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Essay 1

Sample Essay

Dr. Robin Nealy

English 1302

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13 July 2021

Final Drama Essay

Family can be described as a group of people who love and care for one another no

matter the circumstances. In the play Fences, by August Wilson, the strength of a family is tested

to its breaking point. When Troy, the father figure of the family, cheats on his loving wife Rose,

a situation occurs that brings up the past scars in Troy’s life. Throughout the story, many new

characters and feelings are introduced that show the man Troy is and why. Many themes are

portrayed through a number of literary devices within the play. Specifically, the play Fences uses

character development, flashbacks, and juxtaposition to highlight the importance of family as a

major theme.

Character development is a prominent literary device used throughout the play to

highlight the importance of family. The development of Troy highlights the importance of family

in the plot. Troy continuously denies having an affair with Alberta in the beginning of the play,

no matter who he was lying to. Troy unintentionally admitted to the affair to his close friend,

Bono. Bono stated, “I see you be walking up around Alberta’s house” (Wilson 1234). Even

though the underlying question was directly understood by Troy, Troy lied about having any

relationship with Alberta. Farther into the conversation, Bono asks Troy a simple question about

Alberta. The conversation became open in a way that Bono now knew, solidly, that Troy had an

affair with Alberta. This conversation is crucial to the character development of Troy. Troy no

longer outwardly expresses a deep need to hide the affair. Troy let Bono know that he and

Essay 2

Alberta had sexual intercourse even though he did not say it directly. Troy was aware that his

affair was becoming less of a secret as he continued the conversation with Bono. The affair

became more casual in his eyes after this conversation. This shows that Troy, at first, did not see

the emotional damage he was causing to his family. He was prideful of his relationship with

Alberta. This perspective changes later in the play. Towards the climax of the story, Troy has to

tell his wife about Alberta and the baby he had with her. His wife expressed how upset she was

with Troy, “Been married eighteen years and I got to live to see the day you tell me you been

seeing another woman and done fathered a child by her” (Wilson 1265). This statement triggers

the love Troy has for his family, as he realizes the depth of his mistake. He began to understand

that his wife has done nothing to deserve the pain he has caused her. He also realizes that the

pain is deeper than he originally imagined. His character turns from someone who is prideful

about his affair, to someone who is truly sorry for his wrongdoing. This character development

shows that even a character who seemed neurotic in the beginning can think like an empathetic

person because of the power of family. The theme of family importance is highlighted through

the character development of Troy.

The theme of family importance is demonstrated through flashbacks of Troy’s childhood.

These flashbacks are triggered when Cory, Troy’s son, expressed his desire to play college ball.

This idea was automatically shot down by Troy. When Troy was in high school, he wanted to

play college ball as well. Despite his outstanding talent as a high school athlete, Troy was

ignored by Major League Baseball because of his race (“Explanation of: ‘Fences’ by August

Wilson” 1). Racial prejudices prevented Troy’s dream from coming true. A generation later, his

son has the same dream, except it is slightly more in reach. One reason Troy was triggered by

Cory’s dream was that he could not achieve the same one when he had the chance. Although the

Essay 3

scene comes out as hostile and close-minded, Troy had a caring reason for snapping at Cory.

Racial prejudices caused Troy a lot of pain and trauma while he was growing up. Behind the

tough exterior, Troy loves Cory and does not want him to go through the same suffering he did

as a teenager. This reveals that family, to Troy, is important enough to fight for. Troy fought for

Cory to not pursue his dream out of love, not pure spite. It is arguable that since the times have

changed, Troy has no reason to doubt his son to such a great extent. The historical context of the

play tells the audience that laws against segregation had been enacted between the time Troy was

a teenager and when his son became a teenager. These laws make an argument that Cory, unlike

Troy, can play ball in college with little obstacles. This is not true, though. Although the laws

made it technically illegal to discriminate, “laws do not proscribe general notions of racial

prejudice by private individuals in most circumstances” (“Racial Discrimination” 1). This

implies that although laws are in place to protect Cory, when there is no one enforcing them, it is

almost as though they are non-existent. Using this flashback to further enforce the togetherness

of their family, Troy’s wife told Cory, “Your daddy wanted you to be everything he wasn’t”

(Wilson 1278). Rose stated this because she wanted Cory to understand Troy didn’t want to take

this opportunity away from Cory, he wanted to make sure his future would be safe no matter the

circumstances. Though they had different ways of expressing their love, both Troy and his wife

want the best for their son. The flashback of Troy wanting to play ball in college made the

theme, family is important, more accessible to the audience.

Lastly, Wilson uses juxtaposition to emphasize the theme of family importance in the

play. From a previous marriage Troy had a son named Lyons. Lyons was raised by his mother

because Troy was in jail for his upbringing. It is apparent in the story that Lyons isn’t fond of his

father. Towards the end of the story, the wedlock child between Troy and Alberta was born. The

Essay 4

baby, Raynell, is juxtaposed with Lyons. This juxtaposition allows the audience to see two

different outcomes of father-son relationships in a family. Troy wasn’t present for Lyons and

now has the option of being present in his newborn’s life. Troy’s wife takes the baby away from

him and explains she will raise him. Rose projected her sorrow towards Troy’s sins, but she

knew in her heart she couldn’t blame her for Troy’s mistake. She knows the hurt of a child

without a mother, and would never want that life for Troy’s daughter (Wilson 1270). Rose

knows the importance and strength of family. She continuously goes out of her way throughout

the play to show that. She is a large factor in portraying family importance as a theme in the

play. The decision for Rose to raise Raynell, juxtaposed to the life of Lyons, shows that the love

that holds a family together can help the lives of innocent children. It shows that a mother’s love

is strong enough to hold a family together. A new blended family is created. Blended families

“can be challenging and rewarding” (“Families” 1). Although this does not promise a perfect

childhood for Raynell, he will have a better chance of getting the love and nourishment every

baby deserves (Jekielek 1). Overall, the theme that family is important is emphasized throughout

the play through the juxtaposition of Lyons and Raynell.

Fences expresses family is important through the many hardships and struggles the

family in the play had to endure. The literary devices of character development, flashbacks, and

juxtaposition show what the family has learned. Literature is a powerful way to express many

hidden themes through various stories. Stay focused on what a good job Wilson does using the

techniques to further the theme of family.

Essay 5

Works Cited

“Explanation of: ‘Fences’ by August Wilson.” LitFinder Contemporary Collection, Gale, 2010.

Gale Literature: LitFinder,link.gale.com/apps/doc/LTF4000000577CE/LITF?u=

j079906&sid=bookmark-LITF&xid=43774283. Accessed 6 Aug. 2021.

“Families.” Gale In Context Online Collection, Gale, 2021. Gale In Context: High School,


SUIC&xi=cf628b40. Accessed 6 Aug. 2021.

Jekielek, Susan M. “Parental Conflict, Marital Disruption and Children’s Emotional Well-being.”

Social Forces, vol. 76, no. 3, 1998, pp. 905-936. eLibrary,


ocument/229914049?accountid=7145. Accessed 8 Aug. 2021.

“Racial Discrimination.” Gale Encyclopedia of Everyday Law, edited by Donna Batten, 3rd ed.,

vol. 1: American with Disabilities Act to First Amendment Law, Gale, 2013, pp. 203-

210.Gale In Context: High School,link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX2760300049/SUIC?u=

j079906&sid=bookmark-SUIC&xid=d530989. Accessed 8 Aug. 2021.

Wilson, August, and Lloyd Richards. Fences. Penguin Publishing Group, 2019.

Essay 6

topic raisin in the sun

1. My choice of play is “A raisin in the sun” and I selected the story because I find it to be interesting and it talks about racial prejudice among the African Americans and other themes which are intriguing to me.

2. The theme which I examined in the story is racial discrimination. The book talks about the racial discrimination when it came to the colored people with regard to the education systems, housing, and employment and even in the Supreme Court. The book says, “That is just what is wrong with the colored women in this world . . . Don’t understand about building their men up and making feel like they somebody. Like they can do something” (Hansberry).



The story talks about how Lena Younger and her family struggled to have equal rights like the white people. This family in an attempt to challenge the racial discrimination and prejudices bought a house in a white dominated neighborhood but various conflicts arise from that decision. When they moved into the neighborhood the whites in the area rejected their presence there and this shows that the blacks did not have the right and freedom to live anywhere even when they had the finances to pay for it. 

drama essay: raisin in the sun

A) Write a 1250-word research paper on one of the following plays:




A Raisin in the Sun







The action of the play is set in Chicago’s South side, sometime
between World War II and the present.

Act I

Scene I Friday morning.
Scene II The following morning.

Act II

Scene I Later, the same day.

Scene II Friday night, a few weeks later.
Scene III Moving day, one week later.


An hour later.



The YOUNGER living room would be a comfortable and well-
ordered room if it were not for a number of indestructible contra-
dictions to this state of being. Its furnishings are typical and un-


Lorraine Hansberry

distinguished and their primary feature now is that they have
clearly had to accommodate the living of too many people for too
many years—and they are tired. Still, we can see that at some time,
a time probably no longer remembered by the family (except per-
haps for MAMA), the furnishings of this room were actually selected
with care and love and even hope—and brought to this apartment
and arranged with taste and pride.

That was a long time ago. Now the once loved pattern of the
couch upholstery has to fight to show itself from under acres of
crocheted doilies and couch covers which have themselves finally
come to be more important than the upholstery. And here a table
or a chair has been moved to disguise the worn places in the carpet;
but the carpet has fought back by showing its weariness, with
depressing uniformity, elsewhere on its surface.

Weariness has, in fact, won in this room. Everything has been
polished, washed, sat on, used, scrubbed too often. All pretenses
but living itself have long since vanished from the very atmosphere
of this room.

Moreover, a section of this room, for it is not really a room unto
itself, though the landlord’s lease would make it seem so, slopes
backward to provide a small kitchen area, where the family pre-
pares the meals that are eaten in the living room proper, which
must also serve as dining room. The single window that has been
provided for these “two” rooms is located in this kitchen area.
The sole natural light the family may enjoy in the course of a day
is only that which fights it way through this little window.

At left, a door leads to a bedroom which is shared by MAMA
and her daughter, BENEATHA. At right, opposite, is a second room
(which in the beginning of the life of this apartment was probably
the breakfast room) which serves as a bedroom for WALTER and
his wife, RUTH.

Time Sometime between World War II and the present.

Place Chicago’s South side.

At rise It is morning dark in the living room. TRAVIS is asleep
on the make-down bed at center. An alarm clock sounds from
within the bedroom at right, and presently RUTH enters from that
room and closes the door behind her. She crosses sleepily toward


A R A I S I N IN THE SUN Act I Scene I

the window. As she passes her sleeping son she reaches down and
shakes him a little. At the window she raises the shade and a dusky
Southside morning light comes in feebly. She fills a pot with water
and puts it on to boil. She calls to the boy, between yawns, in a
slightly muffled voice.

RUTH is about thirty. We can see that she was a pretty girl, even
exceptionally so, but now it is apparent that life has been little
that she expected, and disappointment has already begun to hang
in her face. In a few years, before thirty-five even, she will be
known among her people as a “settled woman.”

She crosses to her son and gives him a good, final, rousing shake.

RUTH: Come on now, boy, it’s seven thirty! (Her son sits up at
last, in a stupor of sleepiness.) I say hurry up, Travis! You ain’t
the only person in the world got to use a bathroom! (The child,
a sturdy, handsome little boy of ten or eleven, drags himself out
of the bed and almost blindly takes his towels and “today’s
clothes” from drawers and a closet and goes out to the bath-
room, which is in an outside hall and which is shared by another
family or families on the same floor. RUTH crosses to the bed-
room door at right and opens it and calls in to her husband.)
Walter Lee! . . . It’s after seven thirty! Lemme see you do some
waking up in there now! (She waits.) You better get up from
there, man! It’s after seven thirty I tell you. (She waits again.)
All right, you just go ahead and lay there and next thing you
know Travis be finished and Mr. Johnson’ll be in there and
you’ll be fussing and cussing round here like a madman! And
be late too! (She waits, at the end of patience.) Walter Lee-
it’s time for you to GET UP!

She waits another second and then starts to go into the bedroom,
but is apparently satisfied that her husband has begun to get up.
She stops, pulls the door to, and returns to the kitchen area. She
wipes her face with a moist cloth and runs her fingers through her
sleep-disheveled hair in a vain effort and ties an apron around her
housecoat. The bedroom door at right opens and her husband
stands in the doorway in his pajamas, which are rumpled and
mismated. He is a lean, intense young man in his middle thirties,
inclined to quick nervous movements and erratic speech habits—
and always in his voice there is a quality of indictment.


Lorraine Hansberry

WALTER: Is he out yet?
RUTH: What you mean out? He ain’t hardly got in there good

WALTER (wandering in, still more oriented to sleep than to a new

day): Well, what was you doing all that yelling for if I can’t
even get in there yet? (Stopping and thinking.) Check coming

RUTH: They said Saturday and this is just Friday and I hopes to
God you ain’t going to get up here first thing this morning and
start talking to me ’bout no money—’cause I ’bout don’t want
to hear it.

WALTER: Something the matter with you this morning?
RUTH: No—I’m just sleepy as the devil. What kind of eggs you

WALTER: Not scrambled. (RUTH starts to scramble eggs.) Paper

come? (RUTH points impatiently to the rolled up Tribune on the
table, and he gets it and spreads it out and vaguely reads the
front page.) Set off another bomb yesterday.

RUTH (maximum indifference): Did they?
WALTER (looking up): What’s the matter with you?
RUTH: Ain’t nothing the matter with me. And don’t keep asking

me that this morning.
WALTER: Ain’t nobody bothering you. (reading the news of the

day absently again) Say Colonel McCormick is sick.
RUTH (affecting tea-party interest): Is he now? Poor thing.
WALTER (sighing and looking at his watch): Oh, me. (He waits.)

Now what is that boy doing in that bathroom all this time? He
just going to have to start getting up earlier. I can’t be being late
to work on account of him fooling around in there.

RUTH (turning on him): Oh, no he ain’t going to be getting up no
earlier no such thing! It ain’t his fault that he can’t get to bed
no earlier nights ’cause he got a bunch of crazy good-for-nothing
clowns sitting up running their mouths in what is supposed to
be his bedroom after ten o’clock at night. . .

WALTER: That’s what you mad about, ain’t it? The things I want
to talk about with my friends just couldn’t be important in your
mind, could they?

He rises and finds a cigarette in her handbag on the table and


A R A I S I N IN THE SUN Act I Scene I

crosses to the little window and looks out, smoking and deeply
enjoying this first one.

RUTH (almost matter of factly, a complaint too automatic to de-
serve emphasis): Why you always got to smoke before you eat
in the morning?

WALTER (at the window): Just look at ’em down there . . . Running
and racing to work . . . (He turns and faces his wife and watches
her a moment at the stove, and then, suddenly) You look young
this morning, baby.

RUTH (indifferently): Yeah?
WALTER: Just for a second—stirring them eggs. Just for a second

it was—you looked real young again. (He reaches for her; she
crosses away. Then, drily) It’s gone now—you look like yourself

RUTH: Man, if you don’t shut up and leave me alone.
WALTER (looking out to the street again): First thing a man ought

to learn in life is not to make love to no colored woman first
thing in the morning. You all some eeeevil people at eight o’clock
in the morning.

TRAVIS appears in the hall doorway, almost fully dressed and quite
wide awake now, his towels and pajamas across his shoulders. He
opens the door and signals for his father to make the bathroom in
a hurry.)

TRAVIS (watching the bathroom): Daddy, come on!

WALTER gets his bathroom utensils and flies out to the bathroom.

RUTH: Sit down and have your breakfast, Travis.
TRAVIS: Mama, this is Friday, (gleefully) Check coming tomor-

row, huh?
RUTH: You get your mind off money and eat your breakfast.
TRAVIS (eating): This is the morning we supposed to bring the fifty

cents to school.
RUTH: Well, I ain’t got no fifty cents this morning.
TRAVIS: Teacher say we have to.
RUTH: I don’t care what teacher say. I ain’t got it. Eat your break-

fast, Travis.
TRAVIS: I am eating.
RUTH: Hush up now and just eat!


Lorraine Hansberry

The boy gives her an exasperated look for her lack of
understanding, and eats grudgingly.

TRAVIS: You think Grandmama would have it?
RUTH: No! And I want you to stop asking your grandmother for

money, you hear me?
TRAVIS (outraged): Gaaaleee! I don’t ask her, she just gimme it

RUTH: Travis Willard Younger—I got too much on me this morn-

ing to be—
TRAVIS: Mabe Daddy —
RUTH: Travisl

The boy hushes abruptly. They are both quiet and tense for several

TRAVIS (presently): Could I maybe go carry some groceries in front
of the supermarket for a little while after school then?

RUTH: Just hush, I said. (Travis jabs his spoon into his cereal bowl
viciously, and rests his head in anger upon his fists.) If you
through eating, you can get over there and make your bed.

The boy obeys stiffly and crosses the room, almost mechanically,
to the bed and more or less folds the bedding into a heap, then
angrily gets his books and cap.

TRAVIS (sulking and standing apart from her unnaturally): I’m

RUTH (looking up from the stove to inspect him automatically):
Come here. (He crosses to her and she studies his head.) If you
don’t take this comb and fix this here head, you better! (TRAVIS
puts down his books with a great sigh of oppression, and crosses
to the mirror. His mother mutters under her breath about his
“slubbornness.”) ‘Bout to march out of here with that head
looking just like chickens slept in it! I just don’t know where
you get your stubborn ways . . . And get your jacket, too. Looks
chilly out this morning.

