Study Guide

A Raisin in the Sun Gender

By Lorraine Hansberry

Gender

Act One, Scene One
Walter Younger

WALTER (Straightening up from her and looking off)
That’s it. There you are. Man say to his woman: I got me a dream. His woman say: Eat your eggs. (Sadly, but gaining in power) Man say: I got to take hold of this here world, baby! And a woman will say: Eat your eggs and go to work. (Passionately now) Man say: I got to change my life, I’m choking to death, baby! And his woman say – (In utter anguish as he brings his fists down on his thighs) – Your eggs is getting cold! (1.1.83)

Here, Walter seems to accuse not only Ruth but all women of holding back their men. He implies that women are only interested in domestic things and don't have a head for the big picture.

WALTER
Who the hell told you you had to be a doctor? If you so crazy ‘bout messing ‘round with sick people – then go be a nurse like other women – or just get married and be quiet… (1.1.125)

Walter belittles Beneatha's dream of becoming a doctor, implying that women are fit only for supporting roles. We have a feeling that these amazingly sexist comments will only add fuel to Beneatha's burning desire to be a doctor.

WALTER
That is just what is wrong with the colored woman in this world…Don’t understand about building their men up and making ‘em feel like they somebody. Like they can do something. (1.1.91)

Walter wants the women in his life to make him feel like a man. Being manly means having the freedom to act according to one's judgment. He's also making blanket statements about black women here.

WALTER
…See there, that just goes to show you what women understand about the world. Baby, don’t nothing happen for you in this world ‘less you pay somebody off! (1.1.81)

Walter says that money is a man's domain, and that Ruth, being a woman, just wouldn't understand. This sexist remark seems to come from his own lack of self-esteem. Unfortunately, for Walter and those around him, he feels the need to put people down in order to feel more powerful.

Beneatha Younger

BENEATHA
Get over it? What are you talking about, Ruth? Listen, I’m going to be a doctor. I’m not worried about who I’m going to marry yet – if I ever get married. (1.1.268)

Beneatha wants to make her very life a challenge to gender stereotypes.

Act Two, Scene Two
George Murchison

GEORGE (Exasperated; rising)
I know [you love to talk] and I don’t mind it sometimes…I want you to cut it out, see – The moody stuff, I mean. I don’t like it. You’re a nice-looking girl…all over. That’s all you need, honey, forget the atmosphere. Guys aren’t going to go for the atmosphere – they’re going to go for what they see. Be glad for that. Drop the Garbo routine. It doesn’t go with you. As for myself, I want a nice – (Groping) – simple (Thoughtfully) – sophisticated girl… not a poet – O.K.? (2.2.5)

This excerpt represents what Beneatha finds shallow in George. George's ideal for a woman is purely superficial. He doesn't really want a woman with her own personality; he just wants a girl to compliment his supreme manliness.

Lena Younger (Mama)

MAMA
It ain’t much, but it’s all I got in the world and I’m putting it in your hands. I’m telling you to be the head of this family from now on like you supposed to be. (2.2.113)

Mama tells Walter that it's time he lead the family. It seems that Lena is definitely old fashioned in her view of gender roles (no wonder she doesn't understand Beneatha). Lena feels guilty that he hasn't let Walter take his place as the "man."

Act One, Scene Two
Joseph Asagai

ASAGAI
It’s just that every American girl I have known has said that to me. White – black – in this you are all the same. And the same speech, too!…It’s how you can be sure that the world’s most liberated women are not liberated at all. You all talk about it too much! (1.2.115)

Asagai suggests that liberated people do not need to flaunt their freedom. In his mind, if American women were really as free as they say are then it would no longer be an issue. Therefore, it just wouldn't come up so much in conversation. This is an interesting point, but it's not like Beneatha is arguing that American women have nearly enough freedom. To her, women still have a long way to go in America.

ASAGAI
For a woman it should be enough.
BENEATHA
I know – because that’s what it says in all the novels that men write. But it isn’t. Go ahead and laugh – but I’m not interested in being someone’s little episode in America or – (With feminine vengeance) – one of them! (ASAGAI has burst into laughter again) That’s funny as hell, huh! (1.2.114)

Asagai argues that love should be enough for women, but Beneatha argues that she needs more – a career, for instance. She is determined to find her fullness as an individual and to not be defined by the man she marries.

Lena Younger (Mama)

MAMA
When the world gets ugly enough – a woman will do anything for her family. The part that’s already living. (1.2.235)

According to Mama, a woman's main priority is to secure the future of her existing family, even if it means sacrificing other lives. And aborting an unborn baby is a huge sacrifice for Ruth.

Act Two, Scene One
Walter Younger

WALTER (All in a drunken, dramatic shout…He makes his weaving way to his wife’s face and leans in close to her)
In my heart of hearts – (He thumps his chest) – I am much warrior! (2.1.15)

Walter clings to the idea that he would be a mighty warrior in Africa; this soothes his masculine ego.

Act Three
Walter Younger

WALTER
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 believes a man should provide luxurious and beautiful things for his wife. Because Walter doesn't have the money to buy expensive things for his family, he feels like less of a man.

Beneatha Younger

BENEATHA
I said that that individual in that room is no brother of mine.
MAMA
That’s what I thought you said. You feeling like you better than he is today? (BENEATHA does not answer)
Yes? What you tell him a minute ago? That he wasn’t a man? Yes? You give him up for me? You done wrote his epitaph too – like the rest of the world? Well, who give you the privilege? (3.1.108-9)

Mama suggests that a woman’s support and faith in a man can make or break him.

Lena Younger (Mama)

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. (3.1.155-6)

Even though Walter is the protagonist of the story, it is the women in his life who have the biggest dream for him: to find his own manhood. Hansberry suggests that manliness is having the strength to stand up for what is right.