A Raisin in the Sun

by: Lorraine Hansberry

Ruth

RUTH They saidSaturday and this is just Friday and I hopes to God you ain’t going to get up here first thing this morning and start talking to me ‘bout no money – ‘cause I ‘bout don’t want to hear it. (Act I, scene i)

Walter’s incessant talk of money tires Ruth, whose main concerns in life are keeping the house and caring for their son. Ruth points out that it’s only Friday, not the weekend, and she still has another long day of work ahead of her. She is too exhausted to discuss money at the moment. Ruth is a character of great emotional resiliency, focusing on the mundane tasks that dominate her life, not dreams.

RUTH What is there to be pleasant ‘bout! (Act I, scene i)

Ruth angrily responds to Walter after he asks her why she isn’t more pleasant. She is upset because Walter gave Travis another fifty cents, money she believes they can’t afford to give to him. Walter’s action reveals he is more worried that Travis will think they don’t have money than their actual lack of funds. Ruth’s dialogue with Walter reveals how the financial tension, and their different attitudes towards it, threaten their marriage.

RUTH (Wearily)Honey, you never say nothing new. I listen to you every day, every night and every morning, and you never say nothing new. (Shrugging)So you would rather be Mr. Arnold than be his chauffeur. So – I would rather be living in Buckingham Palace. (Act I, scene i)

Ruth is expressing her exhaustion with Walter’s fixation on money. She is the only character in the play resigned to the idea that her dreams are unattainable. She dreams to live in a home better than what they have, but knows that’s never going to come true. While Ruth’s observation of Walter underscores her deep pessimism, it also reflects their reality: Walter is fixated on something that she believes will never change.

RUTH Shallow – what do you mean he’s shallow? He’s rich!…Well – what other qualities a man got to have to satisfy you, little girl? (Act I, scene i)

Ruth explains to Beneatha why she feels Beneatha’s lack of interest in George is unreasonable. To Ruth, whose life is crushed by financial stress, Beneatha’s decision to decline a rich man is almost an insult. Beneatha is being offered a way out of their poverty-stricken life, which Ruth considers a gift. Ruth and Beneatha are both pragmatic women, but in different ways.

RUTH I’m all right…(The glassy-eyed look melts and then she collapses into a fit of heavy sobbing. The bell rings)” (Act I, scene ii)

The contrast between Ruth’s words and her following collapse reveal the toll her life has taken on her, both physically and emotionally. Ruth, ever the pragmatic hard worker, is completely overwhelmed, yet attempts to deny her reality by declaring aloud that she is all right. Ruth’s words reveal a stoicism and emotional resiliency that many working-class black women in the 1950s developed to forge ahead in a world where the odds are stacked against them.