On a Friday night a few weeks later, George and Beneatha come back to the apartment. George wants to kiss; Beneatha, however, wants to talk. George, frustrated, says to Beneatha, "You're a nice-looking girl...all over. That's all you need, honey, forget the atmosphere...I don't go out with you to discuss the nature of 'quiet desperation' or to hear all about your thoughts." Beneatha takes all this in and then asks George to leave. As he is leaving, Mama enters. Sensing the awkwardness, Mama asks what the matter is. Beneatha tells her, and for once Mama agrees with her daughter's assessment that she should not be bothered with George.
[The following scene with Ms. Johnson was cut from the original version of this play. Ms. Johnson, a nosy neighbor, has heard that the Youngers are moving. Under the pretense of offering the Youngers congratulations on the move and on Ruth's pregnancy, the woman comes over to cast doubt on their decision to move into a white neighborhood. Ms. Johnson happens to mention a recent newspaper article about a local Chicago family that moved into a white neighborhood and was bombed. After implying that Beneatha is uppity because she has a college education and that Walter ought to be satisfied as a chauffeur, Mrs. Johnson agrees to disagree with Lena and leaves.]
Ruth receives a call from Walter's boss's wife, Mrs. Arnold. Ruth discovers that Walter has not been at work for the past three days, and will lose his job if he does not show up soon. When Mama inquires where Walter has been, he confesses that on the first day he borrowed his friend Willy's car and drove into the country to look at steel mills, and then went to a local bar, the Green Hat. On the second day, he drove the car all the way up to Wisconsin to look at the farms, ending the day again at the Green Hat. Today, he says, he walked all over the South Side of Chicago, and plans to go right back to the Green Hat.
Mama realizes that her son is in a crisis and makes an important decision. She says, BLOCKQUOTE [There ain't nothing as precious to me...There ain't nothing worth holding on to, money dreams nothing else-if it means-if it means it's going to destroy my boy...I'm telling you to be the head of this family from now on like you suppose to be.] Lena then gives Walter the rest of the insurance money to invest as he pleases. After giving him $3,500 as a down payment, Mama gives the remaining $6,500 to Walter, asking only that he put aside $3000 for Beneatha's medical school education. Walter is amazed that his mother trusts him with the money. Travis enters the room, and Walter, excited about his new-found responsibility, tells his son about his hopes and dreams of working in a office, driving a nice car, having a nice house, and sending his son to college.
Like many college students in their early twenties, Beneatha is searching for her identity. Through Beneatha's relationships, Hansberry makes a valid point that the type of person one chooses as a partner is just as much a statement of one's identity as the ideas and thoughts they profess with their own mouths. George reveals in this scene that even though he and Beneatha are being exposed to the same radical and enlightening ideas, he does not truly accept them as his own. He has probably learned about women's struggle for suffrage just as Beneatha has, but he still values a woman's physical attributes over the thoughts and ideas she has to offer. George says, "You're a nice-looking girl...all over. That's all you need, honey, forget the atmosphere...I don't go out with you to discuss the nature of 'quiet desperation' or to hear all about your thoughts."
The scene with Ms. Johnson was cut from the original production, yet the scene is significant because it reveals the feelings that other African-Americans might have had about the move. Ms. Johnson has dropped by uninvited to share her opinions. She feels that Beneatha has been acting snooty since she has started college, and believes that Walter should be satisfied as a chauffeur. Unable to withhold her comments any longer, Mama defends her son by saying,
My husband always said being any kind of servant wasn't a fit thing for a man to have to be. He always said a man's hands was made to make things, or turn the earth with-not to drive nobody's car for 'em-or...carry they slop jars. And my boy is just like him-he wasn't meant to wait on nobody.
This speech is interesting because it reveals where Mama draws the line: one might expect that distinction between servants and those being served might be made along monetary lines, but Mama asserts that what gives a man honor is the act of creating, whether he is a carpenter or a farmer. Walter's liquor store hits the essence of this philosophy. Even though Lena may have moral objections to liquor, ultimately Walter's entrepreneurial spirit is what validates his dream in Mama's eyes.
Lena understands what is at stake when a man's dream is deferred. Even though Walter has been talking about his plans and dreams for so long that Ruth has begun to turn a deaf ear, Mama does not grasp the fragility of his state until Walter is unable to stand up like his father and demand that Ruth not have an abortion. Lena attempts to remedy the situation by making a down payment on the house. When Walter misses work, however, Lena realizes that the house is her dream - not Walter's. At the end of the first scene of the second act, Walter feels insignificant even while Ruth becomes elated at the news of the new house. He wanted to be the heroic provider, bringing redemption to his family. At this point Lena makes a very difficult decision, and gives him authority over the insurance money.
In this play, Hansberry makes a statement about black families and how they are driven to support one another unconditionally. Mama realizes that her attempt to fix the problem is insufficient. The money represents a transfer of power. Walter is now the head of the Younger household. For the first time, he is trusted to make critical decisions that affect not only himself, but his entire family. Even though both Ruth and Lena have reservations about the sustainability of his plans, they must follow his lead. At last, the scene when Walter pretended to be Chaka Zulu has become reality: he is now the leader of his family.