Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.
The Younger apartment is the only setting throughout the play, emphasizing the centrality of the home. The lighting seems to change with the mood, and with only one window, the apartment is a small, often dark area in which all the Youngers—at one time or another—feel cramped. While some of the play’s action occurs outside of the apartment, the audience sees this action play out in the household. Most of what happens outside of the apartment includes Travis’s playing out in the street with the rat and Walter’s drinking and delinquency from work. The home is a galvanizing force for the family, one that Mama sees as crucial to the family’s unity. The audience sees characters outside the family—Joseph Asagai, George Murchison, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Lindner, and Bobo—only when they visit the apartment. These characters become real through their interactions with the Youngers and the Youngers’ reactions to them. The play ends, fittingly, when Mama, lagging behind, finally leaves the apartment.