on the near fulfillment of his own dream, misses the signs.
Themes
Dreams Theme Icon
In a bumbling and tentative manner, Bobo begins to explain to Walter that he has “a real bad feeling” about the investment that they made with Willy Harris. Bobo tells Walter that Harris never showed up yesterday morning to make the planned trip to Springfield to obtain a liquor license. In tears, Bobo explains to an increasingly angry Walter that Harris disappeared without a trace. In shock, Walter anxiously tries to imagine different scenarios that would explain Harris’ absence. Walter desperately looks to his horrified wife and grabs Bobo by the collar and shakes him.
At first, Walter refuses to fully accept Bobo’s news, clinging to the hope that Willy Harris has a reasonable excuse for his absence at the train station. Ruth gradually realizes the extent of the loss, and Walter begins to process Bobo’s story. For Walter, the loss of the money represents more than just the loss of the money—it represents his failure to live up to the responsibility and role he'd been craving. Rather than support his family, he has financially ruined it.
Themes
Money Theme Icon
Fully recognizing the implications of Willy’s disappearance, Walter breaks down, “crying out for Willy and looking for him or perhaps for help from God.” Walter falls to the floor and sobs, pounding the ground with his fists. Mama and Beneatha enter from the bedroom. Walter screams, “THAT MONEY IS MADE OUT OF MY FATHER’S FLESH.” Bobo watches him helplessly and then exits.
Humiliated and desperate, Walter begins to spiral out of control. The insurance money represented Big Walter’s ultimate sacrifice for the family. Walter senses that he destroyed his father’s dream for the family’s future with the blind pursuit of his own misguided ambition.
Themes
Dreams Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Mama goes to Walter and asks him if all of the insurance money is in fact gone. Walter admits that he never went to the bank and never placed the money for Beneatha’s schooling into a savings account. Mama stands quietly in disbelief, looking at her son “without recognition.” Suddenly, she begins to beat him “senselessly.” Beneatha intervenes and pulls her mother away from Walter. Mama tells her children how she watched Big Walter “killing himself” to provide for his family, telling Walter that he just “gave it all away in a day.” Mama looks up and asks God for “strength.”
Mama laments that Walter squandered his father’s sacrifice, which Big Walter earned for the family by practically working himself to death. She is legitimately angered by the fact that Walter selfishly used all the money to fund his own ill-advised dream without saving any money for Beneatha’s dream. And, in her anger, she touches on how Walter has failed to live up to his father's example, has failed to be a man.
Themes
Dreams Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon