Mama wants to buy a house to secure a more comfortable standard of living for the whole Younger family. However, now that she has the money to invest in a house, Mama learns that the real estate available to Black families tends to be inconveniently located and overpriced. As she explains to Walter and Ruth: “Them houses they put up for colored in them areas way out all seem to cost twice as much as other houses.” For these reasons, Mama decides to purchase a home in the all-white neighborhood of Clybourne Park. Mama doesn’t intentionally make this decision to subvert the status quo of racial segregation, but her attempt “to find the nicest place for the least amount of money for my family” still entails an implicit act of resistance.
Walter wants to use the insurance money to invest in a liquor store with his friends Willy and Bobo. Walter sees this investment as an opportunity for him to escape his exhausting and thankless job as a chauffeur. In other words, the liquor store represents a chance at upward mobility. Walter’s desire to own his own business and achieve upward mobility is linked to his desire to rescue his masculine pride. Throughout the play Walter expresses his sense of being emasculated and unable to live up to his father’s legacy. This sense of emasculation comes especially from his work in the service industry. As Mama explains, Walter’s father would not approve of his job as a chauffeur: “My husband always said being any kind of a servant wasn’t a fit thing for a man to have to be.” In addition to his degrading employment status, Walter complains of the various ways the women in his family and society at large conspire to keep him in a subordinate position and deprive him of any sense of self-worth. Thus, the insurance money represents an opportunity for Walter to redeem himself as a son and as a man.
Karl Lindner represents the Clybourne Park Improvement Association, and his job is to explain to the Younger family why no one in the association wants them to move into the neighborhood. Although Lindner presents the Association as caring, it is obviously racist. He explains: “It is a matter of the people of Clybourne Park believing, rightly or wrongly, as I say, that for the happiness of all concerned our Negro families are happier when they live in their own communities.” While rhetorically distancing himself from the opinion of his fellow community members, Lindner strongly implies that he shares their opinion when he stresses the emotional logic of the Clybourne Park community: “People can get awful worked up when they feel that their whole way of life and everything they’ve ever worked for is threatened.” Lindner clearly includes himself in the word “people.”
Walter loses the insurance money to Willy, a crook that he mistakes for a friend. Mama entrusts Walter with all the money that remains after the down payment on the new house. Although Mama insists that a portion of that money should remain earmarked for Beneatha’s education, Walter ignores her wishes and hands the entire sum over to his friend Bobo, who in turn gives Walter’s money, along with his own contribution, to their partner Willy. They planned for Willy to take their combined funds to Springfield, Illinois, where he would use the money to bribe government officials and secure a liquor license for their shop. However, as Bobo explains to Walter, Willy flees with the money. The loss is devastating not just for Bobo and Walter, but also for the entire Younger family, and especially Beneatha, whose dream of becoming a doctor is now in peril.
The Youngers decide to go through with the move in order to honor the legacy of their deceased father and to preserve their sense of pride. After Walter loses the insurance money, the family’s dream of moving into the new house no longer seems possible. For one thing, the spirit of optimism that had previously energized everyone has dissipated. Second, without the cushion offered by the extra money, the Youngers are no longer in a strong financial position. In order to pay for the house, everyone must work and contribute, including Mama, who’s getting older, and Ruth, who’s now pregnant with a second child. In his despair, Walter considers selling the house to the Clybourne community at a profit. He even summons Lindner back to the apartment to discuss the details. But when Lindner arrives, Walter has a change of heart, in large part due to his family’s objections. Walter tells Lindner, “we come from people who had a lot of pride,” and he concludes, “we have decided to move into our house because my father—my father—he earned it for us brick by brick.” Despite the risks, the Youngers go through with the move in order to salvage their dignity.