A Raisin in the Sun

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Themes and Colors
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Raisin in the Sun, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Money Theme Icon

Money provides a constant source of conflict and preoccupation in the Younger household. Within moments of the play’s opening, Walter Lee asks Ruth, “Check coming today?” in reference to the insurance payment that his mother, Lena, is due to receive as a result of her husband’s death. The members of the Younger family view money in different ways, with Mama, Beneatha, and Ruth imagining money as a means to an end and Walter thinking of it as an end in itself. Mama sees the insurance payment as a way to fulfill her dream of owning a house, which symbolizes her deep-seated yearning for “freedom” from racial persecution. Similarly, Beneatha dreams of the money as a way to fund her medical schooling, which embodies her desire to overcome racism and sexism.

On the other hand, Walter fantasizes about the way in which money would increase his social standing and allow him to acquire the material markers of class. Without room for advancement in his low-paying job as a chauffeur, Walter is continually frustrated by his inability to fulfill the masculine role of financial provider for his family, a failing that sends his self-esteem into a nosedive. Yet despite his temptation to accept Karl Lindner’s sizeable bribe at the end of the play, Walter has an abrupt change of heart and ultimately rejects the offer, stating, “We have decided to move into our home because my father—my father—he earned it for us brick by brick.” Reclaiming his pride, Walter finds the strength to refuse Lindner’s enticing but degrading offer, instead choosing to move to the house purchased with money “made out of my father’s flesh.”

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Money ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Money appears in each scene of A Raisin in the Sun. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Money Quotes in A Raisin in the Sun

Below you will find the important quotes in A Raisin in the Sun related to the theme of Money.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

Walter: See there, that just goes to show you what women understand about the world. Baby, don’t nothing happen for you in this world ‘less you pay somebody off!
Ruth: Walter, leave me alone! Eat your eggs, they gonna be cold.
Walter: That’s it. There you are. Man say to his woman: I got me a dream. His woman say: Eat your eggs. Man say: I got to take hold of this here world, baby! And a woman will say: Eat your eggs and go to work. Man say: I got to change my life, I’m choking to death, baby! And his woman say – Your eggs is getting cold!

Related Characters: Walter Lee Younger (speaker), Ruth Younger (speaker)
Page Number: 33-34
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote occurs midway through a discussion between Walter Younger and his wife Ruth. Their son Travis has gone to school and Ruth cooks breakfast for Walter. As she cooks, Walter tells Ruth that he hopes to use his deceased father’s $10,000 life insurance money to invest in a down payment on a liquor store with his friends, Willy Harris and Bobo. Ruth is wary of the investment. She doesn’t trust Willy and Bobo and continuously evades discussing the prospect of Walter using his father’s money on an investment. She finally tells him to leave her alone and he reacts with frustration at both his wife and his own position in life; a black man in the 1950’s trying to provide for his family.

This is the first time Hansberry touches on the idea of dreams and dreaming in A Raisin In The Sun, as well as differentiates between the dreams of men and the dreams of women. This scene highlights Walter’s aspirations for wealth and thereby an escape from his family’s poor Southside Chicago life. He is filled with hope and a deep longing for financial stability. This moment also underlines Walter’s continual feeling of being out of control and at the mercy of others. He is a chauffeur for a wealthy white family, and his mother is the sole inheritor of the $10,000, and so she will ultimately have the final say. In the time-period of the play, men were expected to lead and provide for their families, so Walter, who is the only man in the family but neither the final decision-maker nor the primary breadwinner, feels emasculated. He needs dreams in order to survive and retain his dignity. Ruth on the other hand is pragmatic, as women had to be at the time. Her aspirations are less expansive. For her, survival means cooking breakfast, making sure her son gets to school and she and her husband get to work. Thus, she responds to Walter’s big dreams with the utilitarian and simple task of "eat your eggs." As a woman (particularly a black woman) in this time period, she doesn’t have room to dream the way Walter dreams.


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Act 1, Scene 2 Quotes

Mama: Oh – So now it’s life. Money is life. Once upon a time freedom used to be life – now it’s money. I guess the world really do change . . .
Walter: No – it was always money, Mama. We just didn’t know about it.
Mama: No . . . something has changed. You something new, boy. In my time we was worried about not being lynched and getting to the North if we could and how to stay alive and still have a pinch of dignity too . . .

Related Characters: Lena Younger (Mama) (speaker), Walter Lee Younger (speaker)
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote occurs during a discussion between Mama and Walter. Before this quote, Mama tells Walter that she’s concerned that he may be cheating on Ruth; he’s constantly out of the house and is very secretive with his family. Walter tells Mama that he isn’t cheating on his wife but rather searching for “peace.” He is restless. Walter explains that he sees a bright future in front of him, and investing in a liquor store is the only way he knows how to reach it. Walter goes on to tell Mama that sometimes, when he walks down the Chicago streets, he sees white men through the windows of restaurants having business meetings. He wants that.  Mama replies by asking him why he talks about money so much. Walter retorts, “Because it is life.”