TRAVIS (with conspicuously brushed hair and jacket): I’m gone.
RUTH: Get carfare and milk money — (waving one finger) —and not

a single penny for no caps, you hear me?
TRAVIS (with sullen politeness): Yes’m.

He turns in outrage to leave. His mother watches after him as in



his frustration he approaches the door almost comically. When she
speaks to him, her voice has become a very gentle tease.

RUTH (mocking, as she thinks he would say it): Oh, Mama makes
me so mad sometimes, I don’t know what to do! (She waits and
continues to his back as he stands stock-still in front of the door.)
I wouldn’t kiss that woman good-bye for nothing in this world
this morning! (The boy finally turns around and rolls his eyes
at her, knowing the mood has changed and he is vindicated; he
does not, however, move toward her yet.) Not for nothing in
this world! (She finally laughs aloud at him and holds out her
arms to him and we see that it is a way between them, very old
and practiced. He crosses to her and allows her to embrace
him warmly but keeps his face fixed with masculine rigidity.
She holds him back from her presently and looks at him and
runs her fingers over the features of his face. With utter gentle-
ness—) Now—whose little old angry man are you?

TRAVIS (the masculinity and gruffness start to fade at last.): Aw
gaalee—Mama . . .

RUTH (mimicking): Aw—gaaaaalleeeee, Mama! (She pushes him,
with rough playfulness and finality, toward the door.) Get on
out of here or you going to be late.

TRAVIS (in the face of love, new aggressiveness): Mama, could I
please go carry groceries?

RUTH: Honey, it’s starting to get so cold evenings.
WALTER (coming in from the bathroom and drawing a make-

believe gun from a make-believe holster and shooting at his son):
What is it he wants to do?

RUTH: Go carry groceries after school at the supermarket.
WALTER: Well, let him go …
TRAVIS (quickly, to the ally): I have to —she won’t gimme the fifty

cents . . .
WALTER (to his wife only): Why not?
RUTH (simply, and with flavor): ‘Cause we don’t have it.
WALTER (to RUTH only): What you tell the boy things like that

for? (Reaching down into his pants with a rather important
gesture) Here, son —

(He hands the boy the coin, but his eyes are directed to his wife’s.
TRAVIS takes the money happily.)


Lorraine Hansberry

TRAVIS: Thanks, Daddy.
He starts out. RUTH watches both of them with murder in her eyes.
WALTER stands and stares back at her with defiance, and suddenly
reaches into his pocket again on an afterthought.
WALTER (without even looking at his son, still staring hard at his

wife): In fact, here’s another fifty cents . . . Buy yourself some
fruit today—or take a taxicab to school or something!

TRAVIS: Whoopee —
He leaps up and clasps his father around the middle with his legs,
and they face each other in mutual appreciation; slowly WALTER
LEE peeks around the boy to catch the violent rays from his wife’s
eyes and draws his head back as if shot.
WALTER: You better get down now—and get to school, man.
TRAVIS (at the door): O.K. Good-bye. (He exits.)
WALTER (after him, pointing with pride): That’s my boy. (She

looks at him in disgust and turns back to her work.) You know
what I was thinking ’bout in the bathroom this morning?

WALTER: How come you always try to be so pleasant!
RUTH: What is there to be pleasant ’bout!
WALTER: You want to know what I was thinking ’bout in the

bathroom or not!
RUTH: I know what you thinking ’bout.
WALTER (ignoring her): ‘Bout what me and Willy Harris was talk-

ing about last night.
RUTH (immediately—a refrain): Willy Harris is a good-for-nothing

WALTER: Anybody who talks to me has got to be a good-for-

nothing loudmouth, ain’t he? And what you know about who
is just a good-for-nothing loudmouth? Charlie Atkins was just
a “good-for-nothing loudmouth” too, wasn’t he! When he
wanted me to go in the dry-cleaning business with him. And
now—he’s grossing a hundred thousand a year. A hundred thou-
sand dollars a year! You still call him a loudmouth!

RUTH (bitterly): Oh, Walter Lee . . .
She folds her head on her arms over the table.
WALTER (rising and coming to her and standing over her): You

tired, ain’t you? Tired of everything. Me, the boy, the way we


A R A I S I N IN THE SUN Act I Scene I

live—this beat-up hole—everything. Ain’t you? (She doesn’t
look up, doesn’t answer.) So tired—moaning and groaning all
the time, but you wouldn’t do nothing to help, would you? You
couldn’t be on my side that long for nothing, could you?

RUTH: Walter, please leave me alone.
WALTER: A man needs a woman to back him up …
RUTH: Walter —
WALTER: Mama would listen to you. You know she listen to you

more than she do me and Bennie. She think more of you. All
you have to do is just sit down with her when you drinking your
coffee one morning and talking ’bout things like you do and—
(He sits down beside her and demonstrates graphically what he
thinks her methods and tone should be.)—you just sip your cof-
fee, see, and say easy like that you been thinking ’bout that deal
Walter Lee is so interested in, ’bout the store and all, and sip
some more coffee, like what you saying ain’t really that impor-
tant to you—And the next thing you know, she be listening good
and asking you questions and when I come home—I can tell her
the details. This ain’t no fly-by-night proposition, baby. I mean
we figured it out, me and Willy and Bobo.

RUTH (with a frown): Bobo?
WALTER: Yeah. You see, this little liquor store we got in mind cost

seventy-five thousand and we figured the initial investment on
the place be ’bout thirty thousand, see. That be ten thousand
each. Course, there’s a couple of hundred you got to pay so’s
you don’t spend your life just waiting for them clowns to let
your license get approved—

RUTH: You mean graft?
WALTER (frowning impatiently): Don’t call it that. See there, that

just goes to show you what women understand about the world.
Baby, don’t nothing happen for you in this world ‘less you pay
somebody off!

RUTH: Walter, leave me alone! (She raises her head and stares at
him vigorously—then says, more quietly.) Eat your eggs, they
gonna be cold.

WALTER (straightening up from her and looking off): That’s it.
There you are. Man say to his woman: I got me a dream. His
woman say: Eat your eggs. (Sadly, but gaining in power.) Man
say: I got to take hold of this here world, baby! And a woman


Lorraine Hansberry

will say: Eat your eggs and go to work. (Passionately now.)
Man say: I got to change my life, I’m choking to death, baby!
And his woman say — (in utter anguish as he brings his fists down
on his thighs)— Your eggs is getting cold!

RUTH (softly): Walter, that ain’t none of our money.
WALTER (not listening at all or even looking at her): This morning,

I was lookin’ in the mirror and thinking

about i t . . .

I’m thirty-
five years old; I been married eleven years and I got a boy who
sleeps in the living room —(very, very quietly) —and all I got to
give him is stories about how rich white people live . . .

RUTH: Eat your eggs, Walter.
WALTER (slams the table and jumps up): —DAMN MY EGGS —

RUTH: Then go to work.
WALTER (looking up at her): See —I’m trying to talk to you ’bout

myself— (shaking his head with the repetition) —and all you can
say is eat them eggs and go to work.

RUTH (wearily): Honey, you never say nothing new. I listen to you
every day, every night and every morning, and you never say
nothing new. (shrugging) So you would rather be Mr. Arnold
than be his chauffeur. So—I would rather be living in Buck-
ingham Palace.

WALTER: That is just what is wrong with the colored woman in
this world . . . Don’t understand about building their men up
and making ’em feel like they somebody. Like they can do some-

RUTH (drily, but to hurt): There are colored men who do things.
WALTER: No thanks to the colored woman.
RUTH: Well, being a colored woman, I guess I can’t help myself


She rises and gets the ironing board and sets it up and attacks a
huge pile of rough-dried clothes, sprinkling them in preparation
for the ironing and then rolling them into tight fat balls.

WALTER (mumbling): We one group of men tied to a race of
women with small minds!

His sister BENEATHA enters. She is about twenty, as slim and intense
as her brother. She is not as pretty as her sister-in-law, but her
lean, almost intellectual face has a handsomeness of its own. She


A R A I S I N IN THE SUN Act I Scene I

wears a bright-red flannel nightie, and her thick hair stands wildly
about her head. Her speech is a mixture of many things; it is
different from the rest of the family’s insofar as education has
permeated her sense of English—and perhaps the Midwest rather
than the South has finally—at last—won out in her inflection; but
not altogether, because over all of it is a soft slurring and
transformed use of vowels which is the decided influence of the
Southside. She passes through the room without looking at either
RUTH or WALTER and goes to the outside door and looks, a little
blindly, out to the bathroom. She sees that it has been lost to the
Johnsons. She closes the door with a sleepy vengeance and crosses
to the table and sits down a little defeated.

BENEATHA: I am going to start timing those people.
WALTER: You should get up earlier.
BENEATHA (Her face in her hands. She is still fighting the urge to

go back to bed.): Really—would you suggest dawn? Where’s
the paper?

WALTER (pushing the paper across the table to her as he studies
her almost clinically, as though he has never seen her before):
You a horrible-looking chick at this hour.

BENEATHA (drily): Good morning, everybody.
WALTER (senselessly): How is school coming?
BENEATHA (in the same spirit): Lovely. Lovely. And you know,

biology is the greatest, (looking up at him) I dissected some-
thing that looked just like you yesterday.

WALTER: I just wondered if you’ve made up your mind and every-

BENEATHA (gaining in sharpness and impatience): And what did I
answer yesterday morning—and the day before that?

RUTH (from the ironing board, like someone disinterested and old):
Don’t be so nasty, Bennie.

BENEATHA (still to her brother): And the day before that and the
day before that!

WALTER (defensively): I’m interested in you. Something wrong
with that? Ain’t many girls who decide—

WALTER and BENEATHA (in unison): —”to be a doctor.” (silence)
WALTER: Have we figured out yet just exactly how much medical

school is going to cost?


Lorraine Hansberry

RUTH: Walter Lee, why don’t you leave the girl alone and get out
of here to work?

BENEATHA (exits to the bathroom and bangs on the door): Come
on out of there, please! (She comes back into the room.)

WALTER (looking at his sister intently): You know the check is
coming tomorrow.

BENEATHA (turning on him with a sharpness all her own): That
money belongs to Mama, Walter, and it’s for her to decide how
she wants to use it. I don’t care if she wants to buy a house or
a rocket ship or just nail it up somewhere and look at it. It’s
hers. Not ours—hers.

WALTER (bitterly): Now ain’t that fine! You just got your mother’s
interest at heart, ain’t you, girl? You such a nice girl—but if
Mama got that money she can always take a few thousand and
help you through school too —can’t she?

BENEATHA: I have never asked anyone around here to do anything
for me!

WALTER: No! And the line between asking and just accepting when
the time comes is big and wide —ain’t it!

BENEATHA (with fury): What do you want from me, Brother—that
I quit school or just drop dead, which!

WALTER: I don’t want nothing but for you to stop acting holy
’round here. Me and Ruth done made some sacrifices for you—
why can’t you do something for the family?

RUTH: Walter, don’t be dragging me in it.
WALTER: You are in it—Don’t you get up and go work in some-

body’s kitchen for the last three years to help put clothes on her

RUTH: Oh, Walter—that’s not fair . . .
WALTER: It ain’t that nobody expects you to get on your knees

and say thank you, Brother; thank you, Ruth; thank you,
Mama —and thank you, Travis, for wearing the same pair of
shoes for two semesters —

BENEATHA (dropping to her knees): Well—I do —all right?—thank
everybody! And forgive me for ever wanting to be anything at
all! (pursuing him on her knees across the floor) FORGIVE

RUTH: Please stop it! Your mama’ll hear you.
WALTER: Who the hell told you you had to be a doctor? If you so


A R A I S I N IN THE SUN Act I Scene I

crazy ’bout messing ’round with sick people—then go be a nurse
like other women—or just get married and be quiet. . .

BENEATHA: Well—you finally got it said . . . It took you three years
but you finally got it said. Walter, give up; leave me alone—it’s
Mama’s money.

WALTER: He was my father, too!
BENEATHA: So what? He was mine, too —and Travis’ grand-

father—but the insurance money belongs to Mama. Picking on
me is not going to make her give it to you to invest in any liquor
stores —(underbreath, dropping into a chair) —and I for one say,
God bless Mama for that!

WALTER (to RUTHJ: See—did you hear? Did you hear!
RUTH: Honey, please go to work.
WALTER: Nobody in this house is ever going to understand me.
BENEATHA: Because you’re a nut.
WALTER: Who’s a nut?
BENEATHA: You—you are a nut. Thee is mad, boy.
WALTER (looking at his wife and his sister from the door, very

sadly): The world’s most backward race of people, and that’s a

BENEATHA (turning slowly in her chair): And then there are all
those prophets who would lead us out of the wilderness — (WAL-
TER slams out of the house.)—into the swamps!

RUTH: Bennie, why you always gotta be pickin’ on your brother?
Can’t you be a little sweeter sometimes? (Door opens. WALTER
walks in. He fumbles with his cap, starts to speak, clears throat,
looks everywhere but at RUTH. Finally:)

WALTER (to RUTH,): I need some money for carfare.
RUTH (looks at him, then warms; teasing, but tenderly): Fifty

cents? (She goes to her bag and gets money.) Here—take a

WALTER exits. MAMA enters. She is a woman in her early sixties,
full-bodied and strong. She is one of those women of a certain
grace and beauty who wear it so unobtrusively that it takes a while
to notice. Her dark-brown face is surrounded by the total
whiteness of her hair, and, being a woman who has adjusted to
many things in life and overcome many more, her face is full of
strength. She has, we can see, wit and faith of a kind that keep her


Lorraine Hansberry

eyes lit and full of interest and expectancy. She is, in a word, a
beautiful woman. Her bearing is perhaps most like the noble
bearing of the women of the Hereros of Southwest Africa—rather
as if she imagines that as she walks she still bears a basket or a
vessel upon her head. Her speech, on the other hand, is as careless
as her carriage is precise—she is inclined to slur everything—but
her voice is perhaps not so much quiet as simply soft.

MAMA: Who that ’round here slamming doors at this hour?

She crosses through the room, goes to the window, opens it, and
brings in a feeble little plant growing doggedly in a small pot on
the window sill. She feels the dirt and puts it back out.

RUTH: That was Walter Lee. He and Bennie was at it again.
MAMA: My children and they tempers. Lord, if this little old plant

don’t get more sun than it’s been getting it ain’t never going to
see spring again. (She turns from the window.) What’s the
matter with you this morning, Ruth? You looks right peaked.
You aiming to iron all them things? Leave some for me. I’ll get
to ’em this afternoon. Bennie honey, it’s too drafty for you to
be sitting ’round half dressed. Where’s your robe?

BENEATHA: In the cleaners.
MAMA: Well, go get mine and put it on.
BENEATHA: I’m not cold, Mama, honest.
MAMA: I know—but you so thin . . .
BENEATHA (irritably): Mama, I’m not cold.
MAMA (seeing the make-down bed as TRAVIS has left it): Lord have

mercy, look at that poor bed. Bless his heart—he tries, don’t he?

She moves to the bed TRAVIS has sloppily made up.

RUTH: No—he don’t half try at all ’cause he knows you going to
come along behind him and fix everything. That’s just how come
he don’t know how to do nothing right now—you done spoiled
that boy so.

MAMA (folding bedding): Well—he’s a little boy. Ain’t supposed
to know ’bout housekeeping. My baby, that’s what he is. What
you fix for his breakfast this morning?

RUTH (angrily): I feed my son, Lena!
MAMA: I ain’t meddling— (underbreath; busy-bodyish) I just no-

ticed all last week he had cold cereal, and when it starts getting


A R A I S I N IN THE SUN Act I Scene I

this chilly in the fall a child ought to have some hot grits or
something when he goes out in the cold—

RUTH (furious)-. I gave him hot oats—is that all right!
MAMA: I ain’t meddling, (pause) Put a lot of nice butter on it?

(RUTH shoots her an angry look and does not reply.) He likes
lots of butter.

RUTH (exasperated): Lena—
MAMA (To BENEATHA. MAMA is inclined to wander conversationally

sometimes.): What was you and your brother fussing ’bout this

BENEATHA: It’s not important. Mama.

She gets up and goes to look out at the bathroom, which is
apparently free, and she picks up her towels and rushes out.

MAMA: What was they fighting


RUTH: Now you know as well as I do.
MAMA (shaking her head): Brother still worrying hisself sick about

that money?
RUTH: You know he is.
MAMA: You had breakfast?
RUTH: Some coffee.
MAMA: Girl, you better start eating and looking after yourself

better. You almost thin as Travis.
RUTH: Lena —
MAMA: Un-hunh?
RUTH: What are you going to do with it?
MAMA: Now don’t you start, child. It’s too early in the morning

to be talking about money. It ain’t Christian.
RUTH: It’s just that he got his heart set on that store—
MAMA: You mean that liquor store that Willy Harris want him to

invest in?
RUTH: Yes —
MAMA: We ain’t no business people, Ruth. We just plain working

RUTH: Ain’t nobody business people till they go into business.

Walter Lee say colored people ain’t never going to start getting
ahead till they start gambling on some different kinds of things
in the world—investments and things.


Lorraine Hansberry

MAMA: What done got into you, girl? Walter Lee done finally sold
you on investing.

