By far the youngest member of his family (stage directions describe him as ten or eleven years old), Travis represents the future of the Younger family. Hansberry drops some not-too-subtle symbolism on us when we hear that one of Travis's favorite pastimes is playing with rats. This symbolism definitely doesn't slip by Lena and Ruth. It kind of sucks when your "future" is hanging out with vermin. Mama and Ruth understand that if they stay living in their crappy apartment, Travis is destined to always settle for less than he deserves. Symbolically, the Younger family will never escape the slums.
Travis plays a symbolic role again in the last scene of the play. When Walter, Travis's father, is planning to take the money from Mr. Lindner to not move into the white neighborhood, Mama insists that Travis stay and watch his father give in to "The Man." Travis's eyes are just too innocent, though, and Walter can't bring himself to do it in front of his son. If Travis saw this, Walter would always feel like a giant tool and a bad father. And symbolically the future of the Younger family would always be one of shame.
Is Travis starting to sound like less of a person and more of a symbol to you? Yeah, us too. The youngest Younger never really gets fleshed out as a character. For the most part, he's a kind, innocent, and good-hearted child, who hasn't yet been corrupted by the big, bad world. Still, though, he plays an important part in the play. Without Travis serving as his father's good angel in the final scene, the play's conclusion would go from bittersweet to tragic real, real fast.Timeline