Once upon a time freedom used to be life—now it’s money.
The next day, Saturday, the Youngers are cleaning their apartment and waiting for the insurance check to arrive. Walter receives a phone call from his friend Willy Harris, who is coordinating the potential liquor store venture. It appears that their plan is moving smoothly. The insurance check is all Walter needs to pursue the venture. He promises to bring the money to Willy when he receives it. Meanwhile, Beneatha is spraying the apartment with insecticide in an attempt to rid it of cockroaches. Beneatha and Travis start fighting, and Beneatha threatens him with the spray gun.
The phone rings, and Beneatha answers. She invites the person on the phone over to the still-dirty apartment, much to Mama’s chagrin. After hanging up, Beneatha explains to Mama that the man she has spoken to on the phone is Joseph Asagai, an African intellectual whom Beneatha has met at school. She and Mama discuss Beneatha’s worries about her family’s ignorance about Africa and African people. Mama believes that Africans need religious salvation from “heathenism,” while Beneatha believes that they are in greater need of political and civil salvation from French and British colonialism.
Ruth returns from seeing a doctor, who has told her that she is two months pregnant. She reveals this information to Mama and Beneatha. Ruth and Beneatha are worried and uncertain, while Mama simply expresses her hope that the baby will be a girl. Ruth calls the doctor “she,” which arouses Mama’s suspicion because their family doctor is a man. Ruth feels ill and anxious about her pregnancy. Mama tries to help her relax.
Asagai visits Beneatha, and they spend some time together by themselves. He brings her some Nigerian clothing and music as gifts. As Beneatha tries on one of the robes, Asagai asks about her straightened hair. He implies that her hairstyle is too American and unnatural, and he wonders how it got that way. Beneatha says that her hair was once like his, but that she finds it too “raw” that way. He teases her a bit about being very serious about finding her identity, particularly her African identity, through him. Asagai obviously cares for Beneatha very much, and he wonders why Beneatha does not have the same feeling for him. She explains that she is looking for more than storybook love. She wants to become an independent and liberated woman. Asagai scorns her wish, much to Beneatha’s disappointment.
Mama comes into the room, and Beneatha introduces her to Asagai. Mama then recites Beneatha’s views on Africa and African people as best she can. When Asagai says goodbye, he calls Beneatha by a nickname, “Alaiyo.” He explains that it is a word from his African tribal language, roughly translated to mean “One for Whom Bread—Food—Is Not Enough.” He leaves, having charmed both women. Finally, the check arrives.
Walter returns home and wants to talk about his liquor store plans. Ruth wants to discuss her pregnancy with him and becomes upset when he will not listen. She shuts herself into their bedroom. Mama sits down with Walter who is upset by—and ashamed of—his poverty, his job as a chauffeur, and his lack of upward mobility. Finally, Mama tells him that Ruth is pregnant and that she fears that Ruth is considering having an abortion. Walter does not believe that Ruth would do such a thing until Ruth comes out of the bedroom to confirm that she has made a down payment on the service.
What About Ruth
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what is the tone of the play?
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