Study Guide

A Raisin in the Sun Act One, Scene Two

By Lorraine Hansberry

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Act One, Scene Two

  • It’s the next morning. Lena and Beneatha clean the house with Travis in the room. Travis complains about the insecticide Beneatha is using and requests to go outside.
  • He leaves after asking about his mother’s whereabouts; his relatives tell him that Ruth is on an errand.
  • Walter takes a call from his friend Willy Harris and promises that he’ll soon have the money for their liquor store.
  • We find out Ruth has gone to the doctor’s (that’s good, because falling and lying semi-conscious didn’t sound the actions of a healthy woman to us).
  • Mama (subtly) suggests that Ruth is pregnant.
  • Travis plays outside and keeps a lookout for the postman.
  • Beneatha gets a phone call from Joseph Asagai, a Nigerian schoolmate. She invites him over, despite knowing that her mother hates it when people see the house all messy. Bennie warns Mama not to ask her friend ignorant questions about Africa.
  • Ruth returns and the mood is somber after she announces that she is two months pregnant. Mama and Bennie ask her if she planned the pregnancy, and if so, where is the baby going to live? Ruth suggests that she did not go to a traditional doctor.
  • Ruth looks out the window to find that Travis and other kids are not playing tag, not kicking a ball around, but chasing a rat in the street. As you might guess, the ladies aren’t thrilled with this and call him back up.
  • Ruth is on an emotional roller coaster and alternates between screaming and sobbing. Mama takes her to go lie down just as the doorbell rings.
  • Beneatha answers the door to find Joseph standing there. We find out Beneatha and Joseph were romantically involved before he left for Canada. He clearly still cares for her.
  • He presents her with Nigerian robes and vinyl records. In the next breath, he calls her hair mutilated because she straightens it. Bennie argues that she is not an assimilationist.
  • Mama puts on a polite and proper demeanor in the guest’s presence; she parrots Beneatha’s words from earlier about Africa.
  • Joseph leaves, having charmed both women.
  • The mail arrives and Mama doesn’t seem to know what to do with herself. She asks Ruth to clarify just which doctor she went to, and it becomes clear that Ruth went to see about getting an abortion.
  • Walter bounces in, eager to win them over with his liquor store plan.
  • Both ladies have the pregnancy on the brain, but Walter is not in the mood to listen. Exasperated, Ruth finally leaves.
  • Frustrated that his mother and wife refuse to listen to him, Walter gets all pouty. And then wants to deal with it in the most responsible way possible: by getting drunk.
  • Before he leaves, Mama stops him and in the following conversation, the generation gap and difference in priorities are evident. Mama emphasizes that things used to be worse, that racism was a threat to everyday existence, but that all Walter cares about now is money. Walter admits that he’s frightened of a future of nothingness.
  • Mama tells Walter that he better shape up because his wife is not only pregnant but also thinking about aborting the baby.
  • Ruth re-enters, saying that she’s already put down a five-dollar deposit to get the abortion. Mama challenges Walter to be the man that his father was.
  • Great. Walter’s really cheered up now. He peaces out to the bar.

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