A Raisin in the Sun

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The Insurance Payment Symbol Analysis

The Insurance Payment Symbol Icon
The insurance payment that results from Big Walter’s death illustrates the tremendous sacrifice that makes at least some of the Youngers’ dreams a reality. As Mama tells Ruth, Big Walter “finally worked hisself to death” in an effort to support his family financially, procuring a $10,000 life insurance policy that would provide for his family after his death. In the hope of helping his children achieve their dreams, Big Walter sacrificed himself to give his family the opportunity for a better life. Knowing that racial prejudice prevented him from obtaining a house and a fulfilling job during his own lifetime, Big Walter’s sacrifice symbolizes the efforts that generations of African Americans made to give their children’s dreams a chance for success. The extreme nature of Big Walter’s sacrifice shows the extent to which racism limited African Americans’ opportunities for social advancement, but the insurance payment also gives purpose to Big Walter’s death and epitomizes the hope and dignity of the Younger family. Conversely, the frequent arguments between the Youngers that result from the insurance payment signify the divisive power of money.

The Insurance Payment Quotes in A Raisin in the Sun

The A Raisin in the Sun quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Insurance Payment. 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 1, Scene 1 Quotes

Mama, something is happening between Walter and me. I don’t know what it is – but he needs something – something I can’t give him anymore. He needs this chance, Lena.

Related Characters: Ruth Younger (speaker), Lena Younger (Mama), Walter Lee Younger
Related Symbols: The Insurance Payment
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote occurs during a conversation between Mama and Ruth. After breakfast, Walter exits the apartment and we are introduced to “Mama” or Lena Younger—Walter and Beneatha’s mother. She enters complaining about how loudly Walter slammed the door, and then goes through a series of questions and commands. She checks in about how Walter is doing and makes jokes about her children. It becomes clear that the role of mother is etched in her soul. This seems appropriate as she remains mostly nameless throughout the play, primarily referred to as “Mama.” In a moment alone, Ruth tells Mama that Beneatha and Walter have been fighting about the insurance money. Ruth then asks Mama how she actually plans on using that money. Mama dismisses this, but Ruth suggests that maybe gambling on the liquor store isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Mama asks why she’s changed her mind.

In response, Ruth suggests that she can’t give Walter what he needs; a chance to fulfill his own dreams. Ruth is exhausted and tired of working for hardly any pay, and in this moment shares that she wants more for herself, in the same way Walter and Beneatha do. Except as as more traditional wife and mother, Ruth's dreams are her husband’s dreams. She hopes to fix the problems in her marriage by helping Walter fulfill his dreams, and for this he needs the insurance money.

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Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

Well – well! – All I can say is – if this is my time in life – MY TIME – to say good-bye – to these goddamned cracking walls! – and these marching roaches! – and this cramped little closet which ain’t now or never was no kitchen! . . . then I say it loud and good, HALLELUJAH! AND GOOD-BYE MISERY . . . I DON’T NEVER WANT TO SEE YOUR UGLY FACE AGAIN!

Related Characters: Ruth Younger (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Insurance Payment
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote occurs when Mama re-enters the house after being gone for several hours. Walter asks her where she's been, and she replies that she went downtown for "business," She calls Travis to the room and reveals to the family that she has used the insurance money to make a down payment on a house. Walter "turns away from all of them in fury" while Ruth, Travis, and Mama celebrate.

Mama then wails "Praise GOD" and asks Walter, who has been silent, to please be happy for her. Mama then describes the house in detail. Ruth asks Mama where the house is located, and Mama tells her it's in Clybourne park. Ruth is shocked, as Clybourne park is an all-white neighborhood. Mama replies that it was the nicest and cheapest house she could find. Ruth recovers and says the following quote with excitement and joy. She expresses her joy to be leaving their tiny apartment and screams goodbye to the pain and tumult the Younger family faced while living there. 

