How Walter has changed, and overcame his obsession with money with the support of his family in Act lll

Walter is one of the most dynamic character’s because his character evolves throughout the play by changing from a caring, family man to a very selfish person, only looking out for himself, to then become a family man again at the end of the play. Walters fantasizes over living the “american dream” and thinks that money will solve all his problems. He hates his job as a chauffeur, which pushes him even more to want to make more money, and to have a more important job. Even though mama is extremely disappointed in Walter for losing all the money she still remains a supportive mother figure to him, which helps all the of the characters grow.

Mama: There is always something left to love. And if you ain’t learned that then you ain’t learned nothing…. Its when he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in hisself’ cause the world done whipped him so!

This is said to Beneatha after she shows her dissapoint for losing all of the money, and basically ruining her future. Mama tells Beneatha that Walter needs her to be supportive, and that instead of constantly feeling sorry for herself, she should be crying for Walter.  She explains for Beneatha that Walter has also been through a lot, and his intention for the liquor store were right, since he was going to use the money to give is family a better life. This is a very important quote because it shows no matter what her kids do, and how badly they mess up she will always be there to support them. Just like her plants throughout the play, mama nurtures, and cares for them hoping to watch them grow to their full potential.

Towards the end of the play we see a huge change in character when Walter stands up for his family and refuses the buyout offer from Mr. Linder.

Walter: And we have decided to move into our house 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.

This is a huge step for Walter for becoming a more selfless person. Walter’s refusal to taking the money comes off a surprise to the family, since prior in the play he jeopardized Beneatha’s education, and mama’s insurance money because of his obsession with becoming rich. This scene shows a shift in his priorities as his focus is now on his family, and his family’s pride. The stage directions in this scene as Walter is standing up to Mr. Linder are also important… (Mama has her eyes closed and is rocking back and forth as though she was in church, with her head nodding the Amen yes). Mama has finally seen her son grow up, and become the family man that she has always wanted him to be, and is almost praying to God because of how happy she is to see this change.

Do you think Walter refused the buyout because his morals changed or because of pressure from his family? Which other characters have you seen evolve throughout the plan, and in what way?

13 thoughts on “How Walter has changed, and overcame his obsession with money with the support of his family in Act lll”

  1. In my opinion, Mama, Ruth and Beneatha’s pressure didn’t change Walter’s decision to refuse the buyout, but it had everything to do with Travis. I think Walter had every intention of accepting Mr. Linder’s offer, up until Travis came in to notify them the moving men have arrived. Mama tells Travis to stay and watch what his father’s going to do. She says “…you make him understand what you doing, Walter Lee. You teach him good. Like Willy Harris taught you” (page 147). I think Walter then refused the buyout because he didn’t want to take away Travis’s opportunity to have a better life, just like Willy Harris took away Walter’s opportunity.

    1. Hi Kelley! Your point of view on Walter is interesting, though, I have to agree with Jenn. Walter’s decision did not come from the peer pressure of his family, but I could see how you would interpret that with Jenn’s comment about Mama. Walter is rollercoaster of emotions but, he is not one to be “pushed around” and make decisions purely based off of what someone think because obviously, he knew what the family would have said when he gave their money away. In Act III, Walter basically makes the same dumb-minded mistake by wanting to sell the house to Lindner, “We going to do business with him.” (Page 141). So what I believe got to Walter is that he finally starts to feel guilty. He knows how much they struggle and he does not want the same for Travis so he fixes himself up to show Travis that family “comes first.”