RUTH: No. Mama, something is happening between Walter and
me. I don’t know what it is—but he needs something—some-
thing I can’t give him any more. He needs this chance, Lena.

MAMA (frowning deeply): But liquor, honey —
RUTH: Well—like Walter s a y — I spec people going to always be

drinking themselves some liquor.
MAMA: Well—whether they drinks it or not ain’t none of my busi-

ness. But whether I go into business selling it to ’em is, and I
don’t want that on my ledger this late in life, (stopping suddenly
and studying her daughter-in-law) Ruth Younger, what’s the
matter with you today? You look like you could fall over right

RUTH: I’m tired.
MAMA: Then you better stay home from work today.
RUTH: I can’t stay home. She’d be calling up the agency and

screaming at them, “My girl didn’t come in today —send me
somebody! My girl didn’t come in!” Oh, she just have a fit…

MAMA: Well, let her have it. I’ll just call her up and say you got
the flu-

RUTH (laughing): Why the flu?
MAMA: ‘Cause it sounds respectable to ’em. Something white peo-

ple get, too. They know ’bout the flu. Otherwise they think you
been cut up or something when you tell ’em you sick.

RUTH: I got to go in. We need the money.
MAMA: Somebody would of thought my children done all but

starved to death the way they talk about money here late. Child,
we got a great big old check coming tomorrow.

RUTH (sincerely, but also self-righteously): Now that’s your
money. It ain’t got nothing to do with me. We all feel like that—
Walter and Bennie and me—even Travis.

MAMA (thoughtfully, and suddenly very far away): Ten thousand
dollars —

RUTH: Sure is wonderful.
MAMA: Ten thousand dollars.
RUTH: You know what you should do, Miss Lena? You should

take yourself a trip somewhere. To Europe or South America or
someplace —


A R A I S I N IN THE SUN Act I Scene I

MAMA (throwing up her hands at the thought): Oh, child!
RUTH: I’m serious. Just pack up and leave! Go on away and enjoy

yourself some. Forget about the family and have yourself a ball
for once in your life—

MAMA (drily): You sound like I’m just about ready to die. Who’d
go with me? What I look like wandering ’round Europe by my-

RUTH: Shoot—these here rich white women do it all the time. They
don’t think nothing of packing up they suitcases and piling on
one of them big steamships and—swoosh!—they gone, child.

MAMA: Something always told me I wasn’t no rich white woman.
RUTH: Well—what are you going to do with it then?
MAMA: I ain’t rightly decided. (Thinking. She speaks now with

emphasis.) Some of it got to be put away for Beneatha and her
schoolin’ —and ain’t nothing going to touch that part of it. Noth-
ing. (She waits several seconds, trying to make up her mind
about something, and looks at RUTH a little tentatively before
going on.) Been thinking that we maybe could meet the notes
on a little old two-story somewhere, with a yard where Travis
could play in the summertime, if we use part of the insurance
for a down payment and everybody kind of pitch in. I could
maybe take on a little day work again, few days a week—

RUTH (studying her mother-in-law furtively and concentrating on
her ironing, anxious to encourage without seeming to): Well,
Lord knows, we’ve put enough rent into this here rat trap to
pay for four houses by now . . .

MAMA (looking up at the words “rat trap9′ and then looking
around and leaning back and sighing—in a suddenly reflective
mood—): “Rat trap”—yes, that’s all it is. (smiling) I remember
just as well the day me and Big Walter moved in here. Hadn’t
been married but two weeks and wasn’t planning on living here
no more than a year. (She shakes her head at the dissolved
dream.) We was going to set away, little by little, don’t you
know, and buy a little place out in Morgan Park. We had even
picked out the house, (chuckling a little) Looks right dumpy
today. But Lord, child, you should know all the dreams I had
’bout buying that house and fixing it up and making me a little
garden in the back— (She waits and stops smiling.) And didn’t
none of it happen, (dropping her hands in a futile gesture)


Lorraine Hansberry

RUTH (keeps her head down, ironing): Yes, life can be a barrel of
disappointments, sometimes.

MAMA: Honey, Big Walter would come in here some nights back
then and slump down on that couch there and just look at the
rug, and look at me and look at the rug and then back at me—
and I’d know he was down then . . . really down. (After a second
very long and thoughtful pause; she is seeing back to times that
only she can see.) And then, Lord, when I lost that baby—little
Claude—I almost thought I was going to lose Big Walter too.
Oh, that man grieved hisself! He was one man to love his chil-

RUTH: Ain’t nothin’ can tear at you like losin’ your baby.
MAMA: I guess that’s how come that man finally worked hisself to

death like he done. Like he was fighting his own war with this
here world that took his baby from him.

RUTH: He sure was a fine man, all right. I always liked Mr.

MAMA: Crazy ’bout his children! God knows there was plenty
wrong with Walter Younger—hard-headed, mean, kind of wild
with women—plenty wrong with him. But he sure loved his
children. Always wanted them to have something—be some-
thing. That’s where Brother gets all these notions, I reckon. Big
Walter used to say, he’d get right wet in the eyes sometimes,
lean his head back with the water standing in his eyes and say,
“Seem like God didn’t see fit to give the black man nothing but
dreams —but He did give us children to make them dreams seem
worth while.” (She smiles.) He could talk like that, don’t you

RUTH: Yes, he sure could. He was a good man, Mr. Younger.
MAMA: Yes, a fine m a n — j u s t couldn’t never catch up with his

dreams, that’s all.

BENEATHA comes in, brushing her hair and looking up to the
ceiling, where the sound of a vacuum cleaner has started up.

BENEATHA: What could be so dirty on that woman’s rugs that she
has to vacuum them every single day?

RUTH: I wish certain young women ’round here who I could name
would take inspiration about certain rugs in a certain apartment
I could also mention.


A R A I S I N IN THE SUN Act I Scene I

BENEATHA (shrugging): How much cleaning can a house need, for
Christ’s sakes.

MAMA (not liking the Lord’s name used thus): Bennie!
RUTH: Just listen to her—just listen!
MAMA: If you use the Lord’s name just one more time—
BENEATHA (a bit of a whine): Oh, Mama—
RUTH: Fresh—just fresh as salt, this girl!
BENEATHA (drily): Well—if the salt loses its savor—
MAMA: Now that will do. I just ain’t going to have you ’round

here reciting the scriptures in vain—you hear me?
BENEATHA: How did I manage to get on everybody’s wrong side

by just walking into a room?
RUTH: If you weren’t so fresh—
BENEATHA: Ruth, I’m twenty years old.
MAMA: What time you be home from school today?
BENEATHA: Kind of late, (with enthusiasm) Madeline is going to

start my guitar lessons today.
(MAMA and RUTH look up with the same expression.)
MAMA: Your what kind of lessons?
RUTH: Oh, Father!
MAMA: How come you done taken it in your mind to learn to play

the guitar?
BENEATHA: I just want to, that’s all.
MAMA (smiling): Lord, child, don’t you know what to get tired of

this now—like you got tired of that little do with yourself? How
long it going to be before you play-acting group you joined last
year? (looking at RUTH) And what was it the year before that?

RUTH: The horseback-riding club for which she bought that fifty-
five-dollar riding habit that’s been hanging in the closet ever

MAMA (to BENEATHA): Why you got to flit so from one thing to
another, baby?

BENEATHA (sharply): I just want to learn to play the guitar. Is there
anything wrong with that?

MAMA: Ain’t nobody trying to stop you. I just wonders sometimes
why you has to flit so from one thing to another all the time.


Lorraine Hansberry

You ain’t never done nothing with all that camera equipment
you brought home —

BENEATHA: I don’t flit! I — I experiment with different forms of

RUTH: Like riding a horse?
BENEATHA: —People have to express themselves one way or an-

MAMA: What is it you want to express?
BENEATHA (angrily): Me! (MAMA and RUTH look at each other and

burst into raucous laughter.} Don’t worry—I don’t expect you
to understand.

MAMA (to change the subject): Who you going out with tomorrow

BENEATHA (with displeasure): George Murchison again.
MAMA (pleased): Oh—you getting a little sweet on him?
RUTH: You ask me, this child ain’t sweet on nobody but herself—

(underbreath) Express herself!
(They laugh.)
BENEATHA: O h — I like George all right, Mama. I mean I like him

enough to go out with him and stuff, but—
RUTH (for devilment): What does and stuff mean?
BENEATHA: Mind your own business.
MAMA: Stop picking at her now, Ruth. (She chuckles—then a sus-

picious sudden look at her daughter as she turns in her chair for
emphasis.) What DOES it mean?

BENEATHA (wearily): Oh, I just mean I couldn’t ever really be
serious about George. He’s—he’s so shallow.

RUTH: Shallow—what do you mean he’s shallow? He’s Rich!
MAMA: Hush, Ruth.
BENEATHA: I know he’s rich. He knows he’s rich, too.
RUTH: Well—what other qualities a man got to have to satisfy

you, little girl?
BENEATHA: You wouldn’t even begin to understand. Anybody who

married Walter could not possibly understand.
MAMA (outraged): What kind of way is that to talk about your

BENEATHA: Brother is a flip—let’s face it.
MAMA (to RUTH, helplessly): What’s a flip?


A R A I S I N IN THE SUN Act I Scene I

RUTH (glad to add kindling): She’s saying he’s crazy.
BENEATHA: Not crazy. Brother isn’t really crazy yet—-he—he’s an

elaborate neurotic.
MAMA: Hush your mouth!
BENEATHA: As for George. Well. George looks good—he’s got a

beautiful car and he takes me to nice places and, as my sister-
in-law says, he is probably the richest boy I will ever get to know
and I even like him sometimes — b u t if the Youngers are sitting
around waiting to see if their little Bennie is going to tie up the
family with the Murchisons, they are wasting their time.

RUTH: You mean you wouldn’t marry George Murchison if he
asked you someday? That pretty, rich thing? Honey, I knew you
was odd—

BENEATHA: No I would not marry him if all I felt for him was
what I feel now. Besides, George’s family wouldn’t really like it.

MAMA: Why not?
BENEATHA: Oh, Mama—The Murchisons are honest-to-God-real-

live-rich colored people, and the only people in the world who
are more snobbish than rich white people are rich colored peo-
ple. I thought everybody knew that. I’ve met Mrs. Murchison.
She’s a scene!

MAMA: You must not dislike people ’cause they well off, honey.
BENEATHA: Why not? It makes just as much sense as disliking

people ’cause they are poor, and lots of people do that.
RUTH (A wisdom-of-the-ages manner. To MAMA.J: Well, she’ll get

over some of this —
BENEATHA: Get over it? What are you talking about, Ruth? Listen,

I’m going to be a doctor. I’m not worried about who I’m going
to marry yet—if I ever get married.

MAMA and RUTH: If!
MAMA: Now, Bennie —
BENEATHA: Oh, I probably will. . . but first I’m going to be a

doctor, and George, for one, still thinks that’s pretty funny. I
couldn’t be bothered with that. I am going to be a doctor and
everybody around here better understand that!

MAMA (kindly): ‘Course you going to be a doctor, honey, God

BENEATHA (drily): God hasn’t got a thing to do with it.


Lorraine Hansberry

MAMA: Beneatha—that just wasn’t necessary.
BENEATHA: Well—neither is God. I get sick of hearing about God.
MAMA: Beneatha!
BENEATHA: I mean it! I’m just tired of hearing about God all the

time. What has He got to do with anything? Does he pay tuition?
MAMA: You ’bout to get your fresh little jaw slapped!
RUTH: That’s just what she needs, all right!
BENEATHA: Why? Why can’t I say what I want to around here,

like everybody else?
MAMA: It don’t sound nice for a young girl to say things like that—

you wasn’t brought up that way. Me and your father went to
trouble to get you and Brother to church every Sunday.

BENEATHA: Mama, you don’t understand. It’s all a matter of ideas,
and God is just one idea I don’t accept. It’s not important. I am
not going out and be immoral or commit crimes because I don’t
believe in God. I don’t even think about it. It’s just that I get
tired of Him getting credit for all the things the human race
achieves through its own stubborn effort. There simply is no
blasted God—there is only man and it is he who makes miracles!

MAMA absorbs this speech, studies her daughter and rises slowly
and crosses to BENEATHA and slaps her powerfully across the face.
After, there is only silence and the daughter drops her eyes from
her mother’s face, and MAMA is very tall before her.

MAMA: Now—you say after me, in my mother’s house there is still
God. (There is a long pause and BENEATHA stares at the floor
wordlessly. MAMA repeats the phrase with precision and cool
emotion.) In my mother’s house there is still God.

BENEATHA: In my mother’s house there is still God. (a long pause)
MAMA (walking away from BENEATHA, too disturbed for trium-

phant posture. Stopping and turning back to her daughter.):
There are some ideas we ain’t going to have in this house. Not
as long as I am at the head of this family.

BENEATHA: Yes, ma’am. (MAMA walks out of the room.)
RUTH (almost gently, with profound understanding): You think

you a woman, Bennie —but you still a little girl. What you did
was childish —so you got treated like a child.

BENEATHA: I see. (quietly) I also see that everybody thinks it’s all


A R A I S I N IN THE SUN Act I Scene I

right for Mama to be a tyrant. But all the tyranny in the world
will never put a God in the heavens! (She picks up her books
and goes out. Pause.)

RUTH (goes to MAMA’S door): She said she was sorry.
MAMA (coming out, going to her plant): They frightens me, Ruth.

My children.
RUTH: You got good children, Lena. They just a little off some-

times—but they’re good.
MAMA: No—there’s something come down between me and them

that don’t let us understand each other and I don’t know what
it is. One done almost lost his mind thinking ’bout money all
the time and the other done commence to talk about things I
can’t seem to understand in no form or fashion. What is it that’s
changing, Ruth?

RUTH (soothingly, older than her years): Now . . . you taking it all
too seriously. You just got strong-willed children and it takes a
strong woman like you to keep ’em in hand.

MAMA (looking at her plant and sprinkling a little water on it):
They spirited all right, my children. Got to admit they got
spirit—Bennie and Walter. Like this little old plant that ain’t
never had enough sunshine or nothing—and look at i t . . .

She has her back to RUTH, who has had to stop ironing and lean
against something and put the back of her hand to her forehead.
RUTH (trying to keep MAMA from noticing): You . . . sure . . . loves

that little old thing, don’t you? . . .
MAMA: Well, I always wanted me a garden like I used to see some-

times at the back of the houses down home. This plant is close
as I ever got to having one. (She looks out of the window as
she replaces the plant.) Lord, ain’t nothing as dreary as the view
from this window on a dreary day, is there? Why ain’t you
singing this morning, Ruth? Sing that “No Ways Tired.” That
song always lifts me up so —(She turns at last to see that RUTH
has slipped quietly to the floor, in a state of semiconsciousness.)
Ruth! Ruth honey—what’s the matter with you . . . Ruth!



It is the following morning; a Saturday morning, and house clean-
ing is in progress at the YOUNGERS. Furniture has been shoved
hither and yon and MAMA is giving the kitchen-area walls a wash-
ing down. BENEATHA, in dungarees, with a handkerchief tied
around her face, is spraying insecticide into the cracks in the walls.
As they work, the radio is on and a Southside disk-jockey program
is inappropriately filling the house with a rather exotic saxophone
blues. TRAVIS, the sole idle one, is leaning on his arms, looking out
of the window.

TRAVIS: Grandmama, that stuff Bennie is using smells awful. Can
I go downstairs, please?

MAMA: Did you get all them chores done already? I ain’t seen you
doing much.

TRAVIS: Yes’m —finished early. Where did Mama go this morning?
MAMA (looking at BENEATHA,): She had to go on a little errand.

The phone rings. BENEATHA runs to answer it and reaches it before
WALTER, who has entered from bedroom.

TRAVIS: Where?
MAMA: To tend to her business.
BENEATHA: Haylo . . . (disappointed) Yes, he is. (She tosses the

phone to WALTER, who barely catches it.) It’s Willie Harris

WALTER (as privately as possible under MAMA’S gaze): Hello, Wil-
lie. Did you get the papers from the lawyer? . . . No, not yet. I
told you the mailman doesn’t get here till ten-thirty . . . No, I’ll
come there . . . Yeah! Right away. (He hangs up and goes for
his coat.)

BENEATHA: Brother, where did Ruth go?
WALTER (as he exits): How should I know!
TRAVIS: Aw come on, Grandma. Can I go outside?
MAMA: Oh, I guess so. You stay right in front of the house, though,

and keep a good lookout for the postman.
TRAVIS: Yes’m. (He darts into bedroom for stickball and bat,

reenters, and sees BENEATHA on her knees spraying under sofa
with behind upraised. He edges closer to the target, takes aim,
and lets her have it. She screams.) Leave them poor little cock-



roaches alone, they ain’t bothering you none! (He runs as she
swings the spray gun at him viciously and playfully.) Grandma!

MAMA: Look out there, girl, before you be spilling some of that
stuff on that child!

TRAVIS (safely behind the bastion of MAMA): That’s right—look
out, now! (He exits.)

BENEATHA (drily): I can’t imagine that it would hurt him—it has
never hurt the roaches.

MAMA: Well, little boys’ hides ain’t as tough as Southside roaches.
You better get over there behind the bureau. I seen one marching
out of there like Napoleon yesterday.

