A Raisin in the Sun Questions for Comprehension and Interpretation
ACT I, SCENE I
- In what city does the play take place?
- The living room setting seems overtaken by weariness. Name two details that suggest this.
- Who are the first family members to appear?
- Two references are made to a check. How does Ruth react to these references?
- According to his mother, why is Travis getting so little sleep?
- Why does Travis ask Ruth for fifty cents?
- What is the plan Walter, Willy Harris, and Bobo have been figuring out?
- Why is Walter upset with his wife’s reaction to his dreams?
- What does Walter want from Ruth in regards to his dreams?
- Walter says, “We one group of men tied to a race of women with small minds.” What does he mean?
- What is Walter’s job?
- Describe the tone Beneatha uses with her brother.
- Why is Walter upset with Beneatha’s plan to go to medical school?
- What does Beneatha mean when she says, “Forgive me for ever wanting to be anything at all.”?
- What does Walter tell Beneatha she should do with her life? What is his underlying fear?
- What does the reader discover about the check she is waiting to receive?
- How does Beneatha feel about the liquor store?
- Ruth suggests that Mama give some of the money from the check to Walter so that he can realize his dream of buying a liquor store. How does Mama react to this?
- How much money is the check for and how does Mama intend to use it? How does Ruth say Mama should spend the money?
- Mama says that her late husband once grieved deeply. What caused this grief?
- Beneatha thinks deeply and is frustrated with her life. What does Beneatha say she wants to do that makes Mama and Ruth laugh?
- How does the reader know that Beneatha does not want to marry George Murchison?
ACT 1, SCENE 2
- What happens at the very end of Act 1, Scene 1? What is the setting of Act 1, Scene 2?
- Name further details that indicate the conditions in which the Youngers live.
- Why is Ruth upset when she returns home? Why do you suppose she is so unhappy?
- When Travis enters the room, he too is upset. What is his news?
- Identify Joseph Asagai. Describe his relationship to Beneatha.
- What does Asagai give to Beneatha as a gift? How does she react?
- What stereotypes of women does Asagai reveal? What is Beneatha’s opinion about relationships?
- What is Asagai’s Nigerian name for Beneatha? What does this mean in English? Is this a fitting name for Beneatha?
- Why does Beneatha thank Asagai for the nickname?
10. When the postman brings the check for $10,000, Mama is happy and then worried. Why is she so conflicted? What is she worried about?
11. What does Walter ask as soon as he comes in the door? Why does he shout?
12. What is Mama’s concern about Walter’s frequent absence from home? What does she appear to think he’d doing?
13. Why is Walter discontent? What is his explanation?
14. Why is Mama “proud of . . . what we done”? Who is the “we” in her statement?
15. Why does Walter crumple the papers, make an angry speech and storm out the door?
16. What news does Mama tell Walter about Ruth? What is Walter’s initial reaction?
17. To what does Mama refer when she says, “You are a disgrace to the memory of your father”?
18. Describe Walter. What are his dreams, his frustrations, his problems?
19. By the end of Act 1, what have we learned about Ruth?
20. By the end of Act 1, what have we learned about Beneatha?
21. Which of Mama’s values are revealed in Act 1?
22. What negative situations in the Younger’s lives are making their conflicts worse? What positive characteristics are likely to help them resolve their problems?
ACT 2, SCENE ONE
- What is the setting at the beginning of this scene? How is it different from the end of Act 1?
- What does Beneatha mean when she says, “Enough of this assimilationist junk!”
- What is Walter’s reaction to Beneatha’s mood?
- What is George’s reaction to Walter and Beneatha performing their African dance?
- George says: “We’re going to the theatre—we’re not going to be in it.” What does he mean?
- Explain three differences between George Murchison and Joseph Asagi.
- What is Beneatha’s definition of assimilationism? How does this definition present conflict for Beneatha?
- What does Walter say about George’s father? Why does Walter feel that he and George’s father have much in common?
- What does Walter say that reveals his search for something important or impressive to do? How do we know that he is also feeling misunderstood?
10. How do Walter and Ruth describe their relationship?
11. What news does Mama bring home, and why do Ruth and Walter react as they do? Why is this both good news and bad news?
ACT 2, SCENE 2
- Explain the disagreement between Beneatha and George regarding studying or education. How does the argument end?
- Beneatha thanks her mother for understanding her. Specifically what understanding does Beneatha mean?
- Explain Walter’s attitude about his job. As a result, what does Walter try to do?
- When Walter returns, what does Mama learn?
- What does Mama do after she hears about Walter’s three days?
- Explain what Mama means when she talks to Walter about dreams again.
- Walter says, “You trust me like that?” To what is he referring?
- What suggests that Walter may not fulfill that trust?
- Describe the fantasy worls that Walter paints to Travis when he tells him of his plans for the future.
ACT 2, SCENE 3
- What is the atmosphere at the opening of the scene?
- How has the Younger family changed at the end of the week?
- Identify Walter’s change in attitude toward Beneatha.
- What dream does Mr. Lindner mention?
- Explain the irony in Beneatha’s statement: “This, friends, is the Welcoming Committee!”
- Where is the irony in Lindner’s statement: “People can get awful worked up when they feel that their whole way of life and everything they’ve ever worked for is threatened.”
- Why does Lindner claim to want them not live there?
- Why does Walter throw Mr. Lindner out of the house?
- When she is asked about her plant, Mama replies, “It expresses me.” Explain the significance of the wording that she chooses. Also, explain the symbolism in what she states.
10. What does Mama receive from her family after she returns home?
11. How is the gift to Mama appropriate?
12. Explain the allusions to Scarlett O’Hara.
13. Why does Ruth look “as though somehow she senses death”?
14. Identify Bobo.
15. What news does Bobo bring to Walter?
16. Why does Walter say, “That money is made out of my father’s flesh”?
17. Besides the money, what else will the loss mean for the family?
18. Why is the ending scene appropriate to the Younger family and to Mama in particular?
- Why is the lighting in Act 3 different from the lighting in Act 1?
- Why has Beneatha lost a hold on her dream? Why does she no longer care about making the world a better place?
- Explain Beneatha’s “life as a circle” speech. What is the symbolism of her idea?
- According to Asagai, Beneatha should be grateful to Walter. Why?
- What does Ruth say to Mama when Mama starts talking about calling to cancel the moving van?
- Walter comes in and says that he called “the man.” What does Walter say that he has learned? Why did he call Lindner?
- Why does his sister say, “He’s no brother of mine”?
- When Lindner arrives, what does Walter tell him?
- What causes Walter to say what he does to Lindner?
10. What does Mama mean when she says, “He finally come into his manhood today, didn’t he? Kind of like a rainbow after the rain”? What literary term is used?