A Raisin in the Sun

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Walter Younger (Big Walter) Character Analysis

Lena Younger’s recently deceased husband and the father of Walter Lee and Beneatha. Big Walter’s death provides the family with an insurance payment of $10,000, part of which serves as the down payment on the Youngers’ new home. Although he was “hard-headed, mean, [and] kind of wild with women,” Big Walter “sure loved his children” and practically “kill[ed] himself” working to provide for his family. Big Walter shared his wife’s dream of buying a house.

Walter Younger (Big Walter) Quotes in A Raisin in the Sun

The A Raisin in the Sun quotes below are all either spoken by Walter Younger (Big Walter) or refer to Walter Younger (Big Walter). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Dreams Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of A Raisin in the Sun published in 2004.
Act 2, Scene 3 Quotes

Man, I trusted you . . . Man, I put my life in your hands . . . Man . . . THAT MONEY IS MADE OUT OF MY FATHER’S FLESH –

Related Characters: Walter Lee Younger (speaker), Walter Younger (Big Walter), Willy Harris
Related Symbols: The Insurance Payment
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:

During this quote, Bobo, Walter's business partner, comes to the Younger home to relay some news. Directly before this moment, Walter has been celebrating his investment on the liquor store with his family, regaling them with fantasies of fine clothes and celebrating the future. Bobo then enters and nervously tells Walter that he was supposed to meet Willy Harris to get the liquor license, but Willy never showed up. Bobo also tells Walter that Willy was the one who had all of the money. Bobo hasn't been able to reach Willy since. The money is gone.

Walter grabs Bobo by the collar and shakes him furiously. He is in shock and doesn't know what to do with himself. He tells Bobo that the money was his entire life. It was the money he inherited from his dead father, his very "flesh." Walter then reveals to the family that he gave Willy the entire $6,500 of insurance money instead of putting some away for Beneatha. 

Here Walter's dreams are shattered. Throughout the play his pride and manhood have been questioned and tirelessly compared to his father's. Here he realizes that the money was the last bit of his father's legacy, and it was also the last bit of Walter's pride. The money and the investment meant freedom for himself and his family, as well as his only opportunity to exercise choice and power. Now Walter is left with nothing, as his own ambition has gotten in the way of his father's dream for his family to have a better life. 

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Act 3 Quotes

And we have decided to move into our house because my father – my father – he earned it for us brick by brick. We don’t want to make no trouble for nobody or fight no causes, and we will try to be good neighbors. And that’s all we got to say about that. We don’t want your money.

Related Characters: Walter Lee Younger (speaker), Walter Younger (Big Walter)
Related Symbols: The Insurance Payment
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Lindner arrives back at the Younger home and expresses that he's happy that Walter has changed his mind about re-selling their new house in Clybourne Park. Walter asks Travis to go downstairs but Mama makes him stay, telling Walter she wants Travis to see what is going to happen, "where our five generations done come to." Nervously, Walter goes on to explain to Mr. Lindner that he comes from a long line of people with a lot of pride. He calls Travis over and explains that Travis will be the sixth generation of Youngers in America. Then, in an act of sudden bravery, Walter tells Lindner that they will keep the Clybourne Park house. Walter explains that his father earned that house and died for that house. His family has worked for five generations for that house, and they deserve it just as much as anyone else, white or black. 

Walter completely shifts his outlook on pride in this moment. Instead of seeing success and pride as linked to monetary wealth, he realizes that it is the groundwork of the people before him, the pride and dignity of his father and the generations before him, that are important. With his son—a symbol of the future—on his lap, Walter shows unwavering commitment to his family and his history, even in the face of the full power of institutional racism. 

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Walter Younger (Big Walter) Character Timeline in A Raisin in the Sun