BENEATHA: There’s really only one way to get rid of them,

MAMA: How?
BENEATHA: Set fire to this building! Mama, where did Ruth go?
MAMA (looking at her with meaning): To the doctor, I think.
BENEATHA: The doctor? What’s the matter? (They exchange

glances.) You don’t think—
MAMA (with her sense of drama): Now I ain’t saying what I think.

But I ain’t never been wrong ’bout a woman neither. (The phone

BENEATHA (at the phone): Hay-lo .. . (pause, and a moment of
recognition.) Well—when did you get back! . . . And how was
it? … Of course I’ve missed you—in my way . . . This morning?
No . . . house cleaning and all that and Mama hates it if I let
people come over when the house is like this . . . You have? Well,
that’s d i f f e r e n t . . . What is it—Oh, what the hell, come on
over .. . Right, see you then. Arrividerci. (She hangs up.)

MAMA (who has listened vigorously, as is her habit): Who is that
you inviting over here with this house looking like this? You
ain’t got the pride you was born with!

BENEATHA: Asagai doesn’t care how houses look Mama—he’s an

MAMA: Who?
BENEATHA: Asagai— Joseph Asagai. He’s an African boy I met on

campus. He’s been studying in Canada all summer.
MAMA: What’s his name?
BENEATHA: Asagai, Joseph. Ah-sah-guy . . . He’s from Nigeria.


Lorraine Hansberry

MAMA: Oh, that’s the little country that was founded by slaves
way back . . .

BENEATHA: No, Mama—that’s Liberia.
MAMA: I don’t think I never met no African before.
BENEATHA: Well, do me a favor and don’t ask him a whole lot of

ignorant questions about Africans. I mean, do they wear clothes
and all that—

MAMA: Well, now, I guess if you think we so ignorant ’round here
maybe you shouldn’t bring your friends here —

BENEATHA: It’s just that people ask such crazy things. All anyone
seems to know about when it comes to Africa is Tarzan —

MAMA (indignantly): Why should I know anything about Africa?
BENEATHA: Why do you give money at church for the missionary

MAMA: Well, that’s to help save people.
BENEATHA: You mean save them from heathenism —
MAMA (innocently): Yes.
BENEATHA: I’m afraid they need more salvation from the British

and the French.

RUTH comes in forlornly and pulls off her coat with dejection. They
both turn to look at her.

RUTH (dispiritedly): Well, I guess from all the happy faces—every-
body knows.

BENEATHA: You pregnant?
MAMA: Lord have mercy, I sure hope it’s a little old girl. Travis

ought to have a sister.

BENEATHA and RUTH give her a hopeless look for this
grandmotherly enthusiasm.

BENEATHA: How far along are you?
RUTH: Two months.
BENEATHA: Did you mean to? I mean did you plan it or was it an

MAMA: What do you know about planning or not planning?
RUTH (wearily): She’s twenty years old, Lena.
BENEATHA: Did you plan it, Ruth?
RUTH: Mind your own business.
BENEATHA: It is my business—where is he going to live, on the


roof? (There is silence following the remark as the three women
react to the sense of it.) Gee—I didn’t mean that, Ruth, honest.
Gee, I don’t feel like that at all. I — I think it is wonderful.

RUTH (dully): Wonderful.
BENEATHA: Yes—really.
MAMA (looking at RUTH, worried): Doctor say everything going to

be all right?
RUTH (far away): Yes—she says everything is going to be fine . . .
MAMA (immediately suspicious): “She”—What doctor you went


RUTH folds over, near hysteria.

MAMA (worriedly hovering over RUTH): Ruth honey—what’s the
matter with you—you sick?

RUTH has her fists clenched on her thighs and is fighting hard to
suppress a scream that seems to be rising in her.

BENEATHA: What’s the matter with her, Mama?
MAMA (working her fingers in RUTH’S shoulders to relax her): She

be all right. Women gets right depressed sometimes when they
get her way. (speaking softly, expertly, rapidly) Now you just
relax. That’s right. . . just lean back, don’t think ’bout nothing
at a l l . . . nothing at all—

RUTH: I’m all right. . .

The glassy-eyed look melts and then she collapses into a fit of heavy
sobbing. The bell rings.

BENEATHA: Oh, my God—that must be Asagai.
MAMA (to RUTH): Come on now, honey. You need to lie down

and rest awhile . . . then have some nice hot food.

They exit, RUTH’S weight on her mother-in-law. BENEATHA, herself
profoundly disturbed, opens the door to admit a rather dramatic-
looking young man with a large package.

ASAGAI: Hello, Alaiyo —
BENEATHA (holding the door open and regarding him with

pleasure): Hello . . . (long pause) Well—come in. And please
excuse everything. My mother was very upset about my letting
anyone come here with the place like this.

ASAGAI (coming into the room): You look disturbed too . . . Is
something wrong?


Lorraine Hansberry

BENEATHA: (still at the door, absently): Yes . . . we’ve all got acute
ghetto-itus. (She smiles and comes toward him, finding a ciga-
rette and sitting.) So—sit down! No! Wait! (She whips the
spraygun off sofa where she had left it and puts the cushions
back. At last perches on arm of sofa. He sits.) So, how was

ASAGAI (a sophisticate): Canadian.
BENEATHA (looking at him): Asagai, I’m very glad you are

ASAGAI (looking back at her in turn): Are you really?
BENEATHA: Yes—very.
ASAGAI: Why?—you were quite glad when I went away. What

BENEATHA: You went away.
ASAGAI: Ahhhhhhhh.
BENEATHA: Before—you wanted to be so serious before there was

ASAGAI: How much time must there be before one knows what

one feels?
BENEATHA (Stalling this particular conversation. Her hands pressed

together, in a deliberately childish gesture.): What did you bring

ASAGAI (handing her the package): Open it and see.
BENEATHA (eagerly opening the package and drawing out some

records and the colorful robes of a Nigerian woman): Oh, As-
agai! . . . You got them for me! . . . How beautiful. . . and the
records too! (She lifts out the robes and runs to the mirror with
them and holds the drapery up in front of herself.)

ASAGAI (coming to her at the mirror): I shall have to teach you
how to drape it properly. (He flings the material about her for
the moment and stands back to look at her.) Ah —Oh-pay-gay –
day, oh-gbah-mu-shay. (a Yoruba exclamation for admiration)
You wear it well. . . very well. . . mutilated hair and all.

BENEATHA (turning suddenly): My hair—what’s wrong with my

ASAGAI (shrugging): Were you born with it like that?
BENEATHA (reaching up to touch it): No . . . of course not. (She

looks back to the mirror, disturbed.)
ASAGAI (smiling): How then?


BENEATHA: You know perfectly well h o w . . . as crinkly as
yours . . . that’s how.

ASAGAI: And it is ugly to you that way?
BENEATHA (quickly): Oh, no—not ugly . . . (more slowly, apolo-

getically) But it’s so hard to manage when it’s, well—raw.
ASAGAI: And so to accommodate that—you mutilate it every

BENEATHA: It’s not mutilation!
ASAGAI (laughing aloud at her seriousness): Oh . . . please! I am

only teasing you because you are so very serious about these
things. (He stands back from her and folds his arms across his
chest as he watches her pulling at her hair and frowning in the
mirror.) Do you remember the first time you met me at
school? . . . (He laughs.) You came up to me and you said—
and I thought you were the most serious little thing I had ever
seen—you said: (He imitates her.) “Mr. Asagai—I want very
much to talk with you. About Africa. You see, Mr. Asagai, I am
looking for my identity!” (He laughs.)

BENEATHA (turning to him, not laughing): Yes — . (Her face is
quizzical, profoundly disturbed.)

ASAGAI (still teasing and reaching out and taking her face in his
hands and turning her profile to him): W e l l . . . it is true that
this is not so much a profile of a Hollywood queen as perhaps
a queen of the Nile— (a mock dismissal of the importance of
the question) But what does it matter? Assimilationism is so
popular in your country.

BENEATHA (wheeling, passionately, sharply): I am not an assimi-

ASAGAI (the protest hangs in the room for a moment and ASAGAI
studies her, his laughter fading): Such a serious one. (There is
a pause.) So—you like the robes? You must take excellent care
of them—they are from my sister’s personal wardrobe.

BENEATHA (with incredulity): You—you sent all the way home —
for me?

ASAGAI (with charm): For y o u — I would do much more . . . Well,
that is what I came for. I must go.

BENEATHA: Will you call me Monday?
ASAGAI: Yes . . . We have a great deal to talk about. I mean about

identity and time and all that.

Lorraine Hansberry

ASAGAI: Yes. About how much time one needs to know what one

BENEATHA: You see! You never understood that there is more than

one kind of feeling which can exist between a man and a
woman —or, at least, there should be.

ASAGAI (shaking his head negatively but gently): No. Between a
man and a woman there need be only one kind of feeling. I have
that for you . . . Now even . . . right this moment. . .

BENEATHA: I know—and by itself—it won’t do. I can find that

ASAGAI: For a woman it should be enough.
BENEATHA: I know—because that’s what it says in all the novels

that men write. But it isn’t. Go ahead and laugh — b u t I’m not
interested in being someone’s little episode in America or—(with
feminine vengeance) —one of them! (ASAGAI has burst into
laughter again.) That’s funny as hell, huh!

ASAGAI: It’s just that every American girl I have known has said
that to me. White —black—in this you are all the same. And the
same speech, too!

BENEATHA (angrily): Yuk, yuk, yuk!
ASAGAI: It’s how you can be sure that the world’s most liberated

women are not liberated at all. You all talk about it too much!

MAMA enters and is immediately all social charm because of the
presence of a guest.

BENEATHA: Oh—Mama —this is Mr. Asagai.
MAMA: How do you do?
ASAGAI (total politeness to an elder): How do you do, Mrs.

Younger. Please forgive me for coming at such an outrageous
hour on a Saturday.

MAMA: Well, you are quite welcome. I just hope you understand
that our house don’t always look like this, (chatterish) You
must come again. I would love to hear all about— (not sure of
the name)—your country. I think it’s so sad the way our Amer-
ican Negroes don’t know nothing about Africa ‘cept Tarzan and
all that. And all that money they pour into these churches when
they ought to be helping you people over there drive out them
French and Englishmen done taken away your land.


The mother flashes a slightly superior look at her daughter upon
completion of the recitation.

ASAGAI (taken aback by this sudden and acutely unrelated expres-
sion of sympathy): Yes . . . yes . . .

MAMA (smiling at him suddenly and relaxing and looking him
over): How many miles is it from here to where you come from?

ASAGAI: Many thousands.
MAMA (looking at him as she would WALTERJ: I bet you don’t half

look after yourself, being away from your mama either. I spec
you better come ’round here from time to time to get yourself
some decent home-cooked meals . . .

ASAGAI (moved): Thank you. Thank you very much. (They are
all quiet, then—) W e l l . . . I must go. I will call you Monday,

MAMA: What’s that he call you?
ASAGAI: Oh—”Alaiyo.” I hope you don’t mind. It is what you

would call a nickname, I think. It is a Yoruba word. I am a

MAMA (looking at BENEATHAJ: I — I thought he was from—(uncer-

ASAGAI (understanding): Nigeria is my country. Yoruba is my
tribal origin—

BENEATHA: You didn’t tell us what Alaiyo means . . . for all I
know, you might be calling me Little Idiot or something . . .

ASAGAI: W e l l . . . let me see … I do not know how just to explain
i t . . . The sense of a thing can be so different when it changes

BENEATHA: You’re evading.
ASAGAI: No—really it is difficult. . . (thinking) It means . . . it

means One for Whom Bread —Food —Is Not Enough. (He looks
at her.) Is that all right?

BENEATHA (understanding, softly): Thank you.
MAMA (looking from one to the other and not understanding any

of it): Well. . . that’s nice . . . You must come see us again—

ASAGAI: Ah-sah-guy . . .
MAMA: Yes . . . Do come again.
ASAGAI: Good-bye. (Re exits.)


Lorraine Hansberry

MAMA (after him): Lord, that’s a pretty thing just went out here!
(insinuatingly, to her daughter) Yes, I guess I see why we done
commence to get so interested in Africa ’round here. Mission-
aries my aunt Jenny! (She exits.)

BENEATHA: Oh, Mama! . . .

She picks up the Nigerian dress and holds it up to her in front of
the mirror again. She sets the headdress on haphazardly and then
notices her hair again and clutches at it and then replaces the
headdress and frowns at herself. Then she starts to wriggle in front
of the mirror as she thinks a Nigerian woman might. TRAVIS enters
and stands regarding her.

TRAVIS: What’s the matter girl, you cracking up?

She pulls the headdress off and looks at herself in the mirror and
clutches at her hair again and squinches her eyes as if trying to
imagine something. Then, suddenly, she gets her raincoat and
kerchief and hurriedly prepares for going out.

MAMA (coming back into the room): She’s resting now. Travis,
baby, run next door and ask Miss Johnson to please let me have
a little kitchen cleanser. This here can is empty as Jacob’s kettle.

TRAVIS: I just came in.
MAMA: Do as you told. (He exits and she looks at her daughter.)

Where you going?
BENEATHA (halting at the door): To become a queen of the Nile!

She exits in a breathless blaze of glory. RUTH appears in the
bedroom doorway.
MAMA: Who told you to get up?
RUTH: Ain’t nothing wrong with me to be lying in no bed for.

Where did Bennie go?
MAMA (drumming her fingers): Far as I could make out—to Egypt.

(RUTH just looks at her.) What time is it getting to?
RUTH: Ten twenty. And the mailman going to ring that bell this

morning just like he done every morning for the last umpteen

TRAVIS comes in with the cleanser can.

TRAVIS: She say to tell you that she don’t have much.
MAMA (angrily): Lord, some people I could name sure is tight-


fisted! (directing her grandson) Mark two cans of cleanser
down on the list there. If she that hard up for kitchen cleanser,
I sure don’t want to forget to get her none!

RUTH: Lena—maybe the woman is just short on cleanser—
MAMA (not listening): —Much baking powder as she done bor-

rowed from me all these years, she could of done gone into the
baking business!

The bell sounds suddenly and sharply and all three are
stunned—serious and silent—mid-speech. In spite of all the other
conversations and distractions of the morning, this is what they
have been waiting for, even TRAVIS, who looks helplessly from
his mother to his grandmother. RUTH is the first to come to life

RUTH (to TRAVIS,): Get down them steps, boy! (TRAVIS snaps to
life and flies out to get the mail.)

MAMA (her eyes wide, her hand to her breast): You mean it done
really come?

RUTH (excited): Oh, Miss Lena!
MAMA (collecting herself): W e l l . . . I don’t know what we all so

excited about ’round here for. We known it was coming for

RUTH: That’s a whole lot different from having it come and being
able to hold it in your hands . . . a piece of paper worth ten
thousand dollars . . . (TRAVIS bursts back into the room. He
holds the envelope high above his head, like a little dancer, his
face is radiant and he is breathless. He moves to his grandmother
with sudden slow ceremony and puts the envelope into her
hands. She accepts it, and then merely holds it and looks at it.)
Come on! Open i t . . . Lord have mercy, I wish Walter Lee was

TRAVIS: Open it, Grandmama!
MAMA (staring at it): Now you all be quiet. It’s just a check.
RUTH: Open i t . . .
MAMA (still staring at it): Now don’t act silly . . . We ain’t never

been no people to act silly ’bout no money—
RUTH (swiftly): We ain’t never had none before—OPEN IT!

MAMA finally makes a good strong tear and pulls out the thin blue


Lorraine Hansberry

slice of paper and inspects it closely. The boy and his mother study
it raptly over MAMA’S shoulders.

MAMA: Travis! (She is counting off with doubt.) Is that the right
number of zeros?

TRAVIS: Yes’m . . . ten thousand dollars. Gaalee, Grandmama, you

MAMA (She holds the check away from her, still looking at it.
Slowly her face sobers into a mask of unhappiness.): Ten thou-
sand dollars. (She hands it to RUTH.) Put it away somewhere,
Ruth. (She does not look at RUTH; her eyes seem to be seeing
something somewhere very far off.) Ten thousand dollars they
give you. Ten thousand dollars.

TRAVIS (to his mother, sincerely): What’s the matter with Grand-
mama—don’t she want to be rich?

RUTH (distractedly): You go on out and play now, baby. (TRAVIS
exits. MAMA starts wiping dishes absently, humming intently to
herself. RUTH turns to her, with kind exasperation.) You’ve
gone and got yourself upset.

MAMA (not looking at her): I spec if it wasn’t for you a l l . . . I
would just put that money away or give it to the church or

RUTH: Now what kind of talk is that. Mr. Younger would just be
plain mad if he could hear you talking foolish like that.

MAMA (stopping and staring off): Yes . . . he sure would, (sighing)
We got enough to do with that money, all right. (She halts then,
and turns and looks at her daughter-in-law hard; RUTH avoids
her eyes and MAMA wipes her hands with finality and starts to
speak firmly to RUTH.,) Where did you go today, girl?

RUTH: To the doctor.
MAMA (impatiently): Now, Ruth . . . you know better than that.

Old Doctor Jones is strange enough in his way but there ain’t
nothing ’bout him make somebody slip and call him “she” —
like you done this morning.