Here Mama details the differences between her generation and her children’s. She was a child at the turn of the century, a time when “freedom” meant something entirely different for black Americans. Mama's parents escaped slavery to provide her with a better life. Freedom for her meant not being lynched or killed for being black. Freedom has been redefined for her children, however. Rather than being freed from the physical chains of slavery, Walter is in pursuit of freedom from economic oppression. In Mama’s perspective, Walter doesn’t realize how lucky he is. He doesn't take pride in the four generations of slaves and indentured servants that fought for freedom so that he could have a better life. She is frustrated at his lack of dignity, ingratitude, and sense of privilege. By fighting for a better life, Mama gave Walter the freedom to dream bigger than she was ever able to, and now she can’t quite understand why his dreams are based so much on financial wealth. 

Well – son, I’m waiting to hear you say something . . . I’m waiting to hear how you be your father’s son. Be the man he was . . . Your wife say she going to destroy your child. And I’m waiting to hear you talk like him and say we a people who give children life, not who destroys them – I’m waiting to see you stand up and look like your daddy and say we done give one baby up to poverty and that we ain’t going to give up nary another one . . .

Related Characters: Lena Younger (Mama) (speaker)
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

Before this moment, Mama expresses that she's concerned that Walter is cheating on Ruth. Walter denies this, but reveals that he is in a troubling place in his life. He hasn't been cheating, but rather has been searching for answers. He is frustrated by his position in the world and feels like his dreams of financial wealth and a better life for his family will never be realized. Mama chastises Walter for seeing money as the ultimate form of freedom. Walter dismisses this, telling Mama she doesn't understand what he's going through. At her wit's end, Mama finally reveals that Ruth is pregnant. She tells Walter that Ruth has been trying to tell him. but he hasn't been around or interested enough to listen. Mama then tells Walter that Ruth is considering aborting the baby. Walter argues that Ruth would never do that. Having overheard the conversation from her bedroom, Ruth immediately enters the room and tells Walter that she has put down a five dollar down payment for the procedure. In a moment of silence between Walter and Ruth, Mama tells Walter that this is the moment for him to "be a man." She implores him to live up to his father's legacy and convince Ruth to not go through with the abortion. 

Mama takes great pride in her faith and moral ethics, and Ruth's abortion tests those. This is also another moment where Walter's masculinity is questioned. Mama asks Walter to take pride in his beliefs and his manhood and step up and be a leader and a father. This moment also highlights the way poverty impacts decisions like childbearing, and takes a toll on pride and honor. Ruth's abortion is a result of her poverty, not a choice she would make if the Younger family were financially stable. This moment symbolizes how poverty strips people of their own dignity and sense of self.

Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

I say I been wrong, son. That I been doing to you what the rest of the world been doing to you. Walter – what you ain’t never understood is that I ain’t got nothing, don’t own nothing, ain’t never really wanted nothing that wasn’t for you. . . . There ain’t nothing worth holding on to, money, dreams, nothing else – if it means – if it means it’s going to destroy my boy. . . . I’m telling you to be the head of this family from now on like you supposed to be.

Related Characters: Lena Younger (Mama) (speaker), Walter Lee Younger
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

In this moment, Mama tells Walter that she finally understands where his anger and frustration is coming from. Before this quote, Mama used her deceased husband's life insurance money for a down payment on a new house in Clybourne Park. Mrs. Arnold, Walter's boss, then calls to tell Walter that if he doesn't show up for work tomorrow he will be fired. Ruth and Mama learn that Walter hasn't been to work in three days. Mama asks Walter what he's been doing, and Walter tells her that he's been borrowing Willy Harris' car, driving through Illinois, and drinking at The Green Hat—a Jazz club—every afternoon. He has given up on his job and, in many ways, himself. He is lost. 

This moment reveals Walter's complete loss of pride and deep need for escape. Mama blames herself and tells Walter that she was the one who did this to him. Here, Hansberry touches on the gender roles put in place during the time period in which A Raisin In The Sun was written. By taking control of the insurance money, Mama has emasculated Walter. He is the man, and so by cultural standards is supposed to be the "head of household," and the one to decide how to allocate finances.  Mama laments that she has been doing "what the rest of the world been doing,"—depriving Walter of his manhood and keeping him from his dreams and his pride. After she says this she hands Walter the $6,500  left over from the down payment on the house. Mama asks him to put some away for Beneatha's schooling and use the rest however he wants, even for his investment on the liquor store. Mama has relinquished her role and, in order to save Walter, offers him control over the money. 

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

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.