Ruth is vocal about her dissatisfaction. She's so bummed out about the hardships of her life that she finds it hard to cheerful about anything.
WALTER Just for a second – stirring them eggs. Just for a second it was – you looked real young again. (He reaches for her; she crosses away. Then, drily) It’s gone now – you look like yourself again! (1.1.20)
Ruth is already crabby when Walter says that she looks prematurely old. Although Walter attempts to compliment his wife, her move away from him suggests that she is disinterested, which leaves Walter unsatisfied. The couple's dissatisfaction with life in general is turning into dissatisfaction with one another.
WALTER (Rising and coming to her and standing over her) You tired, ain’t you? Tired of everything Me, the boy, the way we live – this beat-up hole – everything. Ain’t you? (She doesn’t look up, doesn’t answer) So tired – moaning and groaning all the time, but you wouldn’t do nothing to help, would you? You couldn’t be on my side that long for nothing, could you? (1.1.73)
Walter acknowledges his wife's unhappiness, but accuses her of not supporting his plan on changing the state of their lives. To him, it seems like Ruth goes around dissatisfied all the time, but she won't help him do anything about it.
WALTER Nobody in this house is ever going to understand me. (1.1.131)
Walter is frustrated by how singled out he feels in the family, largely due to the obligations he feels as the man of the house. It seems like the main source of Walter's dissatisfaction comes from disappointment in himself.
We can see that she was a pretty girl, even exceptionally so, but now it is apparent that life has been little that she expected, and disappointment has already begun to hang in her face. (1.1.stage directions)
Ruth has grown accustomed to being dissatisfied with her life to the point where it's evident even in her face.
Act One, Scene Two
WALTER A job. (Looks at her) Mama, a job? I open and close car doors all day long. I drive a man around in his limousine and I say, "yes, sir; no, sir; very good, sir; shall I take the Drive, sir?" Mama, that ain’t no kind of job…that ain’t nothing at all. (Very quietly) Mama, I don’t know if I can make you understand. (1.2.224)
Walter is not only unsatisfied but also embarrassed with his job. He is ashamed to have to suck up to his boss all day. More than anything, Walter wants to be his own boss.
WALTER You ain’t looked at it and you don’t aim to have to speak on that again? You ain’t even looked at it and you have decided – (Crumpling his papers) Well, you tell that to my boy tonight when you put him to sleep on the living-room couch…(Turning to MAMA and speaking directly to her) Yeah – and tell it to my wife, Mama, tomorrow when she has to go out of here to look after somebody else’s kids. And tell it to me, Mama, every time we need a new pair of curtains and I have to watch you go out and work in somebody’s kitchen. Yeah, you tell me then! (1.2.191)
Walter is unhappy that his mother won't even give his idea a chance. He is dissatisfied with the amount of hard work the family has to do in order to make ends meet and feels like he ought to be able to make things easier for them.
Lena Younger (Mama)
MAMA Well, I always wanted me a garden like I used to see sometimes at the back of the houses down home. This plant is close as I ever got to having one. (She looks out of the window as she replaces the plant) Lord, ain’t nothing as dreary as the view from this window on a dreary day, is there? (1.1.296)
Lena has never had the garden of her dreams, so she settles on a little potted plant. However, on some level she seems to have more hope than the rest of them.
MAMA No…something has changed. (She looks at him) You something new, boy. 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…Now here come you and Beneatha – talking ‘bout things we ain’t never even thought about hardly, me and your daddy. You ain’t satisfied or proud of nothing we done. I mean that you had a home; that we kept you out of trouble till you was grown; that you don’t have to ride to work on the back of nobody’s streetcar – You my children – but how different we done become. (1.2.231)
Lena feels disconnected with her children because they are so much more easily dissatisfied than she is. From her perspective, they have a lot to be thankful for.
ASAGAI (Coming into the room) You look disturbed too…Is something wrong? BENEATHA (Still at the door, absently) Yes…we’ve all got acute ghetto-it is. (She smiles and comes toward him, finding a cigarette and sitting) (1.2.74-5)
The Younger family's dissatisfaction with their surroundings ripples into other parts of their lives.
Act Two, Scene Three
BENEATHA (Laughing herself) I guess I always think things have more emphasis if they are big, somehow. RUTH (Looking up at her and smiling) You and your brother seem to have that as a philosophy of life. (2.3.12-3)
Beneatha and Walter both think big, but in different ways. We kind of get the impression that neither one of them will ever quite be happy with what they have. They'll always want more. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Isn't it good to have goals?
WALTER What’s the matter with you all! I didn’t make this world! It was give to me this way! Hell, yes, I want me some yachts someday! Yes, I want to hang some real pearls ‘round my wife’s neck. Ain’t she supposed to wear no pearls? Somebody tell me – tell me, who decides which women is suppose to wear pearls in this world. I tell you I am a man – and I think my wife should wear some pearls in this world! (3.1.99)
Walter claims that he is a victim of the world just like his family members are and is incredibly unhappy about the fact that wealth is divided so unfairly. He claims to give in to The Man because he wants more for his family.