RUTH: Well, that’s what happened—my tongue slipped.
MAMA: You went to see that woman, didn’t you?
RUTH (defensively, giving herself away): What woman you talking



MAMA (angrily): That woman who —(WALTER enters in great ex-

WALTER: Did it come?
MAMA (quietly): Can’t you give people a Christian greeting before

you start asking about money?
WALTER (to RUTH): Did it come? (RUTH unfolds the check and

lays it quietly before him, watching him intently with thoughts
of her own. WALTER sits down and grasps it close and counts
off the zeros.) Ten thousand dollars—(He turns suddenly, fran-
tically to his mother and draws some papers out of his breast
pocket.) Mama—look. Old Willy Harris put everything on pa-

MAMA: Son — I think you ought to talk to your wife . . . I’ll go on
out and leave you alone if you want—

WALTER: I can talk to her later—Mama, look—
MAMA: Son—
MAMA (quietly): I don’t ‘low no yellin’ in this house, Walter Lee,

and you know it—(WALTER stares at them in frustration and
starts to speak several times.) And there ain’t going to be no
investing in no liquor stores.

WALTER: But, Mama, you ain’t even looked at it.
MAMA: I don’t aim to have to speak on that again, (a long pause)
WALTER: You ain’t looked at it and you don’t aim to have to speak

on that again? You ain’t even looked at it and you have de-
cided— (crumpling his papers) Well, you tell that to my boy
tonight when you put him to sleep on the living-room couch . . .
(turning to MAMA and speaking directly to her) Yeah—and tell
it to my wife, Mama, tomorrow when she has to go out of here
to look after somebody else’s kids. And tell it to me, Mama,
every time we need a new pair of curtains and I have to watch
you go and work in somebody’s kitchen. Yeah, you tell me then!
(WALTER starts out.)

RUTH: Where you going?
WALTER: I’m going out!
RUTH: Where?
WALTER: Just out of this house somewhere —
RUTH (getting her coat): I’ll come too.
WALTER: I don’t want you to come!


Lorraine Hansberry

RUTH: I got something to talk to you about, Walter.
WALTER: That’s too bad.
MAMA (still quietly): Walter Lee—(She waits and be finally turns

and looks at her.) Sit down.
WALTER: I’m a grown man, Mama.
MAMA: Ain’t nobody said you wasn’t grown. But you still in my

house and my presence. And as long as you are—you’ll talk to
your wife civil. Now sit down.

RUTH (suddenly): Oh, let him go on out and drink himself to
death! He makes me sick to my stomach! (She flings her coat
against him and exits to bedroom.)

WALTER (violently flinging the coat after her): And you turn mine
too, baby! (The door slams behind her.) That was my biggest

MAMA (still quietly): Walter, what is the matter with you?
WALTER: Matter with me? Ain’t nothing the matter with me!
MAMA: Yes there is. Something eating you up like a crazy man.

Something more than me not giving you this money. The past
few years I been watching it happen to you. You get all nervous
acting and kind of wild in the eyes —(WALTER jumps up impa-
tiently at her words.) I said sit there now, I’m talking to you!

WALTER: Mama—I don’t need no nagging at me today.
MAMA: Seem like you getting to a place where you always tied up

in some kind of knot about something. But if anybody ask you
’bout it you just yell at ’em and bust out the house and go out
and drink somewheres. Walter Lee, people can’t live with that.
Ruth’s a good, patient girl in her way — b u t you getting to be
too much. Boy, don’t make the mistake of driving that girl away
from you.

WALTER: Why—what she do for me?
MAMA: She loves you.
WALTER: Mama —I’m going out. I want to go off somewhere and

be by myself for a while.
MAMA: I’m sorry ’bout your liquor store, son. It just wasn’t the

thing for us to do. That’s what I want to tell you about—
WALTER: I got to go out, Mama— (He rises.)
MAMA: It’s dangerous, son.
WALTER: What’s dangerous?
MAMA: When a man goes outside his home to look for peace.



WALTER (beseechingly): Then why can’t there never be no peace
in this house then?

MAMA: You done found it in some other house?
WALTER: No—there ain’t no woman! Why do women always think

there’s a woman somewhere when a man gets restless, (picks
up the check) Do you know what this money means to me? Do
you know what this money can do for us? (puts it back)
Mama—Mama—I want so many things . . .

MAMA: Yes, son —
WALTER: I want so many things that they are driving me kind of

crazy . . . Mama—look at me.
MAMA: I’m looking at you. You a good-looking boy. You got a

job, a nice wife, a fine boy and—
WALTER: A job. (looks at her) Mama, a job? I open and close

car doors all day long. I drive a man around in his limousine
and I say, “Yes, sir; no, sir; very good, sir; shall I take the Drive,
sir?” Mama, that ain’t no kind of job . . . that ain’t nothing at
all. (very quietly) Mama, I don’t know if I can make you un-

MAMA: Understand what, baby?
WALTER (quietly): Sometimes it’s like I can see the future stretched

out in front of m e — j u s t plain as day. The future, Mama. Hang-
ing over there at the edge of my days. Just waiting for me — a
big, looming blank space—full of nothing. Just waiting for me.
But it don’t have to be. (Pause. Kneeling beside her chair.)
Mama—sometimes when I’m downtown and I pass them cool,
quiet-looking restaurants where them white boys are sitting back
and talking ’bout things . . . sitting there turning deals worth
millions of dollars . . . sometimes I see guys don’t look much
older than me —

MAMA: Son—how come you talk so much ’bout money?
WALTER (with immense passion): Because it is life, Mama!
MAMA (quietly): Oh —(very quietly) So 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 . . .

WALTER: No —it was always money, Mama. We just didn’t know
about it.

MAMA: No . . . something has changed. (She looks at him.) You


Lorraine Hansberry

something new, boy. In my time we was worried about not being
lynched and getting to the North if we could and how to stay
alive and still have a pinch of dignity too . . . Now here come
you and Beneatha—talking ’bout things we never even thought
about hardly, me and your daddy. 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 chil-
dren—but how different we done become.

WALTER (A long beat. He pats her hand and gets up): You just
don’t understand, Mama, you just don’t understand.

MAMA: Son—do you know your wife is expecting another baby?
(“WALTER stands, stunned, and absorbs what his mother has said.)
That’s what she wanted to talk to you about. (WALTER sinks
down into a chair.) This ain’t for me to be telling—but you
ought to know. (She waits.) I think Ruth is thinking ’bout
getting rid of that child.

WALTER (slowly understanding): — N o — n o —Ruth wouldn’t do

MAMA: When the world gets ugly enough — a woman will do any-
thing for her family. The part thafs already living.

WALTER: You don’t know Ruth, Mama, if you think she would
do that.

RUTH opens the bedroom door and stands there a little limp.

RUTH (beaten): Yes I would too, Walter. (Pause.) I gave her a
five-dollar down payment.

There is total silence as the man stares at his wife and the mother
stares at her son.
MAMA (presently): Well—(tightly) Well —son, I’m waiting to hear

you say something . . . (She waits.) I’m waiting to hear how
you be your father’s son. Be the man he was . . . (Pause. The
silence shouts.) Your wife say she going to destroy your child.
And I’m waiting to hear you talk like him and say we a people
who give children life, not who destroys them — (She rises.) I’m
waiting to see you stand up and look like your daddy and say
we done give up one baby to poverty and that we ain’t going to
give up nary another one . . . I’m waiting.



WALTER: Ruth—(He can say nothing.)
MAMA: If you a son of mine, tell her! (WALTER picks up his keys

and his coat and walks out. She continues, bitterly.) You . . .
you are a disgrace to your father’s memory. Somebody get me
my hat!



Time Later the same day.

At rise RUTH is ironing again. She has the radio going. Presently
BENEATHA’S bedroom door opens and RUTH’S mouth falls and she
puts down the iron in fascination.

RUTH: What have we got on tonight!
BENEATHA (emerging grandly from the doorway so that we can see

her thoroughly robed in the costume Asagai brought): You are
looking at what a well-dressed Nigerian woman wears — (She
parades for RUTH, her hair completely hidden by the headdress;
she is coquettishly fanning herself with an ornate oriental fan,
mistakenly more like Butterfly than any Nigerian that ever was.)
Isn’t it beautiful? (She promenades to the radio and, with an
arrogant flourish, turns off the good loud blues that is playing.)
Enough of this assimilationist junk! (RUTH follows her with her
eyes as she goes to the phonograph and puts on a record and
turns and waits ceremoniously for the music to come up. Then,
with a shout-) OCOMOGOSIAY!

RUTH jumps. The music comes up, a lovely Nigerian melody.
BENEATHA listens, enraptured, her eyes far away—if back to the
past.” She begins to dance. RUTH is dumfounded.

RUTH: What kind of dance is that?
BENEATHA: A folk dance.
RUTH (Pearl Bailey): What kind of folks do that, honey?
BENEATHA: It’s from Nigeria. It’s a dance of welcome.
RUTH: Who you welcoming?
BENEATHA: The men back to the village.

Lorraine Hansberry

RUTH: Where they been?
BENEATHA: How should I know—out hunting or something. Any-

way, they are coming back now . . .
RUTH: Well, that’s good.
BENEATHA (with the record):

Alundi, alundi
Alundi alunya
Jop pu a jeepua
Ang gu soooooooooo

Ai yai yae . . .
Ayehaye—alundi. . .

WALTER comes in during this performance; he has obviously been
drinking. He leans against the door heavily and watches his sister,
at first with distaste. Then his eyes look off—”back to the past”—
as he lifts both his fists to the roof, screaming.


RUTH (drily, looking at him): Yes —and Africa sure is claiming her
own tonight. (She gives them both up and starts ironing again.)

WALTER (all in a drunken, dramatic shout): Shut up! . . . I’m dig-
ging them drums . . . them drums move me! . . . (He makes his
weaving way to his wife’s face and leans in close to her.) In my
heart of hearts—(He thumps his chest.)—I am much warrior!

RUTH (without even looking up): In your heart of hearts you are
much drunkard.

WALTER (coming away from her and starting to wander around
the room, shouting): Me and Jomo . . . (Intently, in his sister’s
face. She has stopped dancing to watch him in this unknown
mood.) That’s my man, Kenyatta. (shouting and thumping his
chest) FLAMING SPEAR! HOT DAMN! (He is suddenly in
possession of an imaginary spear and actively spearing enemies
all over the room.) OCOMOGOSIAY. . .

BENEATHA (to encourage WALTER, thoroughly caught up with this

his shirt open and leaps up on the table and gestures with his



WALTER (On the table, very far gone, his eyes pure glass sheets.

He sees what we cannot, that he is a leader of his people, a great
chief, a descendant of Chaka, and that the hour to march has
come.): Listen, my black brothers —


WALTER: —Do you hear the waters rushing against the shores of

the coastlands —
WALTER: —Do you hear the screeching of the cocks in yonder hills

beyond where the chiefs meet in council for the coming of the
mighty war—


And now the lighting shifts subtly to suggest the world of WALTER’S
imagination, and the mood shifts from pure comedy. It is the inner
WALTER speaking: the Southside chauffeur has assumed an
unexpected majesty.

WALTER: —Do you hear the beating of the wings of the birds flying
low over the mountains and the low places of our land—

WALTER: Do you hear the singing of the women, singing the war

songs of our fathers to the babies in the great houses? Singing
the sweet war songs! (The doorbell rings.) OH, DO YOU

BENEATHA (completely gone): We hear you, Flaming Spear—

RUTH shuts off the phonograph and opens the door. GEORGE

WALTER: Telling us to prepare for the GREATNESS OF THE
TIME! (Lights back to normal. He turns and sees GEORGE.)
Black Brother! (He extends his hand for the fraternal clasp.)

GEORGE: Black Brother, hell!
RUTH (having had enough, and embarrassed for the family):

Beneatha, you got company—what’s the matter with you?
Walter Lee Younger, get down off that table and stop acting
like a fool. . .

WALTER comes down off the table suddenly and makes a quick
exit to the bathroom.


Lorraine Hansberry

RUTH: He’s had a little to drink . . . I don’t know what her excuse

GEORGE (to BENEATHA): Look honey, we’re going to the theatre—
we’re not going to be in i t . . . so go change, huh?

BENEATHA looks at him and slowly, ceremoniously, lifts her hands
and pulls off the headdress. Her hair is close-cropped and
unstraightened. GEORGE freezes mid-sentence and RUTH’S eyes all
but fall out of her head.

GEORGE: What in the name o f —
RUTH (touching BENEATHA’S hair): Girl, you done lost your natural

mind!? Look at your head!
GEORGE: What have you done to your head—I mean your hair?
BENEATHA: Nothing—except cut it off.
RUTH: Now that’s the truth—it’s what ain’t been done to it! You

expect this boy to go out with you with your head all nappy
like that?

BENEATHA (looking at GEORGE): That’s up to George. If he’s
ashamed of his heritage —

GEORGE: Oh, don’t be so proud of yourself, Bennie—just because
you look eccentric.

BENEATHA: How can something that’s natural be eccentric?
GEORGE: That’s what being eccentric means —being natural. Get

BENEATHA: I don’t like that, George.
RUTH: Why must you and your brother make an argument out of

everything people say?
BENEATHA: Because I hate assimilationist Negroes!
RUTH: Will somebody please tell me what assimila-whoever

GEORGE: Oh, it’s just a college girl’s way of calling people Uncle

Toms — b u t that isn’t what it means at all.
RUTH: Well, what does it mean?
BENEATHA (cutting GEORGE off and staring at him as she replies to

RUTH): It means someone who is willing to give up his own
culture and submerge himself completely in the dominant, and
in this case oppressive culture!

GEORGE: Oh, dear, dear, dear! Here we go! A lecture on the Af-
rican past! On our Great West African Heritage! In one second



we will hear all about the great Ashanti empires; the great Son-
ghay civilizations; and the great sculpture of Benin—and then
some poetry in the Bantu—and the whole monologue will end
with the word heritage* (nastily) Let’s face it, baby, your her-
itage is nothing but a bunch of raggedy-assed spirituals and some
grass huts!

BENEATHA: GRASS HUTS! (RUTH crosses to her and forcibly
pushes her toward the bedroom.) See there . . . you are standing
there in your splendid ignorance talking about people who were
the first to smelt iron on the face of the earth! (RUTH is pushing
her through the door.) The Ashanti were performing surgical
operations when the English —(RUTH pulls the door to, with
BENEATHA on the other side, and smiles graciously at GEORGE.
BENEATHA opens the door and shouts the end of the sentence
defiantly at GEORGE.,)—were still tatooing themselves with blue
dragons! (She goes back inside.)

RUTH: Have a seat, George. (They both sit. RUTH folds her hands
rather primly on her lap, determined to demonstrate the civili-
zation of the family.) Warm, ain’t it? I mean for September.
(pause) Just like they always say about Chicago weather: If it’s
too hot or cold for you, just wait a minute and it’ll change. (She
smiles happily at this cliche of cliches.) Everybody say it’s got
to do with them bombs and things they keep setting off. (pause)
Would you like a nice cold beer?

GEORGE: No, thank you. I don’t care for beer. (He looks at his
watch.) I hope she hurries up.

RUTH: What time is the show?
GEORGE: It’s an eight-thirty curtain. That’s just Chicago, though.

In New York standard curtain time is eight forty. (He is rather
proud of this knowledge.)

RUTH (properly appreciating it): You get to New York a lot?
GEORGE (offhand): Few times a year.
RUTH: Oh—that’s nice. I’ve never been to New York. (WALTER

enters. We feel he has relieved himself, but the edge of unreality
is still with him.)

WALTER: New York ain’t got nothing Chicago ain’t. Just a bunch
of hustling people all squeezed up together—being “Eastern.”
(He turns his face into a screw of displeasure.)

GEORGE: Oh—you’ve been?


Lorraine Hansberry

WALTER: Plenty of times.
RUTH (shocked at the lie): Walter Lee Younger!
WALTER (staring her down): Plenty! (pause) What we got to drink

in this house? Why don’t you offer this man some refreshment.
(to GEORGEJ They don’t know how to entertain people in this
house, man.

GEORGE: Thank y o u — I don’t really care for anything.
WALTER (feeling his head; sobriety coming): Where’s Mama?
RUTH: She ain’t come back yet.
WALTER (looking MURCHISON over from head to toe, scrutinizing

his carefully casual tweed sports jacket over cashmere V-neck
sweater over soft eyelet shirt and tie, and soft slacks, finished
off with white buckskin shoes): Why all you college boys wear
them faggoty-looking white shoes?

RUTH: Walter Lee!

GEORGE MURCHISON ignores the remark.

WALTER (to RUTH): Well, they look crazy as hell—white shoes,
cold as it is.

RUTH (crushed): You have to excuse him—
WALTER: No he don’t! Excuse me for what? What you always

excusing me for! I’ll excuse myself when I needs to be excused!
(a pause) They look as funny as them black knee socks Beneatha
wears out of here all the time.

RUTH: It’s the college style, Walter.
WALTER: Style, hell. She looks like she got burnt legs or something!
RUTH: Oh, Walter—
WALTER (an irritable mimic): Oh, Walter! Oh, Walter! (to MUR-

CHISON,) How’s your old man making out? I understand you
all going to buy that big hotel on the Drive? (He finds a beer
in the refrigerator, wanders over to MURCHISON, sipping and
wiping his lips with the back of his hand, and straddling a chair
backwards to talk to the other man.) Shrewd move. Your old
man is all right, man. (tapping his head and half winking for
emphasis) I mean he knows how to operate. I mean he thinks
big, you know what I mean, I mean for a home, you know? But
I think he’s kind of running out of ideas now. I’d like to talk to
him. Listen, man, I got some plans that could turn this city
upside down. I mean think like he does. Big. Invest big, gamble



big, hell, lose big if you have to, you know what I mean. It’s
hard to find a man on this whole Southside who understands
my kind of thinking—you dig? (He scrutinizes MURCHISON
again, drinks his beer, squints his eyes and leans in close, con-
fidential, man to man.) Me and you ought to sit down and talk
sometimes, man. Man, I got me some ideas . . .

