A Raisin in the Sun Plot Summary
The play opens as the Younger family anxiously awaits the arrival of a check. It is the life insurance check of $10,000, made payable to Lena (Mama) Younger, the matriarch of the family, because of the death of her husband. The entire family lives within the walls of a tiny apartment and the play takes place entirely in its worn out, lived-in living room. Travis, the young son of Ruth and Walter Lee, sleeps on the couch in the living room and is constantly awoken by noise from the adults. Walter Lee and Beneatha are Lena's children. Walter Lee is married to Ruth, and works as a chauffeur, while Beneatha, much younger and energetic, plans to study to become a doctor. Each member of the family wants to do something different with the money, and therefore, waits anxiously for his/her new lifeto start.
Walter Lee is working with low-life street men, Willy Harris and Bobo, to start a liquor store. He is obsessed with money and constantly feels as if the world is against him, especially his wife and mother. He storms out of the house, seeking the two men with whom he plans to do business and also to complain about his job. Mama meanswhile suspects Ruth to be pregnant.
Beneatha discusses her new, independent style in college. She is courted by two men: the first boy, George Murchison, is a wealthy Negro concerned with appearances and material, while the second, Joseph Asagai, is a native African that inspires her intellectually and spiritually. Asagai brings Bennie authentic Nigerian robes as a gift, and she puts them on, pretending to be an African princess. George arrives to take Bennie out to the theater and is appalled by her attire, forcing her to change. The Younger family is in favor of George because they believe his money will help her and themselves.
When the check finally does arrive, Lena has trouble dealing, for she realizes that the ten thousand dollars is a replacement for her husband. The family tells her to do what she desires with the money. Walter irrationally urges Mama to give him the money, gradually become irate and furious. Mama reprimands him, not understanding how he became so obsessed with money and so disinterested in his own family. She reveals information that Ruth is pregnant and may abort the fetus. When Ruth confirms these suspicions, Walter is silent, sending Mama into shock.
Mama tells the family that she put a down payment on a house in Clybourne Park with the insurance money, so that Travis will one day be able to grow up to become a man with property. Walter is upset and wonders why he can never be the one in charge of all actions. The entire family is concerned about the location because it is an all white neighborhood.
While Mama is gone, Karl Lindner, a white business man and representative of the Clybourne Park Welcoming Committee comes to the Younger household under the false auspices of brotherhood, and offers to pay them off so that they will not move into the house. They throw him out and later tell Mama.
Mama listens to Walter's pleas and decides to give him the rest of the money to manage. A portion of it will go to Beneatha's medical school fund, but he may keep the rest. Bobo comes to the house weeks later on moving day to inform Walter Lee that Willy Harris has absconded with their money. Walter Lee never deposited the money in the bank and has lost his father's check forever. The entire family is outraged and deeply hurt.
Later that same day, Asagai comes over to help the family pack, only to find a disheartened Beneatha. He asks her to marry him and return home to Africa to practice medicine. Walter decides to call Mr. Lindner over to accept money and 'play into the scam' that is supposedly already in place. Mama and Ruth cannot believe that Walter would sell his soul and his pride for money. The moving men arrive around the same time as Lindner. Walter Lee transforms into a mature man of pride and miraculously tells Lindner that his family cannot be bought. They plan to move into Clybourne Park and live as a happy family.
Ruth and Lena are proud of Walter and happily walk away from their old living room to a new life.