  2. Walter has changed a lot through the entirety of the book. I believe that Walter changed his mind because he finally understood what Mama had been saying. Mama had been trying to teach Walter one thing through almost all the scenes: how to be a man, like his father. Walter is characterized as a child like man in multiple scenes in the play, including this last scene (scene III). The italics on page 138 read “Really like a small boy, looking down at his shoes and then up at the man,” we see here he’s still acting like a little boy up until the he finally says “Well what I mean is that we come from people who had a lot of pride” ( 138). Right before he says this the italics mention that he “finally straightens up”. This is the point where Walter realizes he must finally be like his father and do the rightful, prideful thing and not give in to Mr. Lindners offer because he would just be giving in to every stereotype out there about colored people. We also see Ruths characterization change throughout the play also. In the beginning of the play she is a tired but yet still supportive wife to Walter. Throughout the play she seems more weary and weary of Walter but in the end we see her personality take a turn. Once Walter finally does the right thing she is the happiest she ever was in any scene. As the poem says in the beginning of the play “or does it explode”, we see a repetition of the word explode. Ruth in the last scene is ” biting her lip lest her own pride explode in front of Mama,”(141). So we learn the “explode” is a good thing after all.

  3. Hey, Kelly, wonderful blog post! In response to your question, I think Walter refused the buyout because his morals changed, but I think the pressures from his family were a main reason as to why he had a change in morals. Quotes from his discussion from Lindner, “my sister over there…she’s going to be a doctor,” and “This is my son, and he makes the sixth generation our family in this country” suggest that Walter moves beyond selfish pride to pride in his family (148). This shift shows that Walter understands that the legacy of his family is not solely in his hands. It also shows that he acknowledges that his son will need all the support he can get if he wants to help carry on the family’s name.

  4. Hey Kelley! I thought the points you made were very relevant and I agreed as well! I really liked the connection you made between Mama’s children and her plants. Before reading your blog post, I didn’t even realize the connection between the two. It goes to show that no matter what, Mama will always take care of her children and love them no matter how badly they may fail her.

    Mama: There is always something left to love. And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing.

    This quote shows the type of person and mother that Mama is. She will always be there for her children and try to help them right their wrongs.

  5. Hey Kelley, I loved this post and your insight on this scene! In response to your first question, I would say that I believe Walter’s change in decision on whether to take the buyout money or to keep the house, was that he was simply pressured into it. Walter had already made up his mind on taking the money and feeling perfectly fine about it. For example, on page 145 Walter says, “I’m going to feel fine, Mama. I’m going to look that son-of-a-bitch in the eyes…” With this statement he is so sure of himself and his decision despite his knowledge that he would go against his mother’s wishes and his families well being. And only did he change his mind to keep the house, when not only Mama, and Ruth were present for the meeting with Mr. Lindner but also Travis. Walter felt the pressure of his boy, the person who looked up to him most, looking at him listening to what he was just about to do. Walter was about to crush his dreams and not look back. But with Travis present he couldn’t bear break his heart like that so he changed his mind to keep the house and preserve this idealistic image Travis had of him. Overall, I don’t think Walter had really changed throughout the play all that much, he was still concerned with money from start to end and always thought of himself first. I don’t believe Walter’s morals had changed throughout this scene despite the decision he ended up making.

  6. Hey Kelley!
    I see what you mean and agree with you in the fact that the character of Walter evolves throughout the play.
    I see that as inevitably since his decisions have been the ones that have directed the family’s fate; somehow he needed to end up by trying to solve all the mess he had created before.

    Despite seeing change in his actions, I don’t really think it is a question of choosing between morality or pressure, I think it is a mix of both of them; by this I mean that the family was at one point where they felt almost completely lost and needed Walter to finally step up. Of course, I think his priorities changed at the end of the play but I don’t think it is only because of his moral motives, instead, I believe it is because there was nothing left he could do in such a tense moment, as he had already tried everything to fulfill his “American dream”: he complained to get the money… and got it, and, eventually, he used the money to his own purposes without even thinking about the others.

    By the end of the play we encounter this amount of emotions and difficult moments for the family, and I think Walter’s actions are moved not only by the fact that he was at a dead end, not finding other possible solution, but also because he did not want his family to be more disappointed.