MURCHISON (with boredom): Yeah—sometimes we’ll have to do
that, Walter.

WALTER (understanding the indifference, and offended): Yeah—
well, when you get the time, man. I know you a busy little boy.

RUTH: Walter, please—
WALTER (bitterly, hurt): I know ain’t nothing in this world as busy

as you colored college boys with your fraternity pins and white
shoes . . .

RUTH (covering her face with humiliation): Oh, Walter Lee —
WALTER: I see you all all the time—with the books tucked under

your arms—going to your (British A—a mimic) “clahsses.”
And for what! What the hell you learning over there? Filling up
your heads—(counting off on his fingers)—with the sociology
and the psychology—but they teaching you how to be a man?
How to take over and run the world? They teaching you how
to run a rubber plantation or a steel mill? Naw—just to talk
proper and read books and wear them faggoty-looking white
shoes . . .

GEORGE (looking at him with distaste, a little above it all): You’re
all wacked up with bitterness, man.

WALTER (intently, almost quietly, between the teeth, glaring at the
boy): And you —ain’t you bitter, man? Ain’t you just about had
it yet? Don’t you see no stars gleaming that you can’t reach out
and grab? You happy?—You contented son-of-a-bitch—you
happy? You got it made? Bitter? Man, I’m a volcano. Bitter?
Here I am a giant—surrounded by ants! Ants who can’t even
understand what it is the giant is talking about.

RUTH (passionately and suddenly): Oh, Walter—ain’t you with

WALTER (violently): No! ‘Cause ain’t nobody with me! Not even
my own mother!

RUTH: Walter, that’s a terrible thing to say!


Lorraine Hansberry

BENEATHA enters, dressed for the evening in a cocktail dress and
earrings, hair natural.

GEORGE: Well—hey—(crosses to BENEATHA; thoughful, with em-
phasis, since this is a reversal) You look great!

WALTER (seeing his sister’s hair for the first time): What’s the mat-
ter with your head?

BENEATHA (tired of the jokes now): I cut it off, Brother.
WALTER (coming close to inspect it and walking around her): Well,

I’ll be damned. So that’s what they mean by the African bush . . .
BENEATHA: Ha ha. Let’s go, George.
GEORGE (looking at her): You know something? I like it. It’s sharp.

I mean it really is. (helps her into her wrap)
RUTH: Yes—I think so, too. (She goes to the mirror and starts to

clutch at her hair.)
WALTER: Oh no! You leave yours alone, baby. You might turn out

to have a pin-shaped head or something!
BENEATHA: See you all later.
RUTH: Have a nice time.
GEORGE: Thanks. Good night. (Half out the door, he reopens it.

To WALTER.) Good night, Prometheus!


WALTER (to RUTH): Who is Prometheus?
RUTH: I don’t know. Don’t worry about it.
WALTER (in fury, pointing after GEORGE): See there—they get to a

point where they can’t insult you man to man—they got to go
talk about something ain’t nobody never heard of!

RUTH: How do you know it was an insult? (to humor him)
Maybe Prometheus is a nice fellow.

WALTER: Prometheus! I bet there ain’t even no such thing! I bet
that simple-minded clown —

RUTH: Walter—(She stops what she is doing and looks at him.)
WALTER (yelling): Don’t start!
RUTH: Start what?
WALTER: Your nagging! Where was I? Who was I with? How much

money did I spend?
RUTH (plaintively): Walter Lee—why don’t we just try to talk

about i t . . .


WALTER (not listening): I been out talking with people who un-
derstand me. People who care about the things I got on my

RUTH (wearily): I guess that means people like Willy Harris.
WALTER: Yes, people like Willy Harris.
RUTH (with a sudden flash of impatience): Why don’t you all just

hurry up and go into the banking business and stop talking
about it!

WALTER: Why? You want to know why? ‘Cause we all tied up in
a race of people that don’t know how to do nothing but moan,
pray and have babies! (The line is too bitter even for him and
he looks at her and sits down.)

RUTH: Oh, Walter . . . (softly) Honey, why can’t you stop fighting

WALTER (without thinking): Who’s fighting you! Who even cares
about you? (This line begins the retardation of his mood.)

RUTH: Well— (She waits a long time, and then with resignation
starts to put away her things.) I guess I might as well go on to
bed . . . (more or less to herself) I don’t know where we lost it
. . . but we have . . . (then, to him) I—I’m sorry about this new
baby, Walter. I guess maybe I better go on and do what I
started . . . I guess I just didn’t realize how bad things was with
us … I guess I just didn’t really realize—(She starts out to the
bedroom and stops.) You want some hot milk?

WALTER: Hot milk?
RUTH: Yes—hot milk.
WALTER: Why hot milk?
RUTH: ‘Cause after all that liquor you come home with you ought

to have something hot in your stomach.
WALTER: I don’t want no milk.
RUTH: You want some coffee then?
WALTER: No, I don’t want no coffee. I don’t want nothing hot to

drink, (almost plaintively) Why you always trying to give me
something to eat?

RUTH (standing and looking at him helplessly): What else can I
give you, Walter Lee Younger?

She stands and looks at him and presently turns to go out again.
He lifts his head and watches her going away from him in a new


Lorraine Hansberry

mood which began to emerge when he asked her “Who cares about

WALTER: It’s been rough, ain’t it, baby? (She hears and stops but
does not turn around and he continues to her back.) I guess
between two people there ain’t never as much understood as
folks generally thinks there is. I mean like between me and you —
(She turns to face him.) How we gets to the place where we
scared to talk softness to each other. (He waits, thinking hard
himself.) Why you think it got to be like that? (He is thought-
ful, almost as a child would be.) Ruth, what is it gets into people
ought to be close?

RUTH: I don’t know, honey. I think about it a lot.
WALTER: On account of you and me, you mean? The way things

are with us. The way something done come down between us.
RUTH: There ain’t so much between us, Walter . . . Not when you

come to me and try to talk to me. Try to be with me … a little

WALTER (total honesty): Sometimes . . . sometimes . . . I don’t even
know how to try.

RUTH: Walter —
RUTH (coming to him, gently and with misgiving, but coming to

him): Honey . . . life don’t have to be like this. I mean sometimes
people can do things so that things are better . . . You remember
how we used to talk when Travis was born . . . about the way
we were going to live . . . the kind of house . . . (She is stroking
his head.) Well, it’s all starting to slip away from us …

He turns her to him and they look at each other and kiss, tenderly
and hungrily. The door opens and MAMA enters—WALTER breaks
away and jumps up. A beat.)

WALTER: Mama, where have you been?
MAMA: My—them steps is longer than they used to be. Whew!

(She sits down and ignores him.) How you feeling this evening,

RUTH shrugs, disturbed at having been interrupted and watching
her husband knowingly.

WALTER: Mama, where have you been all day?



MAMA (still ignoring him and leaning on the table and changing to
more comfortable shoes): Where’s Travis?

RUTH: I let him go out earlier and he ain’t come back yet. Boy, is
he going to get it!

MAMA (as if she has heard him for the first time): Yes, son?
WALTER: Where did you go this afternoon?
MAMA: I went downtown to tend to some business that I had to

tend to.
WALTER: What kind of business?
MAMA: You know better than to question me like a child, Brother.
WALTER (rising and bending over the table): Where were you,

Mama? (bringing his fists down and shouting) Mama, you
didn’t go do something with that insurance money, something

The front door opens slowly, interrupting him, and TRAVIS peeks
his head in, less than hopefully.

TRAVIS (to his mother): Mama, I—
RUTH: “Mama I” nothing! You’re going to get it, boy! Get on in

that bedroom and get yourself ready!
MAMA: Why don’t you all never let the child explain hisself.
RUTH: Keep out of it now, Lena.

MAMA clamps her lips together, and RUTH advances toward her
son menacingly.

RUTH: A thousand times I have told you not to go off like that—
MAMA (holding out her arms to her grandson): Well—at least let

me tell him something. I want him to be the first one to hear
. . . Come here, Travis. (The boy obeys, gladly.) Travis — (She
takes him by the shoulder and looks into his face.)—you know
that money we got in the mail this morning?

TRAVIS: Yes’m —
MAMA: Well—what you think your grandmama gone and done

with that money?
TRAVIS: I don’t know, Grandmama.
MAMA (putting her finger on his nose for emphasis): She went out

and she bought you a house! (The explosion comes from WALTER
at the end of the revelation and he jumps up and turns away


Lorraine Hansberry

from all of them in a fury. MAMA continues, to TRAVIS.) You
glad about the house? It’s going to be yours when you get to be
a man.

TRAVIS: Yeah—I always wanted to live in a house.
MAMA: All right, gimme some sugar then —(TRAVIS puts his arms

around her neck as she watches her son over the boy’s shoulder.
Then, to TRAVIS, after the embrace.) Now when you say your
prayers tonight, you thank God and your grandfather—’cause
it was him who give you the house—in his way.

RUTH (taking the boy from MAMA and pushing him toward the
bedroom): Now you get out of here and get ready for your

TRAVIS: Aw, Mama —
RUTH: Get on in there—(closing the door behind him and turning

radiantly to her mother-in-law) So you went and did it!
MAMA (quietly, looking at her son with pain): Yes, I did.
RUTH (raising both arms classically): PRAISE GOD! (Looks at

WALTER a moment, who says nothing. She crosses rapidly to her
husband.) Please, honey—let me be glad . . . you be glad too.
(She has laid her hands on his shoulders, but he shakes himself
free of her roughly, without turning to face her.) Oh, Walter . . .
a home . . . a home. (She comes back to MAMA.) Well—where is
it? How big is it? How much it going to cost?

MAMA: Well—
RUTH: When we moving?
MAMA (smiling at her): First of the month.
RUTH (throwing back her head with jubilance): Praise God!
MAMA (tentatively, still looking at her son’s back turned against

her and RUTH): It’s —it’s a nice house too . . . (She cannot help
speaking directly to him. An imploring quality in her voice, her
manner, makes her almost like a girl now.) Three bedrooms —
nice big one for you and Ruth . . . Me and Beneatha still have
to share our room, but Travis have one of his own—and (with
difficulty) I figure if the—new baby—is a boy, we could get one
of them double-decker outfits. . . And there’s a yard with a little
patch of dirt where I could maybe get to grow me a few flow-
ers … And a nice big basement. . .

RUTH: Walter honey, be glad—
MAMA (still to his back, fingering things on the table): ‘Course I



don’t want to make it sound fancier than it is … It’s just a plain
little old house—but it’s made good and solid—and it will be
ours. Walter Lee—it makes a difference in a man when he can
walk on floors that belong to him . . .

RUTH: Where is it?
MAMA (frightened at this telling): Well—well—it’s out there in

Clybourne Park—

RUTH’S radiance fades abruptly, and WALTER finally turns slowly
to face his mother with incredulity and hostility.

RUTH: Where?
MAMA (matter-of-factly): Four o six Clybourne Street, Clybourne

RUTH: Clybourne Park? Mama, there ain’t no colored people living

in Clybourne Park.
MAMA (almost idiotically): Well, I guess there’s going to be some

WALTER (bitterly): So that’s the peace and comfort you went out

and bought for us today!
MAMA (raising her eyes to meet his finally): Son—I just tried to

find the nicest place for the least amount of money for my family.
RUTH (trying to recover from the shock): Well—well—’course I

ain’t one never been ‘fraid of no crackers, mind you—but—well,
wasn’t there no other houses nowhere?

MAMA: Them houses they put up for colored in them areas way
out all seem to cost twice as much as other houses. I did the
best I could.

RUTH (Struck senseless with the news, in its various degrees of
goodness and trouble, she sits a moment, her fists propping her
chin in thought, and then she starts to rise, bringing her fists
down with vigor, the radiance spreading from cheek to cheek
again.): Well—well!—All I can say is —if this is my time in life —
MY TIME—to say good-bye—(and she builds with momentum
as she starts to circle the room with an exuberant, almost tear-
fully happy release)—to these Goddamned cracking walls! — (She
pounds the walls.) —and these marching roaches! — (She wipes
at an imaginary army of marching roaches.) —and this cramped
little closet which ain’t now or never was no kitchen! . . . then
I say it loud and good, HALLELUJAH! AND GOOD-BYE MIS-


Lorraine Hans berry

FACE AGAIN! (She laughs joyously, having practically de-
stroyed the apartment, and flings her arms up and lets them
come down happily, slowly, reflectively, over her abdomen,
aware for the first time perhaps that the life therein pulses with
happiness and not despair.) Lena?

MAMA (moved, watching her happiness): Yes, honey?
RUTH (looking off): Is there —is there a whole lot of sunlight?
MAMA (understanding): Yes, child, there’s a whole lot of sunlight.

(long pause)
RUTH (collecting herself and going to the door of the room TRAVIS

is in): Well—I guess I better see ’bout Travis, (to MAMA) Lord,
I sure don’t feel like whipping nobody today! (She exits.)

MAMA (The mother and son are left alone now and the mother
waits a long time, considering deeply, before she speaks.): Son—
you—you—understand what I done, don’t you? (WALTER is si-
lent and sullen.) I — I just seen my family falling apart today . . .
just falling to pieces in front of my eyes . . . We couldn’t of gone
on like we was today. We was going backwards ‘stead of for-
wards—talking ’bout killing babies and wishing each other was
dead . . . When it gets like that in life—you just got to do some-
thing different, push on out and do something bigger . . . (She
waits.) I wish you say something, son . . . I wish you’d say how
deep inside you think I done the right thing—

WALTER (crossing slowly to his bedroom door and finally turning
there and speaking measuredly): What you need me to say you
done right for? You the head of this family. You run our lives
like you want to. It was your money and you did what you
wanted with it. So what you need for me to say it was all right
for? (bitterly, to hurt her as deeply as he knows is possible) So
you butchered up a dream of mine—you—who always talking
’bout your children’s dreams . . .

MAMA: Walter Lee —

He just closes the door behind him. MAMA sits alone, thinking



Time Friday night. A few weeks later.

At rise Packing crates mark the intention of the family to move.
BENEATHA and GEORGE come in, presumably from an evening out

GEORGE: O.K. . . . O.K., whatever you say . . . (They both sit on
the couch. He tries to kiss her. She moves away.) Look, we’ve
had a nice evening; let’s not spoil it, huh? . . .

He again turns her head and tries to nuzzle in and she turns away
from him, not with distaste but with momentary lack of interest;
in a mood to pursue what they were talking about.

BENEATHA: I’m trying to talk to you.
GEORGE: We always talk.
BENEATHA: Yes —and I love to talk.
GEORGE (exasperated, rising): I know it and I don’t mind it some-

times . . . I want you to cut it out, see—The moody stuff, I mean.
I don’t like it. You’re a nice-looking g i r l . . . all over. That’s all
you need, honey, forget the atmosphere. Guys aren’t going to
go for the atmosphere—they’re going to go for what they see.
Be glad for that. Drop the Garbo routine. It doesn’t go with you.
As for myself, I want a nice—(groping)—simple (thought-
fully)—sophisticated girl. . . not a poet—O.K.? (He starts to
kiss her, she rebuffs him again and he jumps up.)

BENEATHA: Why are you angry, George?
GEORGE: Because this is stupid! I don’t go out with you to discuss

the nature of “quiet desperation” or to hear all about your
thoughts —because the world will go on thinking what it thinks
regardless —

BENEATHA: Then why read books? Why go to school?
GEORGE (with artificial patience, counting on his fingers): It’s sim-

ple. You read books—to learn facts—to get grades —to pass the
course—to get a degree. That’s all — i t has nothing to do with
thoughts, (a long pause)

BENEATHA: I see. (He starts to sit.) Good night, George.
GEORGE looks at her a little oddly, and starts to exit. He meets
MAMA coming in.


Lorraine Hansberry

GEORGE: Oh—hello, Mrs. Younger.
MAMA: Hello, George, how you feeling?
GEORGE: Fine—fine, how are you?
MAMA: Oh, a little tired. You know them steps can get you after

a day’s work. You all have a nice time tonight?
GEORGE: Yes—a fine time. A fine time.
MAMA: Well, good night.
GEORGE: Good night. (He exits. MAMA closes the door behind

her.) Hello, honey. What you sitting like that for?
BENEATHA: I’m just sitting.
MAMA: Didn’t you have a nice time?


MAMA: No? What’s the matter?
BENEATHA: Mama, George is a fool—honest. (She rises.)
MAMA (Hustling around unloading the packages she has entered

with. She stops.): Is he, baby?

BENEATHA makes up TRAVIS’ bed as she talks.

MAMA: You sure?
MAMA: Well—I guess you better not waste your time with no fools.

BENEATHA looks up at her mother, watching her put groceries in
the refrigerator. Finally she gathers up her things and starts into
the bedroom. At the door she stops and looks back at her mother.

MAMA: Yes, baby —
BENEATHA: Thank you.
MAMA: For what?
BENEATHA: For understanding me this time.

She exits quickly and the mother stands, smiling a little, looking
at the place where BENEATHA just stood. RUTH enters.