The timeline below shows where the character Walter Younger (Big Walter) appears in A Raisin in the Sun. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Ruth’s husband Walter Lee enters from the bedroom, and almost immediately he mentions the “check” that the family... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...one of the neighbors beats him to it. Travis begins eating his breakfast and, like Walter, also asks his mother about the check that is scheduled to arrive tomorrow. Travis reminds... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Walter reenters and, hearing the tail end of the argument between his wife and son, gives... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Walter’s sister Beneatha enters from the stage-left bedroom in the midst of Walter and Ruth’s quarrel.... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Walter goes on to suggest that his sister abandon her dream of becoming a doctor in... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Mama enters from her bedroom and asks Beneatha and Ruth about the argument with Walter that she just overheard. When Beneatha exits to go to the bathroom, Ruth reveals that... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Dreams Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Walter rushes into the apartment and immediately asks to see the insurance check. He launches into... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Mama asks Walter what’s troubling him, commenting that for the past few years “something [has been] eating you... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Mama critiques Walter’s overriding emphasis on the importance of money, to which he responds that money “is life.”... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
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Mama finally tells Walter that Ruth is pregnant and considering an abortion. Walter is shocked but insists that Ruth... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Walter enters during Beneatha’s “performance” and he is clearly drunk. Although he first watches the spectacle... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
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Embarrassed, Ruth orders Walter off of the table. He exits. Looking at Beneatha’s African garb, George tells Beneatha to... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
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...to display his knowledge of culture and to boast about his visits to New York. Walter reenters and critiques George’s expensive-looking “college boy” outfit. Getting a beer from the fridge, Walter... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
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Walter then launches into a critique of George’s college education, questioning whether his expensive schooling is... (full context)
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
After George exits, Ruth and Walter puzzle over the meaning of “Prometheus.” Ruth advises Walter to ignore it, but Walter is... (full context)
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
...puts away the iron and clothes and prepares to go to bed. She apologizes to Walter for “this new baby” and states that she “better go on and do what I... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Suddenly, Mama enters the apartment and ends Ruth and Walter’s intimate moment. At first, Mama ignores Walter and speaks only to Ruth, asking her where... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
...that Mama bought a house for the family, raising her arms and shouting, “PRAISE GOD!” Walter says nothing, and Ruth implores him to “let me be glad . . . you... (full context)
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...located, and Mama, nervously responds that it’s in Clybourne Park. Ruth’s jubilance “fades abruptly” and Walter finally faces his mother with bitterness and “hostility.” Ruth says that there “ain’t no colored... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
...a long pause, Mama carefully tries to justify her decision to buy a house to Walter. She tells him that she saw her family “falling to pieces” that morning when they... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Ruth enters and Mama asks if Walter is home. Ruth says that he is and implicitly adds that Walter is drunk. Someone... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
...a cup of coffee, which Ruth and Mama give her. Mrs. Johnson then asks about Walter, going on to discuss his ambition and good looks and guessing that it was his... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
...pass the time of day with nobody ain’t been to college.” Mrs. Johnson then mentions Walter’s dissatisfaction with his work as a chauffeur, but states that he shouldn’t be ashamed because... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
The telephone rings and Ruth answers it. Mrs. Arnold, the wife of Walter’s employer, is on the line and tells Ruth that Walter hasn’t been to work in... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
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Overcome with guilt, Mama realizes that she has unknowingly contributed to Walter’s descent into depression by refusing to support his dream for a liquor store. She admits... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Deeply moved by his mother’s gesture, Walter is filled with a sense of “mingled joy and desperation.” Travis enters for bed and... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Dreams Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Walter enters, carrying a large package. Like Ruth, he is happy and exuberant. He places the... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...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,... (full context)
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Walter comes over to Mama and bends down, squeezing her in a tight embrace. Mama is... (full context)
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation 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,... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Money 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... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
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Mama goes to Walter and asks him if all of the insurance money is in fact gone. Walter admits... (full context)
Act 3
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
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An hour later, Walter’s loss of the insurance money fills the apartment with “a sullen light of gloom.” Asagai... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...hers, inquiring more specifically whether she earned it or would have received it if Big Walter hadn’t died. When Beneatha says no, Asagai states that there is “something wrong in a... (full context)
Money Theme Icon
Walter enters from the bedroom and “feverishly” begins to look for something. Filled with disgust for... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Walter reenters and tells Mama, Ruth, and Beneatha that he made a phone call to “The... (full context)
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Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
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Still in denial of Walter’s intentions in calling Lindner, Ruth again asks Walter about the phone call. Walter says that... (full context)
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Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
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Walter protests, shouting, “I didn’t make this world! It was give to me this way!” He... (full context)
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Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
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Beneatha sneers that Walter is “not a man . . . but a toothless rat.” Mama asks Beneatha if... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...moment later, Lindner appears at the door. Ruth “mechanically” goes to the bedroom and tells Walter that Lindner has arrived. After a long pause, Walter enters the living room. Lindner efficiently... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Walter begins his conversation with Lindner meekly, telling him that the Youngers “are very plain people.”... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Calling Travis to him, Walter stands proudly behind his son and tells Lindner that Travis “makes the sixth generation of... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
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...for the family’s move to Clybourne Park. They “deliberately” try to ignore “the nobility” of Walter’s decision, focusing instead on the task at hand. Beneatha excitedly tells Mama that Asagai proposed... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
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Making final preparations to leave the apartment, Mama references Walter’s confrontation with Lindner, asking Ruth, “He finally come into his manhood today, didn’t he?” Biting... (full context)