A Raisin in the Sun

A Raisin in the Sun Summary and Analysis of Act II scene i

Later on Saturday, the scene opens with Ruth ironing and Beneatha getting ready for a date that night. She has on the Nigerian dress that Asagai gave her earlier. Beneatha dances to Nigerian music as she shows off her African garb, and sings in a Nigerian dialect. Walter walks into the apartment drunk but instinctively starts dancing, loving the beat of the drum in the music. During this scene, the inebriated Walter begins to act out a scene in which he is the chief of a tribe. He prepares his imaginary tribe for war by invoking war songs and the songs of his ancestors.

Just as he makes his great speech, Walter is jerked back into reality, the stage lights turn back on, and George Murchison enters. Ruth, embarrassed, tells Walter (who has gotten on the table in his excitement) to get down and act properly. George, thoroughly confused, addresses Beneatha and asks her to change out of her "costume" and get ready for their theatre date. Beneatha, in a moment of indignation, removes her headdress and reveals to George Murchison her hair in its natural afro state. George is completely shocked. Beneatha seems to have expected this reaction and challenges George's discomfort with her natural hair, accusing him of being "an assimilationist Negro." Thus, the debate about the merits of their African heritage begins. George minimizes the importance of West African history and calls their heritage "nothing but a bunch of raggedy-assed spirituals and some grass huts!" Beneatha, highly insulted, asserts the importance of African history to civilization, citing the example of the surgical advances made by the Ashanti people.

Beneatha leaves George in the living room while she gets changed for their date. George, left to be entertained by Ruth and Walter, takes every opportunity to brag about how well-traveled he is. When asked what time the show starts, George says, "It's an eight-thirty curtain. That's just Chicago, though. In New York standard curtain time is 8:40." In order to save face, Walter pretends to have been to New York several times, and then begins to ridicule George about his collegiate dress. Walter, still inebriated, inquires about George's wealthy father, and then begins to tell George about his business plans. Insulted when George snubs him, Walter begins to challenge George in earnest. George dismisses Walter as bitter, and Walter responds, "And you-ain't you bitter, man?...Bitter? Man, I'm a volcano." Beneatha enters the scene again dressed in a cocktail dress but with her hair still natural. George and Beneatha get ready to leave, and as a final insult, George says to Walter, "Good night, Prometheus!" to highlight Walter's ignorance of Greek mythology.

With George and Beneatha gone, Walter turns his agitation towards his wife. Ruth offers Walter hot milk and coffee to help him with his hangover, but Walter complains that she does not give him what he really needs. He begins to ask Ruth about what has come between them, and why their relationship has changed.

Mama comes back home after having been gone all afternoon. Lena calls Travis to her and reveals to all of them that she has used the insurance money to put a down payment on a house. Ruth and Travis are excited; Walter remains silent. When Mama reveals that the address is 406 Clybourne Street, Clybourne Park, Walter voices his objection about moving into a white neighborhood. Mama explains that she did her best and tried to find the nicest house for the least amount of money. After sharing her news, Lena asks what Walter thinks. He ends the scene by stating,

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 me to say it was all right for?...so you butchered up a dream of mine-you-who always taking 'bout your children dreams...


While the last scene focused on Asagai, George Murchison, his antithesis, is introduced in this scene. Whereas Asagai represents liberal idealism and progressive free thought, George Murchison represent the conservative bourgeoisie. The interaction between Walter and George reveals the tension between the working and upper-middle classes. Beneatha is excited about her newly obtained gifts from Asagai: a Nigerian robe and music. Having tried on the robe, Beneatha turns on the Nigerian music. Walter, drunk, walks in and almost instinctively starts dancing to the rhythm of the drums. On a conscious level, Walter is not necessarily receptive to Beneatha's afrocentric ideology. For example, Walter makes fun of Beneatha's hair when she wears it in an natural afro as opposed to straightened. In front of her guest, Walter laughing says, "Well, I'll be damned. So that's what they mean by the African bush." On a subconscious level, however, Walter acknowledges their common African heritage when he dances to the drumbeat. It is in the African setting that he is able to imagine his masculinity restored. In his imagination, he is a great chief and a descendant of royalty. However, George's arrival disrupts Walter's world, jarringly bringing him back to a reality where he is poor, working-class, and unable to provide for his family.

Education and class create a chasm between George and Walter. Walter's resentment of Beneatha's college education is demonstrated in his expressed desire for Beneatha to be a nurse in the play's first scene. That resentment resurfaces in his conversation with George. Intimidated by George's exposure and travels, Walter begins to attack George's attire.

WALTER I(Looking MURCHISON over from head to toe, scrutinizing his carefully casual tweed sports jacket over cashmere V-neck sweater over soft eyelet shirt and tie, and soft slacks, finished off with white buckskin shoes)

Why all you college boys wear them faggoty-looking white shoes?] Whereas in the beginning of the scene George ridicules Beneatha's Nigerian costume, now the tables are turned, and Walter ridicules George's bourgeoisie costume. In this conversation, he not only undercuts the value of his education, but also challenges his masculinity with the homosexual connotation of the word "faggoty." George returns the insult at the end of his visit by referring to Walter as "Prometheus" in an effort to highlight his ignorance.

Hansberry skillfully captures the intra-racial tensions in the African-American community. Because society often places blacks in a single, indistinct category, wealthy African-Americans try even harder to distinguish themselves from poor African-Americans. As illustrated in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, blacks in America are treated as if they are invisible and insignificant. The threat of being treated as such is imminent. Often, the difference between affluence and poverty within the black community is only a generation removed, and assimilation becomes a survival strategy in order to gain acceptance by the majority. George Murchison's collegiate dress is a prime example of how he attempts to use his clothes to set him apart from the uneducated working-class.