now it’s life. Money is life. Once upon a time freedom used to be
life—now it’s money. I guess the world really do change . . .
was always money, Mama. We just didn’t know about it.
Mama: No . .
. something has changed. You something new, boy. In my time we was
worried about not being lynched . . . You ain’t satisfied or proud
of nothing we done. I mean that you had a home; that we kept you
out of trouble till you was grown; that you don’t have to ride to
work on the back of nobody’s streetcar—You my children—but how different we
This exchange occurs in Act I, scene
ii when Mama asks Walter why he always talks about money. Walter
responds that “[m]oney is life,” explaining to her that success
is now defined by how much money one has. This conversation takes
place early in the play and reveals Mama’s and Walter’s economic
struggles. These lines demonstrate the ideological differences between
their generations. Throughout the play, Mama’s views are at odds
with Walter’s and Beneatha’s views. For Walter, money seems to be
the answer to everything. Money, he believes, allows people to live
comfortable and carefree lives. It also seems to define a man by
measuring his success and ability to provide for his family. For
Walter, who feels enslaved in his job and life, money is the truest
Throughout A Raisin in the Sun, characters
connect money to discussions of race. Mama says, “Once upon a time
freedom used to be life—now it’s money. I guess the world really
do change.” Walter grew up being “free” in the way that Mama means,
but he faced other problems, such as the lack of financial and social
freedom that he talks about here. Walter believes that freedom is
not enough and that, while civil rights are a large step for blacks,
in the real world—for the Youngers, the South Side of Chicago in
the 1940s and 1950s—blacks
are still treated differently and more harshly than whites. Mr.
Lindner, who later comes to persuade the Youngers not to move into
his all-white neighborhood, embodies one example of this racist
treatment. Mrs. Johnson later speaks of reading about the bombing
of a black family’s house in the “colored paper” and complains that
the racist white people who were responsible for the bombing make
her feel like times have not changed, as if they still live in turbulent
Mississippi, a hotbed of racism during the mid-twentieth century.