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A Raisin in the Sun

Lorraine Hansberry
  • Study Guide
Characters

Ruth Younger

Characters Ruth Younger

Ruth joined the Younger family when she married Walter, and from the play’s opening moments it is clear that her day-to-day life in the Younger household has exhausted her utterly. Despite her pregnancy, Ruth does strenuous domestic work in white homes and plays a key part in keeping the entire Younger family functioning. She feeds Travis and keeps him in line, and she also mediates disputes between Walter and his sister Beneatha, who constantly bicker like children. In this regard, Ruth is symbolically aligned with Mama, with whom she shares a vision of providing the family with better living conditions. While Walter wants to use the insurance money for his business, and Beneatha needs it for her schooling, Ruth advocates strongly for moving the family out of the South Side slums. When Mama announces that she put a down payment on a house, Ruth maintains her excitement despite the obvious challenges the family would face in an all-white neighborhood. Her priority is to secure the Younger family’s future.

Ruth’s increasingly strained relationship with Walter hampers her vision of the future. Ruth doesn’t put a lot of stock in her husband’s abilities as a businessman or entrepreneur. Whenever Walter tries to talk to her about his liquor store venture, Ruth brushes him off. He lashes out at her and claims that she’s failed him. For her part, however, Ruth feels wearied by Walter, who, after years of dreaming for something better and not achieving it, sounds like a broken record: “I listen to you every day, every night and every morning, and you never say nothing new. So you would rather be Mr. Arnold than be his chauffeur. So—I would rather be living in Buckingham Palace.” The conflict in their marriage worsens, to the point where it seems she and Walter are at a breaking point. Ruth even neglects to tell Walter that she’s pregnant and struggles on her own with the decision of whether to get an abortion. The breakdown of her marriage causes Ruth to lose faith in the future, and only after Walter decides that the family will move does Ruth—and her dream—revive.