Swamped with your writing assignments? Take the weight off your shoulder!
For Reading Quizzes 5-8, you will choose one question to answer from each section. So, you
will be answering three total questions.
Please answer thoroughly, and give textual evidence and analysis to support your answer.
Answers should be at least 150 words, and include at least two quotes.
While the “furnishings” of the Youngers’ apartment are described as “tired,”
many members of the Younger family are also described as being tired (23). For
example, when he wakes up, Walter Younger is described as being “still more
oriented to sleep than to a new day” (26). And Walter accuses Ruth of being
“tired”: “You tired, ain’t you? Tired of everything. Me, the boy, the way we live
– this beat-up hole – everything” (32). What conditions might be causing the
members of the Younger family to feel tired? What message might Hansberry
wish to deliver about the relation between the setting and the characters? How
does the setting reflect the characters, and why?
2. One of the earliest conflicts to emerge in A Raisin in the Sun is a marital conflict
between Ruth and Walter. When Travis tells his mother that he is supposed to
bring fifty centers to school, Ruth responds by saying, “I ain’t got no fifty cents
this morning”(28). Yet when Travis asks his father for fifty cents, Walter reaches
into his pocket with an “important gesture” and then hands the money to his son
(31). Why do Ruth and Walter respond differently to their son’s request for fifty
cents? And what do you make of the way that Ruth and Walter look at each
other at this moment? What do Ruth and Walter communicate through these
non-verbal gestures and facial expressions?
3. After his wife Ruth ridicules his dream of opening a liquor store, Walter says,
“That is just what is wrong with the colored woman in this world…Don’t
understand about building their men up and making ‘em feel like somebody.
Like they can do something” (34). Walter concludes, “We one group of men tied
to a race of women with small minds!” (35). Moments later, while discussing
Beneatha’s desire to become a doctor, Walter says, “Who the hell told you (that)
you had to be a doctor? If you so crazy ‘bout messing ‘round with sick people –
then go be a nurse like other women – or just get married and be quiet” (38).
What do Walter’s comments about his wife and sister reveal about his
personality? Later he makes fun of George’s shoes and the college style. What
else does this say about his view of how to “be a man.”
4. Toward the middle of Act I, Scene 2, Lena receives a letter with the insurance
check for ten thousand dollars. When her son Walter enters and attempts to talk
with Lena about his plans to open a liquor store, Lena rejects his proposal
without any discussion: “there ain’t going to be no investing in no liquor stores”
(70). Analyzing this scene, literary scholar Lawrence Kappel argues that Lena
“asserts her authority and slaps him down with her refusal to consider his
business proposal – as clearly as she had literally slapped Bennie’s face in the
first scene.”11 Do you agree with this scholar’s suggestion that Lena’s response
to her son’s entrepreneurialism resembles her response to her daughter’s
atheism? Do you think Lena abuses her authority by refusing to consider
Walter’s business proposal?
5. When Lena asks her son why he talks “so much ‘bout money,” Walter responds
by asserting, “Because it is life, Mama!” (74). Lena retorts, “Once upon a time
freedom use to be life. 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….” (74). Do you think Hansberry would want audiences to agree
with Walter’s assertion that “money” is the most important thing in life? Or
would she want audiences to agree with Lena’s assertion that “freedom” and
“dignity” are most important? Why might Lena’s dreams differ from both of her
children’s? Why does Lena have a hard time understanding both Walter and
Beneatha? Why do they have a hard time understanding her? Why might Walter
and Beneatha feel “restless”?
Section II: Choose One
6. Compare Beneatha’s two love interests, George and Asagai–what does each
man represent to her? Represent in the play? What interests her about both of
these men? What does she like most about each of them? What does she like
least about each of them? How do each of them treat her? How does her family
react towards each of them? How do their backgrounds differ? Who do you
think she likes more, and why? Please use specific examples/quotes to support
your answer. Hansberry was challenging stereotypes and mainstream media’s
depictions of both black Americans and African Americans. Do you think
Hansberry challenges 1950’s stereotypes with these two very different
characters? (*Hint: Research Assimilation vs Afrocentrism)
7. Ruth’s Pregnancy: Is it significant that nobody knows where Ruth has gone?
Why might Ruth have chosen to keep her pregnancy quiet? Does Ruth want to
get an abortion or is she reluctant? What conditions motivate her to consider
having an abortion? Hansberry juxtaposes the scene where the women are
talking about pregnancy and with Travis and the other children chasing and
killing rats. Why would these two scenes be interweaved, and why does Ruth get
so upset? How does everyone (Mama, Walter, Beneatha react to the news of the
pregnancy?) What does Ruth ultimately decide to do and why?
