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Themes

Notions of masculinity and femininity are woven throughout the play. Walter, in particular, feels his socio-economic situation much more strongly given that he’s supposed to be the "man" of the family. He uses manhood as an argument for why his wife should support him, why his mother should give him money, and why he needs a better career. The play also represents various women: the traditional Mama, the supportive Ruth, and the progressive Beneatha, who are alternately praised or demeaned for their adherence or disobedience to traditional feminine standards.

Questions About Gender

  1. If Walter wasn’t a man, would he feel still feel so bad about his economic troubles?
  2. What’s the effect of having Walter be the only adult male in the Younger household? Would it change the dynamic of the play if Big Walter was still alive?
  3. How does Beneatha fight the expectations that both her race and gender place on her?
  4. Walter accuses his wife of failing to support him in his dreams. To what extent is he accurate? To what extent is that accusation grounded in gender?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Socially-enforced norms and expectations regarding masculinity cause Walter to feel inferior.

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