In this moment we see one of Ruth's dreams come to fruition. She is thrilled to say goodbye to her two-bedroom Southside Chicago home and move forward, to a better home and a better life for Travis and her unborn child. Here, Hansberry suggests that the decision to have an abortion was a product of Ruth's poverty, not her will. This is another moment of female pragmatism and self sacrifice for the family. Furthermore, in an act of empowerment, Mama has made the decision to spend the insurance money on a new home. She has solidified herself as head of household, something uncommon during the 1950s.

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. 

Act 3 Quotes

Independence and then what? What about all the crooks and thieves and just plain idiots who will come into power and steal and plunder the same as before – only now they will be black and do it in the name of the new Independence – WHAT ABOUT THEM?!

Related Characters: Beneatha Younger (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Insurance Payment
Page Number: 134
Explanation and Analysis:

Before this quote, Asagai has returned to the Younger home to help Beneatha with packing for the big move. Beneatha tells Asagai that Walter has lost rest of the insurance money. Asagai asks her how this makes her feel, and she replies, "Me, I'm nothing." Beneatha tells Asagai that when she was a child, she discovered she wanted to be a doctor when she saw a little boy get badly cut on the face while sledding. She realized then that "fixing" someone else was the most "marvelous thing in the world." Beneatha goes on to tell Asagai that after today, she's learned that there are things in this world that can't be fixed. Mankind is sick with something that seems incurable. Asagai tries to help, but Beneatha tells him that his "Back to Africa" ideals are silly and that they won't cure anything. Asagai is the ultimate idealist, but what comes after his ideas of independence? What is the point of fighting if people don't seem to ever change?  

Here we see Beneatha's tenacity and passion for self-discovery deflated by the loss of the insurance money. Without the money for her education she feels aimless, like she has lost who she is, and the result of this is that she feels betrayed by humanity itself.

Then isn’t there something wrong in a house – in a world! – where all dreams, good or bad, must depend on the death of a man? I never thought to see you like this, Alaiyo.

Related Characters: Joseph Asagai (speaker), Beneatha Younger
Related Symbols: The Insurance Payment
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote happens after Beneatha tells Asagai that she has given up on her dreams of becoming a doctor. She has also, in many ways, lost hope in the world. She no longer believes that  humanity can be cured of its problems.

Always an optimist and idealist, Asagai tells Beneatha that the first step for change is acting, having a voice. Beneatha tells him that nothing has changed, and that "there is only one large circle that we march in, around and around," and that dreams are all a "mirage".

Asagai argues that life isn't a circle but rather a long line. "We cannot see the end" or how it will change—we cannot see our dreams but they are there. Asagai then tells Beneatha that the money didn't belong to her, she has lived without it and wouldn't have had it at all if her father hadn't died. He even calls into question the morality of a dream built upon a man's death. Asagai is disappointed by Beneatha's aspirations for wealth and how easily her dreams have deteriorated—if her dreams were purer and stronger, Asagai seems to argue, they wouldn't be affected by such setbacks.


Talking ‘bout life, Mama. . . . Mama, you know it’s all divided up. Life is. Sure enough. Between the takers and the “tooken.” I’ve figured it out finally. Yeah. Some of us always getting “tooken.”

Related Characters: Walter Lee Younger (speaker), Lena Younger (Mama)
Related Symbols: The Insurance Payment
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

Before this quote Mama tells the family that she doesn't think it's wise to move to Clybourne Park anymore. Ruth begs her not to make that decision. She tells Mama that she will work twenty hours a day with her newborn baby on her back but she must leave their Southside Chicago apartment. Walter enters and tells Mama and Ruth that he has made a call to "The Man" (Mr. Lindner).  He is going to invite him back to the house to do business with him. He goes on to say that he's realized that life is about people who take and people who are taken from. He then goes on to tell Mama and Ruth that he is going to "put on a show" for Lindner, perform as the stereotypical black man and give him what he wants to see, hoping that Lindner will pay a larger amount of money for the house so that the Youngers will make back the $10,000 they've lost. 

