Study Guide

A Raisin in the Sun Sacrifice

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Act One, Scene One
Walter Younger

I don’t want nothing but for you to stop acting holy ‘round here. Me and Ruth done made some sacrifices for you – why can’t you do something for the family? (1.1.118)

Walter accuses Beneatha of not making enough sacrifices for their family. At the same time, Walter resents Beneatha for the sacrifices he has made.

You are in it – Don’t you get up and go work in somebody’s kitchen for the last three years to help put clothes on her back? (1.1.120)

Walter wants to make Beneatha feel bad for benefiting from Ruth's hard work. However, Ruth doesn't seem to begrudge making the sacrifice for her sister-in-law.

Act One, Scene Two
Lena Younger (Mama)

Your wife say she going to destroy your child. And I’m waiting to hear you talk like him and say we a people who give children life, not who destroys them – (She rises) I’m waiting to see you stand up and look like your daddy and say we don’t give up one baby to poverty and that we ain’t going to give up nary another one…I’m waiting. (1.2.238)

Lena wants Walter to say that Ruth should not sacrifice their future child's life and her health to lighten the family's load. This is just too big a sacrifice to make in Lena's mind.

Act Two, Scene One
Walter Younger

WALTER (Crossing slowly to his bedroom door and finally turning there and speaking measuredly)
What you need me to say you done right for? You the head of this family. You run our lives like you want to. It was your money and you did what you wanted with it. So what you need for me to say it was all right for? (Bitterly, to hurt her as deeply as he knows is possible) So you butchered up a dream of mine – you – who always talking ‘bout your children’s dreams… (2.1.187)

Walter's ego is too big to consider sacrificing his liquor store dream for the betterment of his family.

Act Two, Scene Three
Lena Younger (Mama)

I seen…him…night after night…come in…and look at that rug… and then look at me…the red showing in his eyes…the veins moving in his head…I seen him grow thin and old before he was forty…working and working and working like somebody’s old horse…killing himself…and you – you give it all away in a day – (She raises her arms to strike him again) (2.3.189)

Lena recalls the sacrifices Big Walter made for his family. She hates the fact that his son lost all of his life's savings in one day. In this moment, it seems like all of her husband's sacrifices were for nothing.

Act Three
Ruth Younger

RUTH (turning and going to MAMA fast – the words pouring out with urgency and desperation)
Lena – I’ll work … I’ll work twenty hours a day in all the kitchens in Chicago… I’ll strap my baby on my back if I have to and scrub all the floors in America and wash all the sheets in America if I have to – but we got to MOVE! We got to get OUT OF HERE!! (3.1.74)

Ruth is willing to sacrifice her time and energy in order to keep the house they have so rightfully bought. The old dingy apartment is killing her, and she feels that working even harder than now is a good trade for a more hospitable place to live.

Joseph Asagai

…Don’t you see that there will be young men and women – not British soldiers then, but my own black countrymen – to step out of the shadows some evening and slit my then useless throat? Don’t you see they have always been there… that they always will be. And that such a thing as my own death will be an advance? They who might kill me even… actually replenish all that I was. (3.1.43)

In Asagai's mind, progress requires sacrifice. He is prepared to die in the process of improving conditions in Africa. To him, his life is worth the betterment of his home continent.

ASAGAI (Shouting over her)
I LIVE THE ANSWER! (Pause) In my village at home it is the exceptional man who can even read a newspaper… or who ever sees a book at all. I will go home and much of what I will have to say will seem strange to the people of my village. But I will teach and work and things will happen, slowly and swiftly. At times it will seem that nothing changes at all… and then again the sudden dramatic events which make history leap into the future. And then quiet again. Retrogression even. Guns, murder, revolution. And I even will have moments when I wonder if the quiet was not better than all that death and hatred. But I will look about my village at the illiteracy and disease and ignorance and I will not wonder long. And perhaps… perhaps I will be a great man… I mean perhaps I will hold on to the substance of truth and find my way always with the right course…(3.1.41)

Asagai describes how fighting the good fight is a process of sacrifice. Hopefully, though, it's a struggle that will eventually be rewarding.

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