    Moreover, what Jenn and Greg point out in their comments about Travis really made me think that Travis is the other motive why he chose to act that way: he does not want his child to make the mistakes he has been making. But, to be honest, I think he realizes that in the last moment, when Mama says, in page 147:
    “No. Travis, you stay right here. And you make him understand what you doing, Walter Lee. You teach him good. Like Willy Harris taught you. You show where our five generations done come to.”

    I really think those words are the ones that made him finally act the way he ended up acting, that is the crucial moment from my point of view; that really changed things.

  7. I love your view on Walter, mostly because it’s a different outlook on a character that I’m sure the class could rant about for hours. I would love to believe that he has changed for the better, but I do agree with the other commenters, I think Walter changed his mind last second because of Travis.

    Walter acts very different around Travis, always giving Travis the illusion that things are better than they are (ex. pgs 30-31, when he gives Travis the 50 cents his mother JUST said he couldn’t have).
    Walter digs himself even further with the whole conversation on 108-109 between himself and Travis, talking about black Chryslers’, Cadillac convertibles, gardeners, and any college in the world.
    Another possibly overlooked point is that Travis flat out says “Yeah- I always wanted to live in a house” ( pg. 91) right in front of Walter. How would it look to Travis if Walter crushed that image that he had built up that everything is okay, and that they can afford to even have a house?

    I believe that if Mama hadn’t made Travis stay upstairs, Walter would have faltered and gave in to the racist demands of Lindner, and accepted the money.

  8. Kelley,
    I believe you are on the right track by saying that Walter is a dynamic character. I want to Push back on that idea by administering the idea that the family is a collective. This changes the lense that we look at change through. Yes, Walter does become a more economically conscious person by the end of this play, but this is after his entire family shuns him. They all meet at a middle point of understanding when we leave our characters. They all become dynamic to understand the individual wants of the others. almost like a spider web of understanding. The exchange between mama and Ruth aids both your claim as it is and through the lens of togetherness.
    “MAMA (Quietly, woman to woman) He finally come into his manhood today, didn’t he? Kind of like a rainbow after
    the rain …
    RUTH (Biting her lip lest her own pride explode in front of
    MAMA) Yes, Lena” (III.I Hansberry)

  9. Hi Kelley!
    This is an insightful post, and your first question has gotten my thoughts going in so many different directions. As far as Walter’s refusal, I don’t believe it had anything to do with a change in morals OR familial pressure. Thinking back to our class’s earlier conversations about stories, I’ve been constantly reminding myself to consider what has happened in the past that we don’t know about. Stories always pick up in a particular place, and like Adichie said, if you start in a different place, the story could come out entirely different.

    When trying to imagine what earlier parts of life were like for the Younger family, I don’t see Walter as the selfish and occasionally crazy man that he seems to be during the part of life we read about in the play. In the past I imagine him as a real family man: a loving husband, a doting father, a respectful son and brother. This true self has sadly gotten buried under the hardships of Walter’s life, a prominent one being his struggle to provide for his family as a black man.

    If you aren’t a fan of Walter, you might be reading this post and saying “wow, this is total BS,” but in Act III, when Walter has just called Lindner back and is about to accept his offer, Mama says something to Walter that really implies what I’m saying about past Walter: “We ain’t never been that poor…We ain’t never been that–dead inside” (143). In saying this, Mama is able to bring back the old Walter. His morals didn’t change, he had just forgotten about what was really important in his life.

  10. Hey! I liked your take on his much of a dynamic character Walter is and I completely agree, however, I don’t believe that Walters change of heart came from being guilted by his family but instead came from his sense of pride in his family. On page 147 as Walter is starting his conversation with Mr. Linder, he tells the story of his father beating a man for insulting him and used that as a way to say that his family has pride and dignity. I believe this pride in his family is what finally lead Walter to shed this idea that money is the answer to everything and finally have pride in himself as a man of the family. While Walter is breaking down to everyone on page 143, Hansberry makes sure to had his voice cracking has he plays into the role of a subservient black man and I believe this realization that his idea of a “man” would never do that, is what ultimately led to him changing his mind on the matter of money and basically selling away their house.

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