8. Karl Lindner, the only white character who appears in the play, travels to the Younger
household because he has been charged with proposing to “buy the house” from the
Younger family (118). But from the moment that Lindner opens his mouth, his speech
is stammering, hesitant, and filled with digressions. Despite asserting that he is “going
to try to get right to the point,” he takes a conspicuously long amount of time to arrive
at his point. Ruth is even moved to ask, “Would you like another chair – you don’t look
comfortable” (116). Why is Linder so uncomfortable? What might his faltering,
digressive speech reveal about Karl Lindner’s mindset? Do you think Lindner knows
that what he is about to propose is morally wrong? Why or why not? Why is what
Linder is saying, obviously so racist, but also so ironic–what kind of family is he
describing? What is ironic about this whole encounter? (Also consider the historical
and autobiographical context–what family is really in danger). What are your thoughts
about Linder and how the family reacts to him?
9. At the very end of Act II, Scene 3, Walter admits to Lena that he gave the rest of the
insurance money to Willy Harris. “Mama…I never…went to the bank at all” (129).
When Lena asks whether Walter has also spent the three thousand dollars intended to
pay for Beneatha’s medical school, he confesses, “Yessss! All of it….It’s all gone….”
(129). Hearing this news, Lena walks over to her son and “starts to beat him
senselessly in the face” (129). How does Lena respond to the news that Walter has
squandered the insurance money? Is her response justified? In your view, what should
the Younger family do next? Should they proceed with their plans to move into the
house in Clybourne Park? If not, what should they do instead? What are their options?
Section III: Choose One
10. After Walter loses the money, he has his lowest moment of the whole play, imitating a
stereotype, “putting on a show,” using the N-word, and getting down on his knees,
stating that after this performance for Linder that he’ll “feel fine! Fine! FINE” (144).
Why does Hansberry have Walter perform this “anguished imitation of the slow witted
movie stereotype” (144)? What does this reveal about the nature of Linder’s proposal?
If Walter allows his family to be bought out, do you think he will really be “fine”? Why
or why not? How does this display contrast to how Walter really speaks to Linder?
Why does Mama make Travis stay? Please analyze Walter’s last speech to Linder.
Has Walter changed? Analyze his repetition of “proud” and “pride.” Why is that
significant? Look at the pronouns he uses, shifting from “I” to “we”; why is that
significant? Discuss his tributes to his son, and his father, Big Walter, and the women in
his life. Do these changes illustrate a dawning awareness of the women and their
dreams? Their dignity? What are other significant moments in this speech and why?
11. It is easy to dislike Walter and his mistakes, comments, and actions. But does he ever
physically hurt anyone in his family? How is he as a father? What were his dreams for
his son? For his family? Is he ever unfaithful to his wife? What options did he have to
start a business? Get a loan? Go to school? What obstacles did he have to overcome as
a black man in the 1950’s? Were his dreams wrong? Is he a victim of his
circumstances? Do you think he can be considered a sympathetic character at all? Use
evidence from both the play and from the pre-reading.
12. Does the play have a happy ending? Some reviewers of A Raisin in the Sun criticized
the play for ending on a note of false triumph and contrived happiness. Does the play
suggest that all of the challenges faced by the Youngers have been resolved? In an
unpublished first publish of A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry included a fourth act in which
the Younger family is shown sitting in the living room of their new home, armed,
awaiting attack by a mob of hostile white residents from Clybourne Park (much like
what happened to her own family in her real life). Yet Hansberry decided to cut this
final act from her play before it was performed on stage. How would this ending have
changed the play’s message or tone? Why did she choose to cut it? Do you think she
made the right decision to cut this act? Why or why not?