RUTH: Now don’t you fool with any of this stuff, Lena —
MAMA: Oh, I just thought I’d sort a few things out. Is Brother

RUTH: Yes.
MAMA (with concern): Is he—
RUTH (reading her eyes): Yes.



MAMA is silent and someone knocks on the door. MAMA and RUTH
exchange weary and knowing glances and RUTH opens it to admit
the neighbor, MRS. JOHNSON ̂who is a rather squeaky wide-eyed
lady of no particular age, with a newspaper under her arm.

MAMA (changing her expression to acute delight and a ringing
cheerful greeting): Oh—hello there, Johnson.

JOHNSON (This is a woman who decided long ago to be enthu-
siastic about EVERYTHING in life and she is inclined to wave
her wrist vigorously at the height of her exclamatory com-
ments.): Hello there, yourself! H’you this evening, Ruth?

RUTH (not much of a deceptive type): Fine, Mis’ Johnson, h’you?
JOHNSON: Fine, (reaching out quickly, playfully, and patting

RUTH’S stomach) Ain’t you starting to poke out none yet! (She
mugs with delight at the over-familiar remark and her eyes dart
around looking at the crates and packing preparation; MAMA’S
face is a cold sheet of endurance.) Oh, ain’t we getting ready
round here, though! Yessir! Lookathere! I’m telling you the
Youngers is really getting ready to “move on up a little
higher!”-Bless God!

MAMA (a little drily, doubting the total sincerity of the Blesser):
Bless God.

JOHNSON: He’s good, ain’t He?
MAMA: Oh yes, He’s good.
JOHNSON: I mean sometimes He works in mysterious ways . . . but

He works, don’t He!
MAMA (the same): Yes, He does.
JOHNSON: I’m just soooooo happy for y’all. And this here child—

(about RUTH) looks like she could just pop open with happiness,
don’t she. Where’s all the rest of the family?

MAMA: Bennie’s gone to bed —
JOHNSON: Ain’t no … (The implication is pregnancy.) sickness

done hit y o u — I hope . . . ?
MAMA: No —she just tired. She was out this evening.
JOHNSON (All is a coo, an emphatic coo): Aw—ain’t that lovely.

She still going out with the little Murchison boy?
MAMA (drily): Ummmm huh.

^This character and the scene of her visit were cut from the original production and
early editions of the play.


Lorraine Hansberry

JOHNSON: That’s lovely. You sure got lovely children, Younger.
Me and Isaiah talks all the time ’bout what fine children you
was blessed with. We sure do.

MAMA: Ruth, give Mis’ Johnson a piece of sweet potato pie and
some milk.

JOHNSON: Oh honey, I can’t stay hardly a minute — I just dropped
in to see if there was anything I could do. (accepting the food
easily) I guess y’all seen the news what’s all over the colored
paper this week . . .

MAMA: No —didn’t get mine yet this week.
JOHNSON (lifting her head and blinking with the spirit of catas-

trophe): You mean you ain’t read ’bout them colored people
that was bombed out their place out there?

RUTH straightens with concern and takes the paper and reads it.
JOHNSON notices her and feeds commentary.

JOHNSON: Ain’t it something how bad these here white folks is
getting here in Chicago! Lord, getting so you think you right
down in Mississippi! (with a tremendous and rather insincere
sense of melodrama) ‘Course I thinks it’s wonderful how our
folks keeps on pushing out. You hear some of these Negroes
round here talking ’bout how they don’t go where they ain’t
wanted and all that—but not me, honey! (This is a lie.) Wil-
hemenia Othella Johnson goes anywhere, any time she feels like
it! (with head movement for emphasis) Yes I do! Why if we
left it up to these here crackers, the poor niggers wouldn’t have
nothing— (She clasps her hand over her mouth.) Oh, I always
forgets you don’t ‘low that word in your house.

MAMA (quietly, looking at her): No — I don’t ‘low it.
JOHNSON (vigorously again): Me neither! I was just telling Isaiah

yesterday when he come using it in front of me — I said, “Isaiah,
it’s just like Mis’ Younger says all the time — ”

MAMA: Don’t you want some more pie?
JOHNSON: No—no thank you; this was lovely. I got to get on over

home and have my midnight coffee. I hear some people say it
don’t let them sleep but I finds I can’t close my eyes right lessen
I done had that laaaast cup of coffee . . . (She waits. A beat.
Undaunted.) My Goodnight coffee, I calls it!


MAMA (with much eye-rolling and communication between herself
and RUTH): Ruth, why don’t you give Mis’ Johnson some coffee?

RUTH gives MAMA an unpleasant look for her kindness.
JOHNSON (accepting the coffee): Where’s Brother tonight?
MAMA: He’s lying down.
JOHNSON: MMmmmmm, he sure gets his beauty rest, don’t he?

Good-looking man. Sure is a good-looking man! (reaching out
to pat RUTH’S stomach again) I guess that’s how come we keep
on having babies around here. (She winks at MAMA.) One thing
’bout Brother, he always know how to have a good time. And
soooooo ambitious! I bet it was his idea y’all moving out to
Clybourne Park. Lord—I bet this time next month y’all’s names
will have been in the papers plenty—(holding up her hands to
mark off each word of the headline she can see in front of her)

MAMA (She and RUTH look at the woman in amazement.): We
ain’t exactly moving out there to get bombed.

JOHNSON: Oh, honey—you know I’m praying to God every day
that don’t nothing like that happen! But you have to think of
life like it is—and these here Chicago peckerwoods is some
baaaad peckerwoods.

MAMA (wearily): We done thought about all that Mis’ Johnson.
BENEATHA comes out of the bedroom in her robe and passes
through to the bathroom. MRS. JOHNSON turns.

JOHNSON: Hello there, Bennie!
BENEATHA (crisply): Hello, Mrs. Johnson.
JOHNSON: How is school?
BENEATHA (crisply): Fine, thank you. (She goes out.)
JOHNSON (insulted): Getting so she don’t have much to say to

MAMA: The child was on her way to the bathroom.
JOHNSON: I know—but sometimes she act like ain’t got time to

pass the time of day with nobody ain’t been to college. Oh—I
ain’t criticizing her none. It’s just—you know how some of our
young people gets when they get a little education. (MAMA and
RUTH say nothing, just look at her.) Yes—well. Well, I guess I
better get on home, (unmoving) ‘Course I can understand how
she must be proud and everything—being the only one in the


Lorraine Hansberry

family to make something of herself. I know just being a chauf-
feur ain’t never satisfied Brother none. He shouldn’t feel like
that, though. Ain’t nothing wrong with being a chauffeur.

MAMA: There’s plenty wrong with it.
MAMA: Plenty. My husband always said being any kind of a

servant wasn’t a fit thing for a man to have to be. He always
said a man’s hands was made to make things, or to turn the
earth with—not to drive nobody’s car for ‘ e m — o r — (She looks
at her own hands.) carry they slop jars. And my boy is just like
him—he wasn’t meant to wait on nobody.

JOHNSON (rising, somewhat offended): Mmmmmmmmm. The
Youngers is too much for me! (She looks around.) You sure
one proud-acting bunch of colored folks. Well—I always thinks
like Booker T. Washington said that time—”Education has
spoiled many a good plow hand” —

MAMA: Is that what old Booker T. said?
JOHNSON: He sure did.
MAMA: Well, it sounds just like him. The fool.
JOHNSON (indignantly): Well—he was one of our great men.
MAMA: Who said so?
JOHNSON (nonplussed): You know, me and you ain’t never agreed

about some things, Lena Younger. I guess I better be going—
RUTH (quickly): Good night.
JOHNSON: Good night. Oh —(thrusting it at her) You can keep

the paper! (with a trill) ‘Night.
MAMA: Good night, Mis’ Johnson. (MRS. JOHNSON exits.)
RUTH: If ignorance was gold . . .
MAMA: Shush. Don’t talk about folks behind their backs.
RUTH: You do.
MAMA: I’m old and corrupted. (BENEATHA enters.) You was rude

to Mis’ Johnson, Beneatha, and I don’t like it at all.
BENEATHA (at her door): Mama, if there are two things we, as a

people, have got to overcome, one is the Klu Klux Klan—and
the other is Mrs. Johnson. (She exits.)

MAMA: Smart aleck. (The phone rings.)
RUTH: I’ll get it.
MAMA: Lord, ain’t this a popular place tonight.
RUTH (at the phone): Hello—Just a minute, (goes to door) Wal-



ter, it’s Mrs. Arnold. (Waits. Goes back to the phone. Tense.)
Hello. Yes, this is his wife speaking . . . He’s lying down now.
Yes . . . well, he’ll be in tomorrow. He’s been very sick. Yes—I
know we should have called, but we were so sure he’d be able
to come in today. Yes—yes, I’m very sorry. Yes . . . Thank you
very much. (She hangs up. WALTER is standing in the doorway
of the bedroom behind her.) That was Mrs. Arnold.

WALTER (indifferently): Was it?
RUTH: She said if you don’t come in tomorrow that they are getting

a new man . . .
WALTER: Ain’t that sad—ain’t that crying sad.
RUTH: She said Mr. Arnold has had to take a cab for three days . . .

Walter, you ain’t been to work for three days! (This is a reve-
lation to her.) Where you been, Walter Lee Younger! (WALTER
looks at her and starts to laugh.) You’re going to lose your job.

WALTER: That’s right. . . (He turns on the radio.)
RUTH: Oh, Walter, and with your mother working like a dog every


A steamy, deep blues pours into the room.

WALTER: That’s sad too—Everything is sad.
MAMA: What you been doing for these three days, son?
WALTER: Mama—you don’t know all the things a man what got

leisure can find to do in this city . . . What’s this—Friday night?
Well—Wednesday I borrowed Willy Harris’ car and I went for
a drive . . . just me and myself and I drove and drove . . . Way
out. . . way past South Chicago, and I parked the car and I sat
and looked at the steel mills all day long. I just sat in the car
and looked at them big black chimneys for hours. Then I drove
back and I went to the Green Hat. (pause) And Thursday—
Thursday I borrowed the car again and I got in it and I pointed
it the other way and I drove the other way—for hours—way,
way up to Wisconsin, and I looked at the farms. I just drove
and looked at the farms. Then I drove back and I went to the
Green Hat. (pause) And today—today I didn’t get the car. To-
day I just walked. All over the Southside. And I looked at the
Negroes and they looked at me and finally I just sat down on
the curb at Thirty-ninth and South Parkway and I just sat there
and watched the Negroes go by. And then I went to the Green


Lorraine Hansberry

Hat. You all sad? You all depressed? And you know where I
am going right now—

RUTH goes out quietly.

MAMA: Oh, Big Walter, is this the harvest of our days?
WALTER: You know what I like about the Green Hat? I like this

little cat they got there who blows a sax . . . He blows. He talks
to me. He ain’t but ’bout five feet tall and he’s got a conked
head and his eyes is always closed and he’s all music—

MAMA (rising and getting some papers out of her handbag): Wal-

WALTER: And there’s this other guy who plays the piano . . . and
they got a sound. I mean they can work on some music . . . They
got the best little combo in the world in the Green Hat. . . You
can just sit there and drink and listen to them three men play
and you realize that don’t nothing matter worth a damn, but
just being there—

MAMA: I’ve helped do it to you, haven’t I, son? Walter I been

WALTER: Naw—you ain’t never been wrong about nothing,

MAMA: Listen to me, now. I say I been wrong, son. That I been
doing to you what the rest of the world been doing to you. (She
turns off the radio.) Walter—(She stops and he looks up slowly
at her and she meets his eyes pleadingly.) What you ain’t never
understood is that I ain’t got nothing, don’t own nothing, ain’t
never really wanted nothing that wasn’t for you. There ain’t
nothing as precious to me . . . There ain’t nothing worth holding
on to, money, dreams, nothing else—if it means —if it means it’s
going to destroy my boy. (She takes an envelope out of her
handbag and puts it in front of him and he watches her without
speaking or moving.) I paid the man thirty-five hundred dollars
down on the house. That leaves sixty-five hundred dollars. Mon-
day morning I want you to take this money and take three thou-
sand dollars and put it in a savings account for Beneatha’s med-
ical schooling. The rest you put in a checking account—with
your name on it. And from now on any penny that come out of
it or that go in it is for you to look after. For you to decide.
(She drops her hands a little helplessly.) It ain’t much, but it’s



all I got in the world and I’m putting it in your hands. I’m telling
you to be the head of this family from now on like you supposed
to be.

WALTER (stares at the money): You trust me like that, Mama?
MAMA: I ain’t never stop trusting you. Like I ain’t never stop loving

She goes out, and WALTER sits looking at the money on the table.
Finally, in a decisive gesture, he gets up, and, in mingled joy and
desperation, picks up the money. At the same moment, TRAVIS
enters for bed.

TRAVIS: What’s the matter, Daddy? You drunk?
WALTER (sweetly, more sweetly than we have ever known him):

No, Daddy ain’t drunk. Daddy ain’t going to never be drunk
again . . .

TRAVIS: Well, good night, Daddy.
The FATHER has come from behind the couch and leans over,
embracing his son.

WALTER: Son, I feel like talking to you tonight.
TRAVIS: About what?
WALTER: Oh, about a lot of things. About you and what kind of

man you going to be when you grow up … Son—son, what do
you want to be when you grow up?

TRAVIS: A bus driver.
WALTER (laughing a little): A what? Man, that ain’t nothing to

want to be!
TRAVIS: Why not?
WALTER: ‘Cause, man—it ain’t big enough—you know what I

TRAVIS: I don’t know then. I can’t make up my mind. Sometimes

Mama asks me that too. And sometimes when I tell her I just
want to be like you—she says she don’t want me to be like that
and sometimes she says she does . . .

WALTER (gathering him up in his arms): You know what, Travis?
In seven years you going to be seventeen years old. And things
is going to be very different with us in seven years, Travis . . .
One day when you are seventeen I’ll come home—home from
my office downtown somewhere —

TRAVIS: You don’t work in no office, Daddy.


Lorraine Hansberry

WALTER: No — b u t after tonight. After what your daddy gonna do
tonight, there’s going to be offices — a whole lot of offices . . .

TRAVIS: What you gonna do tonight, Daddy?
WALTER: You wouldn’t understand yet, son, but your daddy’s

gonna make a transaction . . . a business transaction that’s going
to change our lives . . . That’s how come one day when you ’bout
seventeen years old I’ll come home and I’ll be pretty tired, you
know what I mean, after a day of conferences and secretaries
getting things wrong the way they do … ’cause an executive’s
life is hell, man—(The more he talks the farther away he gets.)
And I’ll pull the car up on the driveway . . . just a plain black
Chrysler, I think, with white walls—no —black tires. More ele-
gant. Rich people don’t have to be flashy . . . though I’ll have to
get something a little sportier for Ruth—maybe a Cadillac con-
vertible to do her shopping in … And I’ll come up the steps to
the house and the gardener will be clipping away at the hedges
and he’ll say, “Good evening, Mr. Younger.” And I’ll say,
“Hello, Jefferson, how are you this evening?” And I’ll go inside
and Ruth will come downstairs and meet me at the door and
we’ll kiss each other and she’ll take my arm and we’ll go up to
your room to see you sitting on the floor with the catalogues of
all the great schools in America around you . . . All the great
schools in the world! And —and I’ll say, all right son—it’s your
seventeenth birthday, what is it you’ve decided? . . . Just tell me
where you want to go to school and you’ll go. Just tell me, what
it is you want to be—and you’ll be i t . . . Whatever you want to
be—Yessir! (He holds his arms open for TRAVIS.) You just
name it, son . . . (“TRAVIS leaps into them.) and I hand you the

WALTER’S voice has risen in pitch and hysterical promise and on
the last line he lifts TRAVIS high.


Time Saturday, moving day, one week later.

Before the curtain rises, RUTH’S voice, a strident, dramatic church
alto, cuts through the silence.



It is, in the darkness, a triumphant surge, a penetrating state-
ment of expectation: “Oh, Lord, I don’t feel no ways tired! Chil-
dren, oh, glory hallelujah!”

As the curtain rises we see that RUTH is alone in the living room,
finishing up the family’s packing. It is moving day. She is nailing
crates and tying cartons. BENEATHA enters, carrying a guitar case,
and watches her exuberant sister-in-law.

RUTH: Hey!
BENEATHA (putting away the case): Hi.
RUTH (pointing at a package): Honey—look in that package there

and see what I found on sale this morning at the South Center.
(RUTH gets up and moves to the package and draws out some
curtains.) Lookahere—hand-turned hems!

BENEATHA: How do you know the window size out there?
RUTH (who hadn’t thought of that): Oh—Well, they bound to fit

something in the whole house. Anyhow, they was too good a
bargain to pass up. (RUTH slaps her head, suddenly remember-
ing something.): Oh, Bennie—I meant to put a special note on
that carton over there. That’s your mama’s good china and she
wants ’em to be very careful with it.

BENEATHA: I’ll do it.

BENEATHA finds a piece of paper and starts to draw large letters
on it.

RUTH: You know what I’m going to do soon as I get in that new

RUTH: Honey—I’m going to run me a tub of water up to here . . .

(with her fingers practically up to her nostrils) And I’m going
to get in it—and I am going to s i t . . . and s i t . . . and sit in that
hot water and the first person who knocks to tell me to hurry
up and come out—

BENEATHA: Gets shot at sunrise.
RUTH (laughing happily): You said it, sister! (noticing how large

BENEATHA is absent-mindedly making the note) Honey, they
ain’t going to read that from no airplane.

