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A Raisin in the Sun - Act Two, Scene Three

Plot Summary and Analysis

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This plot summary and study guide for Lorraine Hansberry's play, A Raisin in the Sun, provides an overview of Act Two, Scene Three. To learn more about the previous scenes, check out the following articles:

One Week Later - Moving Day:

Scene Three of the second act of A Raisin in the Sun takes place a week after the events of Scene Two. It is moving day for the Younger family. Ruth and Beantha are making last minute preparations before the movers arrive. Ruth recounts how she and her husband, Walter Lee, went to a movie the previous evening - something they have not done in a very long time. The romance in the marriage seems to have been rekindled. During and after the movie, Ruth and Walter held hands.

Walter enters, filled with happiness and anticipation. In contrast to previous scenes during the play, Walter now feels empowered - as though he is finally steering his life in its proper direction. He plays an old record and dances with his wife as Beneatha pokes fun at them. Walter jokes with his sister (Beneatha aka Bennie), claiming that she is too obsessed with civil rights:

WALTER: Girl, I do believe you are the first person in the history of the entire human race to successfully brainwash yourself.

The Welcoming Committee:

The doorbell rings. As Beneatha opens the door, the audience is introduced to Mr. Karl Lindner. He is a white, bespectacled, middle-aged man who has been sent from Clybourne Park, the soon-to-be neighborhood of the Younger family. He asks to speak with Mrs. Lena Younger (Mama), but since she is not home, Walter says that he handles most of the family business.

Karl Lindner is the chairman of a "welcoming committee" - an association that not only welcomes newcomers, but that also deals with problematic situations. Playwright Lorraine Hansberry describes him in the following stage directions: "He is a gentle man; thoughtful and somewhat labored in his manner."

(Note: In the film version, Mr. Lindner was played by John Fiedler, the same actor who provided the voice of Piglet in Disney's Winnie the Pooh cartoons. That's how timid he is meant to seem.) Yet, despite his gentle mannerisms, Mr. Lindner represents something very insidious; he symbolizes a large portion of 1950s society who were believed they were not overtly racist, yet quietly allowed racism to thrive within their community.

Eventually, Mr. Lindner reveals his purpose. His committee wants their neighborhood to remain segregated. Walter and the others become very upset by his message. Sensing their disturbance, Lindner hurriedly explains that his committee wants to buy the new house from the Youngers, so that the black family will make a healthy profit in the exchange.

Walter is dismayed and insulted by Lindner's proposition. The chairman leaves, sadly saying, "You just can't force people to change their hearts son." Directly after Lindner exits, Mama and Travis enter. Beneatha and Walter teasingly explain that the Welcoming Committee of Clybourne Park "can't hardly wait" to see Mama's face. Mama eventually gets the jest, though she does not find it amusing. They wonder why the white community is so against living next to a black family.

RUTH: You should hear the money those folks raised to buy the house from us. All we paid and then some.

BENEATHA: What they think we going to do - eat 'em?

RUTH: No, honey, marry 'em.

MAMA: (Shaking her head.) Lord, Lord, Lord...

Mama's Houseplant:

The focus of Act Two, Scene Three of A Raisin in the Sun shifts to Mama and her houseplant. She prepares the plant for the "big move" so that it won't get hurt in the process. When Beneatha asks why Mama would want to keep that "raggedy-looking old thing," Mama Younger replies: "It expresses me." This is Mama's way of recalling Beneatha's tirade about self-expression, but it also reveals the affinity Mama feels for the enduring houseplant.

And, even though the family may joke about the ragged condition of the plant, the family strongly believes in Mama's ability to nurture. This is evident by the "Moving Day" gifts they bestow upon her. In the stage directions, the gifts are described as: "a brand new sparkling set of tools" and "a wide gardening hat." The playwright also notes in the stage directions that these are the first presents Mama has received outside of Christmas.

One might think that the Younger clan is on the cusp of a prosperous new life, but there is yet another knock at the door.

Walter Lee and the Money:

Filled with nervous anticipation, Walter eventually opens the door. One of his two business partners stands before him with a sobering expression. His name is Bobo; the absent business partner is named Willy. Bobo, in quiet desperation, explains the distressing news.

Willy was supposed to meet Bobo and travel to Springfield to quickly obtain a liquor license. Instead, Willy stole all of Walter's investment money, as well as Bobo's life savings. During Act Two, Scene Two, Mama entrusted $6500 to her son, Walter. She instructed him to place three thousand dollars in a savings account. That money was meant for Beneatha's college education. The remaining $3500 was for Walter. But Walter didn't just "invest" his money -- he gave all of it to Willy, including Beneatha's portion.

When Bobo reveals the news of Willy's betrayal (and Walter's decision to leave all of the money in the hands of a con-artist), the family is devastated. Beneatha is filled with rage, and Walter is wroth with shame.

Mama snaps and repeatedly hits Walter Lee in the face. In a surprise move, Beneatha actually stops her mother's assault. (I say surprise move because I expected Beneatha to join in!)

Finally, Mama wanders around the room, recalling how her husband had worked himself to death (and all apparently for naught.) The scene ends with Mama Younger looking up to God, asking for strength.

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