A Raisin in the Sun

Lena Younger (Mama) Character Analysis

The matriarch of the Younger family, Lena, commonly referred to as “Mama,” is Walter Lee and Beneatha’s mother and Travis’ grandmother. Lena is a “full-bodied and strong” woman in her early sixties with a subtle air of “grace and beauty.” Lena possesses the “noble bearing” of a woman of “Southwest Africa,” although her speech “is as careless as her carriage is precise.” Mama takes great pride in her family and works as a domestic maid to help support them. A devout Christian, Lena is a woman of traditional values who dreams of buying a house for her family.

Lena Younger (Mama) Quotes in A Raisin in the Sun

The A Raisin in the Sun quotes below are all either spoken by Lena Younger (Mama) or refer to Lena Younger (Mama). 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer 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:

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Mama: What is it you want to express?
Beneatha: Me! Don’t worry – I don’t expect you to understand.

Related Characters: Lena Younger (Mama) (speaker), Beneatha Younger (speaker)
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

Son – you – you understand what I done, don’t you? I – I just seen my family falling apart today . . . just falling to pieces in front of my eyes . . . We couldn’t of gone on like we was today. We was going backwards ‘stead of forwards – talking ‘bout killing babies and wishing each other was dead . . . When it gets like that in life – you just got to do something different, push on out and do something bigger.

Related Characters: Lena Younger (Mama) (speaker), Walter Lee Younger
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Act 3 Quotes

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:

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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:

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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:

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He finally come into his manhood today, didn’t he? Kind of like a rainbow after the rain . . .

Related Characters: Lena Younger (Mama) (speaker), Walter Lee Younger
Page Number: 151
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Lena Younger (Mama) Character Timeline in A Raisin in the Sun

