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.”
Money Quotes in A Raisin in the Sun
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!
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 . . .
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 . . .
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.
Man, I trusted you . . . Man, I put my life in your hands . . . Man . . . THAT MONEY IS MADE OUT OF MY FATHER’S FLESH –
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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.