Here, Walter reasserts himself as the head of household. He also finally admits, although in a roundabout way, that he made a poor decision by giving up a large portion of the insurance money. This is his effort to fix the problem he's caused. However in doing so, by degrading himself before Mr. Lindner Walter is also stripping himself of his own identity, assimilating to the image of an inferior stereotype.

Son – I come from five generations of people who was slaves and sharecroppers – but ain’t nobody in my family never let nobody pay ‘em no money that was a way of telling us we wasn’t fit to walk the earth. We ain’t never been that poor. We ain’t never been that – dead inside.

Related Characters: Lena Younger (Mama) (speaker), Walter Lee Younger
Related Symbols: The Insurance Payment
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

Before this quote, Walter tells Mama that he has called Mr. Lindner and asked him to return to discuss the house in Clybourne Park Mama has just purchased. Walter plans on striking a deal with Lindner and "putting on a show" for him. Mama is disappointed that Walter would belittle his pride and self-respect for a profit. She's devastated that Walter would even consider pretending to be the type of man Lindner and the white community of Clybourne park has stereotyped him to be.

For Mama, allowing themselves to be kicked out of Clybourne Park for being black, and taking a bribe to leave, is an act of submissiveness to the oppressor. They are giving into the pressures of a community of people who don't see them as equals. Here, Mama reminds Walter of her and thereby his history. Although their ancestors weren't free by law, they had pride and would never let anyone pay them money to admit that, by being black, they were inherently lesser or unequal. Self-respect is Mama's moral compass. Even though her life is unfair, her pride and dignity will always come first. 

Have you cried for that boy today? I don’t mean for yourself and for the family ‘cause we lost the money. I mean for him: what he been through and what it done to him. Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most? When they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain’t through learning – because that ain’t the time at all. It’s when he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in hisself ‘cause the world done whipped him so!

Related Characters: Lena Younger (Mama) (speaker), Walter Lee Younger, Beneatha Younger
Related Symbols: The Insurance Payment
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote happens after Walter tells the family that he has asked Mr.Lindner to return to discuss striking a deal. Walter plans to negotiate with Lindner and try to make the money that he lost on his liquor store investment back.

Mama and Beneatha are devastated by this. Beneatha criticizes Walter for stooping so low that he would make a deal with a man who sees them as unfit to live in his community. Mama then reprimands Beneatha for her lack of empathy. She is upset that her children have been so selfish. Mama explains that she thought that she taught her children to love each other no matter what. In a time when the Younger family has had to face so much prejudice for simply being who they are, Mama begs Beneatha to love and empathize with her brother. He doesn't have anyone else, and in the face of so much poverty, racism, and bad luck, the family has to stick together.

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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The Insurance Payment Symbol Timeline in A Raisin in the Sun

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Insurance Payment appears in A Raisin in the Sun. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...the conversation promptly circles back to the anticipated check, which Mama reveals is a $10,000 insurance payment resulting from her husband’s recent death. Mama declares that some of the money must be... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...as he keeps a “good lookout” for the postman, who is supposed to deliver the insurance check that morning. After Travis exits, Beneatha asks Mama where Ruth is, and Mama says “with... (full context)
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...the doorbell rings, a sudden sound that signals that the mailman has arrived with the insurance check . Ruth sends Travis downstairs to get it. Travis returns moments later and Mama opens... (full context)
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 a discussion of his proposal to use the money as an... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Dreams Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...“to tend to some business.” Walter angrily worries that she did “something crazy” with the insurance money . Travis enters and tries to explain his lateness, but Ruth cuts him off and... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Dreams Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...a down payment on the house. She gives control over the remaining $6,500 of the insurance payment to Walter. She tells him to put $3,000 in a savings account for Beneatha’s schooling... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
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... (full context)
Act 3
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
An hour later, Walter’s loss of the insurance money fills the apartment with “a sullen light of gloom.” Asagai enters the apartment to visit... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Beneatha laments that with the loss of the insurance money her dream for the future has been stolen “right out of my hands.” Asagai asks... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...the world done whipped him so!” Mama tells Beneatha to mourn her brother, not the insurance money that he lost. (full context)