The timeline below shows where the character Lena Younger (Mama) 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
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...has asked Walter to invest in. Walter asks Ruth to try to persuade his mother, Lena, to use part of the coming check to invest in the store. Ruth resists the... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...brings up the coming check, Beneatha quickly and decisively reminds Walter, “That money belongs to Mama.” Walter “bitterly” snaps back, pointing to Beneatha’s own hope that Mama will devote a portion... (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... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Studying Ruth’s tired face, Mama suggests that Ruth call in sick to work today, an idea that Ruth swiftly refuses,... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
In a “reflective mood,” Mama smiles and reminisces about her marriage, stating that she and Big Walter only intended to... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Beneatha returns from the bathroom and angers Mama by “reciting the scriptures in vain” when she exclaims “Christ’s sakes” in response to a... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Mama then changes the subject to Beneatha’s love life, asking whom she will go on a... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
After recovering from the shock of Beneatha’s comment, Mama says that Beneatha will certainly fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor, “God willing.” Beneatha... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Mama reenters and expresses her deep concern for her children, telling Ruth, “There’s something come down... (full context)
Act 1, Scene 2
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
The following Saturday morning Beneatha and Mama clean the apartment thoroughly, a regular occurrence in the Younger household. Travis asks his grandmother... (full context)
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
...who asks if he may visit Beneatha later that morning. Beneatha agrees. Beneatha explains to Mama that Asagai is a Nigerian student whom she met on campus and she asks Mama... (full context)
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Ruth enters “forlornly” and confirms Mama’s suspicion that she is pregnant. While Mama is overcome with “grandmotherly enthusiasm,” Beneatha and Ruth... (full context)
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
...calls out of the window and orders Travis to come upstairs. While waiting for Travis, Mama asks Ruth about her visit to the doctor, and Ruth’s use of the pronoun “she”... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Before Asagai can exit, Mama reenters and Beneatha introduces her to Asagai. Honoring her promise to Beneatha, Mama refrains from... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
As he goes to exit, Asagai calls Beneatha by a Yoruba nickname, “Alaiyo.” Mama and Beneatha ask about the meaning of the nickname, and after thinking for a moment... (full context)
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
...imagine something.” Suddenly, she grabs her coat and heads for the door, telling a confused Mama that she is going out, “To become a queen of the Nile!” (full context)
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...the insurance check. Ruth sends Travis downstairs to get it. Travis returns moments later and Mama opens the envelope. As she sees the check, Mama’s face “sobers to a mask of... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...discussion of his proposal to use the money as an investment in a liquor store. Mama stops Walter and suggests that he speak to his wife privately, but he ignores her.... (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]... (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... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Mama finally tells Walter that Ruth is pregnant and considering an abortion. Walter is shocked but... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Dreams Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Suddenly, Mama enters the apartment and ends Ruth and Walter’s intimate moment. At first, Mama ignores Walter... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Ruth is thrilled with the news that Mama bought a house for the family, raising her arms and shouting, “PRAISE GOD!” Walter says... (full context)
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Ruth asks Mama where the house is located, and Mama, nervously responds that it’s in Clybourne Park. Ruth’s... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
After a long pause, Mama carefully tries to justify her decision to buy a house to Walter. She tells him... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
...get the degree.” Having heard enough, Beneatha tells George good night. George exits and passes Mama as she enters the apartment. (full context)
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Mama asks Beneatha about her date, and Beneatha responds by telling her mother that, “George is... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Ruth enters and Mama asks if Walter is home. Ruth says that he is and implicitly adds that Walter... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Mrs. Johnson asks Mama and Ruth if they “seen the news what’s all over the colored paper this week,”... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
In a not-so-subtle way, Mrs. Johnson asks for a cup of coffee, which Ruth and Mama give her. Mrs. Johnson then asks about Walter, going on to discuss his ambition and... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
...Mrs. Johnson, who is insulted by Beneatha’s curt manner. After Beneatha exits, Mrs. Johnson tells Mama and Ruth that Beneatha acts as if she “ain’t got time to pass the time... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Mrs. Johnson bristles at Mama’s speech, declaring that the Youngers are “one proud-acting bunch of colored folks.” She then quotes... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...up and asks Walter, now standing in the bedroom’s doorway, about his behavior. Walter tells Mama and Ruth that he spent the three days by himself, driving around in Willy Harris’... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Overcome with guilt, Mama realizes that she has unknowingly contributed to Walter’s descent into depression by refusing to support... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money 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... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Mama and Travis enter the apartment. “Smiling,” Beneatha says that Mama had a “caller,” and Beneatha,... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Beneatha “laughingly” notices that Mama is carefully tending to her plant during this conversation. She asks Mama what she is... (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 “overwhelmed” but “delighted” by... (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... (full context)
Dreams 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... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Mama goes to Walter and asks him if all of the insurance money is in fact... (full context)
Act 3
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Ruth enters, followed shortly by Mama. Mama seems “lost.” She picks up her plant from the table and returns it to... (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 Man.” Beneatha realizes that... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...a show” for the white man. The women grasp Walter’s purpose for calling Lindner, and Mama tells her son that he is “making something inside me cry.” Mama implores Walter to... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
Beneatha sneers that Walter is “not a man . . . but a toothless rat.” Mama asks Beneatha if she is “mourning” her brother’s loss of pride, to which Beneatha answers... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
...awkwardly . . . like a small boy.” Ruth tells Travis to go downstairs, but Mama orders Travis to stay put so that Walter can “make him understand what you doing.... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Race, Discrimination, and Assimilation Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
.... or fight no causes,” and he rejects Lindner’s money. In vain, Lindner appeals to Mama to ask Walter to reconsider. As the family stares at Walter Lee in awe, Lindner... (full context)
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
Money Theme Icon
“Coming to life,” Mama and Ruth fly into action, making the final preparations for the family’s move to Clybourne... (full context)
Dreams Theme Icon
Dignity and Pride Theme Icon
Gender and Feminism Theme Icon
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... (full context)