A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry reveals to its readers the issues of class, gender and race. This black family living in the south side of Chicago is relying on an insurance check of $10,000 to help them somewhat escape from the common themes of racial and class inequalities occurring in this book. In Act 2 Scene 3, it is moving day and the Younger family is preparing for moving into their new home in Clybourne Park. Mama received new gardening tools from her family and she has never received presents besides on Christmas so she is very grateful for this gift. Things between the Younger family seem to be getting better and they seem to be currently happy at this moment in the play. However, money is the motive for many and especially for Walter Lee Younger and Willy Harris. With Walter being the so-called “man of the house” Mama gives him $6,500 and she tells him to put $3,000 towards Beneatha’s schooling and whatever is left Walter is supposed to look after it and to decide what to do with it. However, things didn’t go as planned and Walter decided to take all of the $6,500 and invest all of it into the alcohol business. His business partner Willy decided to take all of the money and he ran off with it.
Having an education or having money, what is more important? Walter Lee Younger has become obsessed with money and it is the root of most his problems. He can’t even deal with the fact that he lost $6,500 but he is okay that Ruth was thinking about aborting their future child. This shows that Walter’s main focus is money. He is extremely selfish and feels entitled, he seems to think that he is the only person with money issues in the story or the only one struggling.
On Page 128, Bobo tells Walter that he did not go to Springfield yesterday and that he had no reason to.
Bobo: I’m talking about the fact that I got to the train station yesterday morning-eight o’clock like we planned … Man – Willy didn’t ever show up.
Walter: Why … where was he … where is he?
Bobo: That’s what I’m trying to tell you . . . I don’t know . . . I walked six hours . . . I called his house . . . and I walked six hours . . . I waited in that train station six hours . . . (Bobo begins to break down into tears) That was all the extra money I had in the world . . . Man, Willy is gone.
Walter goes off on a tangent and later towards the end of it he says “THAT MONEY IS MADE OUT OF MY FATHER’S FLESH” and Bobo responds to this by saying “I’m sorry Walter . . . I had my life staked on this deal, too . . .” (Page 129).
Walter makes the disappearance of both him and Bobo’s money all about him. There has been an ongoing theme of selfishness and the desperation for money since the very beginning of this play. Walter has strong ideas of how a household should function. He doesn’t seem to support Beneatha’s education he somewhat sees it more as a financial burden. The alcohol business has been lingering in Walter’s mind for so long. Mama puts her trust in Walter to make him feel like the “man of the house.” She gave him the power to fulfill his sense of masculinity of making decisions for the whole entire family rather than him being subject to her decisions. Unlike Walter, whenever Mama makes a decision it’s for the whole entire family without only having her own personal interests in mind.
Not only is money ruining Walter’s life it also is ruining his relationships to the people around him. He is letting money get in the way of him and Ruth’s marriage, he is constantly fighting about the insurance check they received with Mama, and he lost all the money that was supposed to go towards Beneatha’s schooling.
Mama begins to beat Walter on page 130 and as she is hitting him she says, “I seen him . . . night after night . . . come in and look at that rug . . . and then look at me . . . the red showing in his eyes . . . the veins moving in his head . . . I seen him grow thin and old before he was forty . . . working and working like somebody’s old horse . . . killing himself . . . and you – you give it all away in a day.”
Mama is almost blaming Walter in a way for the death of her husband. All of these emotions she has pent up about her husband are released and she is triggered by the loss of his money. Hansberry focuses more on the issue of the misfortune of the Younger family rather than the $6,500 Willy Harris took. Misfortune happens to be another theme in the story for example the $10,000 insurance check. Mama went and bought her family a new home in Clybourne Park and as soon as things seem to be getting better there is always some kind of setback.
What other factors rather than selfishness do you think led Walter into giving away the $6,500 and putting it entirely into the alcohol business? What do you think will happen between the Younger family and do you think there will be any relationships permanently ruined? If so, between who and why?