BENEATHA (laughing herself): I guess I always think things have
more emphasis if they are big, somehow.

RUTH (looking up at her and smiling): You and your brother seem


Lorraine Hansberry

to have that as a philosophy of life. Lord, that man —done
changed so ’round here. You know—you know what we did last
night? Me and Walter Lee?

RUTH (smiling to herself): We went to the movies, (looking at

BENEATHA to see if she understands) We went to the movies.
You know the last time me and Walter went to the movies


RUTH: Me neither. That’s how long it been, (smiling again) But
we went last night. The picture wasn’t much good, but that
didn’t seem to matter. We went—and we held hands.

RUTH: We held hands —and you know what?
RUTH: When we come out of the show it was late and dark and

all the stores and things was closed up … and it was kind of
chilly and there wasn’t many people on the streets . . . and we
was still holding hands, me and Walter.

BENEATHA: You’re killing me.

WALTER enters with a large package. His happiness is deep in him;
he cannot keep still with his new-found exuberance. He is singing
and wiggling and snapping his fingers. He puts his package in a
corner and puts a phonograph record, which he has brought in
with him, on the record player. As the music, soulful and sensuous,
comes up he dances over to RUTH and tries to get her to dance
with him. She gives in at last to his raunchiness and in a fit of
giggling allows herself to be drawn into his mood. They dip and
she melts into his arms in a classic, body-melding t(slow drag.39

BENEATHA (regarding them a long time as they dance, then drawing
in her breath for a deeply exaggerated comment which she does
not particularly mean): Talk about—oldddddddddd-

WALTER (stopping momentarily): What kind of Negroes? (He says
this in fun. He is not angry with her today, nor with anyone.
He starts to dance with his wife again.)

BENEATHA: Old-fashioned.
WALTER (as he dances with RUTHJ: You know, when these New



Negroes have their convention—(pointing at his sister)—that is
going to be the chairman of the Committee on Unending Agi-
tation. (He goes on dancing, then stops.) Race, race, race! . ..
Girl, I do believe you are the first person in the history of the
entire human race to successfully brainwash yourself. (BENEA-
THA breaks up and he goes on dancing. He stops again, enjoying
his tease.) Damn, even the N double A C P takes a holiday
sometimes! (BENEATHA and RUTH laugh. He dances with RUTH
some more and starts to laugh and stops and pantomimes some-
one over an operating table.) I can just see that chick someday
looking down at some poor cat on an operating table and before
she starts to slice him, she says . . . (pulling his sleeves back
maliciously) “By the way, what are your views on civil rights
down there? …” (He laughs at her again and starts to dance
happily. The bell sounds.)

BENEATHA: Sticks and stones may break my bones b u t . . . words
will never hurt me!

BENEATHA goes to the door and opens it as WALTER and RUTH go
on with the clowning. BENEATHA is somewhat surprised to see a
quiet-looking middle-aged white man in a business suit holding his
hat and a briefcase in his hand and consulting a small piece of

MAN: Uh—how do you do, miss. I am looking for a Mrs. —(He
looks at the slip of paper.) Mrs. Lena Younger? (He stops short,
struck dumb at the sight of the oblivious WALTER and RUTH.)

BENEATHA (smoothing her hair with slight embarrassment): Oh —
yes, that’s my mother. Excuse me. (She closes the door and turns
to quiet the other two.) Ruth! Brother! (Enunciating precisely
but soundlessly: “There’s a white man at the door!93 They stop
dancing, RUTH cuts off the phonograph, BENEATHA opens the
door. The man casts a curious quick glance at all of them.) Uh—
come in please.

MAN (coming in): Thank you.
BENEATHA: My mother isn’t here just now. Is it business?
MAN: Yes . . . well, of a sort.
WALTER (freely, the Man of the House): Have a seat. I’m Mrs.

Younger’s son. I look after most of her business matters.


Lorraine Hansberry

RUTH and BENEATHA exchange amused glances.

MAN (regarding WALTER, and sitting) \y name is Karl
Lindner. ..

WALTER (stretching out his hand): Walter Younger. This is my
wife—(RUTH nods politely.)—and my sister.

LINDNER: How do you do.
WALTER (amiably, as he sits himself easily on a chair, leaning for-

ward on his knees with interest and looking expectantly into the
newcomer’s face): What can we do for you, Mr. Lindner!

LINDNER (some minor shuffling of the hat and briefcase on his
knees): Well—I am a representative of the Clybourne Park Im-
provement Association—

WALTER (pointing): Why don’t you sit your things on the floor?
LINDNER: Oh—yes. Thank you. (He slides the briefcase and hat

under the chair.) And as I was saying—I am from the Cly bourne
Park Improvement Association and we have had it brought to
our attention at the last meeting that you people—or at least
your mother—has bought a piece of residential property at—
(He digs for the slip of paper again.)—four o six Clybourne
Street.. .

WALTER: That’s right. Care for something to drink? Ruth, get Mr.
Lindner a beer.

LINDNER (upset for some reason): Oh—no, really. I mean thank
you very much, but no thank you.

RUTH (innocently): Some coffee?
LINDNER: Thank you, nothing at all.

BENEATHA is watching the man carefully.

LINDNER: Well, I don’t know how much you folks know about
our organization. (He is a gentle man; thoughtful and some-
what labored in his manner.) It is one of these community or-
ganizations set up to look after—oh, you know, things like block
upkeep and special projects and we also have what we call our
New Neighbors Orientation Committee . . .

BENEATHA (drily): Yes—and what do they do?
LINDNER (turning a little to her and then returning the main force

to WALTER): Well—it’s what you might call a sort of welcoming
committee, I guess. I mean they, we—I’m the chairman of the


committee—go around and see the new people who move into
the neighborhood and sort of give them the lowdown on the
way we do things out in Clybourne Park.

BENEATHA (with appreciation of the two meanings, which escape
RUTH and WALTER): Un-huh.

LINDNER: And we also have the category of what the associa-
tion calls — (He looks elsewhere.) — uh—special community
problems . . .

BENEATHA: Yes—and what are some of those?
WALTER: Girl, let the man talk.
LINDNER (with understated relief): Thank you. I would sort of like

to explain this thing in my own way. I mean I want to explain
to you in a certain way.

WALTER: Go ahead.
LINDNER: Yes. Well. I’m going to try to get right to the point. I’m

sure we’ll all appreciate that in the long run.

WALTER: Be still now!
RUTH (still innocently): Would you like another chair—you don’t

look comfortable.
LINDNER (more frustrated than annoyed): No, thank you very

much. Please. Well—to get right to the point I—(A great breath,
and he is off at last.) I am sure you people must be aware of
some of the incidents which have happened in various parts of
the city when colored people have moved into certain areas —
(BENEATHA exhales heavily and starts tossing a piece of fruit up
and down in the air.) Well—because we have what I think is
going to be a unique type of organization in American com-
munity life —not only do we deplore that kind of thing—but we
are trying to do something about it. (BENEATHA stops tossing
and turns with a new and quizzical interest to the man.) We
feel—(gaining confidence in his mission because of the interest
in the faces of the people he is talking to)—we feel that most of
the trouble in this world, when you come right down to it— (He
hits his knee for emphasis.)—most of the trouble exists because
people just don’t sit down and talk to each other.

RUTH (nodding as she might in church, pleased with the remark):
You can say that again, mister.


Lorraine Hansberry

LINDNER (more encouraged by such affirmation): That we don’t
try hard enough in this world to understand the other fellow’s
problem. The other guy’s point of view.

RUTH: Now that’s right.

BENEATHA and WALTER merely watch and listen with genuine

LINDNER: Yes—that’s the way we feel out in Clybourne Park. And
that’s why I was elected to come here this afternoon and talk to
you people. Friendly like, you know, the way people should talk
to each other and see if we couldn’t find some way to work this
thing out. As I say, the whole business is a matter of caring
about the other fellow. Anybody can see that you are a nice
family of folks, hard working and honest I’m sure. (BENEATHA
frowns slightly, quizzically, her head tilted regarding him.) To-
day everybody knows what it means to be on the outside of
something. And of course, there is always somebody who is out
to take advantage of people who don’t always understand.

WALTER: What do you mean?
LINDNER: Well—you see our community is made up of people

who’ve worked hard as the dickens for years to build up that
little community. They’re not rich and fancy people; just hard-
working, honest people who don’t really have much but those
little homes and a dream of the kind of community they want
to raise their children in. Now, I don’t say we are perfect and
there is a lot wrong in some of the things they want. But
you’ve got to admit that a man, right or wrong, has the right
to want to have the neighborhood he lives in a certain kind of
way. And at the moment the overwhelming majority of our
people out there feel that people get along better, take more of
a common interest in the life of the community, when they
share a common background. I want you to believe me when I
tell you that race prejudice simply doesn’t enter into it. It is a
matter of the people of Clybourne Park believing, rightly or
wrongly, as I say, that for the happiness of all concerned that
our Negro families are happier when they live in their own

BENEATHA (with a grand and bitter gesture): This, friends, is the
Welcoming Committee!



WALTER (dumfounded, looking at LINDNER,): Is this what you came
marching all the way over here to tell us?

LINDNER: Well, now we’ve been having a fine conversation. I hope
you’ll hear me all the way through.

WALTER (tightly): Go ahead, man.
LINDNER: You see—-in the face of all the things I have said, we

are prepared to make your family a very generous offer . . .
BENEATHA: Thirty pieces and not a coin less!
LINDNER (putting on his glasses and drawing a form out of the

briefcase): Our association is prepared, through the collective
effort of our people, to buy the house from you at a financial
gain to your family.

RUTH: Lord have mercy, ain’t this the living gall!
WALTER: All right, you through?
LINDNER: Well, I want to give you the exact terms of the financial

WALTER: We don’t want to hear no exact terms of no arrange-

ments. I want to know if you got any more to tell us ’bout getting

LINDNER (taking off his glasses): Well—I don’t suppose that you
feel. . .

WALTER: Never mind how I feel—you got any more to say ’bout
how people ought to sit down and talk to each other? . . . Get
out of my house, man. (He turns his back and walks to the

LINDNER (looking around at the hostile faces and reaching and
assembling his hat and briefcase): Well—I don’t understand why
you people are reacting this way. What do you think you are
going to gain by moving into a neighborhood where you just
aren’t wanted and where some elements—well—people can get
awful worked up when they feel that their whole way of life and
everything they’ve ever worked for is threatened.

WALTER: Get out.
LINDNER (at the door, holding a small card): Well—I’m sorry it

went like this.
WALTER: Get out.
LINDNER (almost sadly regarding WALTER,): You just can’t force

people to change their hearts, son.


Lorraine Hansberry

He turns and puts his card on a table and exits. WALTER pushes
the door to with stinging hatred, and stands looking at it. RUTH
just sits and BENEATHA just stands. They say nothing. MAMA and
TRAVIS enter.

MAMA: Well—this all the packing got done since I left out of here
this morning. I testify before God that my children got all the
energy of the dead! What time the moving men due?

BENEATHA: Four o’clock. You had a caller, Mama. (She is smiling,

MAMA: Sure enough—who?
BENEATHA (her arms folded saucily): The Welcoming Committee.

WALTER and RUTH giggle.

MAMA (innocently): Who?
BENEATHA: The Welcoming Committee. They said they’re sure

going to be glad to see you when you get there.
WALTER (devilishly): Yeah, they said they can’t hardly wait to see

your face.


MAMA (sensing their facetiousness): What’s the matter with you

WALTER: Ain’t nothing the matter with us. We just telling you
’bout the gentleman who came to see you this afternoon. From
the Clybourne Park Improvement Association.

MAMA: What he want?
RUTH (in the same mood as BENEATHA and WALTER): To welcome

you, honey.
WALTER: He said they can’t hardly wait. He said the one thing

they don’t have, that they just dying to have out there is a fine
family of fine colored people! (to RUTH and BENEATHA) Ain’t
that right!

RUTH (mockingly): Yeah! He left his card—
BENEATHA (handling card to MAMA): In case.

MAMA reads and throws it on the floor—understanding and
looking off as she draws her chair up to the table on which she
has put her plant and some sticks and some


MAMA: Father, give us strength, (knowingly—and without fun)
Did he threaten us?



BENEATHA: Oh—Mama—they don’t do it like that any more. He
talked Brotherhood. He said everybody ought to learn how to
sit down and hate each other with good Christian fellowship.

She and WALTER shake hands to ridicule the remark.

MAMA (sadly): Lord, protect us …
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 . . .
RUTH: Well—that’s the way the crackers crumble, (a beat) Joke.
BENEATHA (laughingly noticing what her mother is doing): Mama,

what are you doing?
MAMA: Fixing my plant so it won’t get hurt none on the way . . .
BENEATHA: Mama, you going to take that to the new house?
MAMA: Un-huh —
BENEATHA: That raggedy-looking old thing?
MAMA (stopping and looking at her): It expresses ME!
RUTH (with delight, to BENEATHA): So there, Miss Thing!

WALTER comes to MAMA suddenly and bends down behind her and
squeezes her in his arms with all his strength. She is overwhelmed
by the suddenness of it and, though delighted, her manner is like
that of RUTH and TRAVIS.

MAMA: Look out now, boy! You make me mess up my thing here!
WALTER (his face lit, he slips down on his knees beside her, his

arms still about her): Mama . . . you know what it means to
climb up in the chariot?

MAMA (gruffly, very happy): Get on away from me now . . .
RUTH (near the gift-wrapped package, trying to catch WALTER’S

eye): Psst—
WALTER: What the old song say, Mama . . .
RUTH: Walter—Now? (She is pointing at the package.)
WALTER (speaking the lines, sweetly, playfully, in his mother’s


I got wings . . . you got wings . . .
All God’s Children got wings . . .

MAMA: Boy—get out of my face and do some work . . .


Lorraine Hansberry

When I get to heaven gonna put on my wings,
Gonna fly all over God’s heaven . . .

BENEATHA (teasingly, from across the room): Everybody talking
’bout heaven ain’t going there!

WALTER (to RUTH, who is carrying the box across to them): I don’t
know, you think we ought to give her that. . . Seems to me she
ain’t been very appreciative around here.

MAMA (eying the box, which is obviously a gift: What is that?
WALTER (taking it from RUTH and putting it on the table in front

of MAMA): Well—what you all think? Should we give it to her?
RUTH: Oh—she was pretty good today.
MAMA: I’ll good you— (She turns her eyes to the box again.)
BENEATHA: Open it, Mama. (She stands up, looks at it, turns and

looks at all of them, and then presses her hands together and
does not open the package.)

WALTER (sweetly): Open it, Mama. It’s for you. (MAMA looks in
his eyes. It is the first present in her life without its being Christ-
mas. Slowly she opens her package and lifts out, one by one, a
brand-new sparkling set of gardening tools. WALTER continues,
prodding.) Ruth made up the note—read i t . . .

MAMA (picking up the card and adjusting her glasses): “To our
own Mrs. Miniver—Love from Brother, Ruth and Beneatha.”
Ain’t that lovely . . .

TRAVIS (tugging at his father’s sleeve): Daddy, can I give her mine

WALTER: All right, son. (“TRAVIS flies to get his gift.)
MAMA: Now I don’t have to use my knives and forks no more . . .
WALTER: Travis didn’t want to go in with the rest of us, Mama.

He got his own. (somewhat amused) We don’t know what it
is …

TRAVIS (racing back in the room with a large hatbox and putting
it in front of his grandmother): Here!

MAMA: Lord have mercy, baby. You done gone and bought your
grandmother a hat?

TRAVIS (very proud): Open it! (She does and lifts out an elaborate,
but very elaborate, wide gardening hat, and all the adults break
up at the sight of it.)



RUTH: Travis, honey, what is that?
TRAVIS (who thinks it is beautiful and appropriate): It’s a garden-

ing hat! Like the ladies always have on in the magazines when
they work in their gardens.

BENEATHA (giggling fiercely): Travis—we were trying to make
Mama Mrs. Miniver—not Scarlett O’Hara!

MAMA (indignantly): What’s the matter with you all! This here is
a beautiful hat! (absurdly) I always wanted me one just like it!
(She pops it on her head to prove it to her grandson, and the
hat is ludicrous and considerably oversized.)

RUTH: Hot dog! Go, Mama!
WALTER (doubled over with laughter): I’m sorry, Mama —but you

look like you ready to go out and chop you some cotton sure

They all laugh except MAMA, out of deference to TRAVIS’ feelings.

MAMA (gathering the boy up to her): Bless your heart—this is the
prettiest hat I ever owned—(WALTER, RUTH and BENEATHA chime
in—noisily, festively and insincerely congratulating TRAVIS on
his gift.) What are we all standing around here for? We ain’t
finished packin’ yet. Bennie, you ain’t packed one book. (The
bell rings.)

BENEATHA: That couldn’t be the movers . . . it’s not hardly two
good yet—

BENEATHA goes into her room. MAMA starts for the door.

WALTER (turning, stiffening): Wait—wait—I’ll get it. (He stands
and looks at the door.)

MAMA: You expecting company, son?
WALTER (just looking at the door): Yeah—yeah . . .

MAMA looks at RUTH, and they exchange innocent and
unfrightened glances.
MAMA (not understanding): Well, let them in, son.
BENEATHA (from her room): We need some more string.
MAMA: Travis—you run to the hardware and get me some string


MAMA goes out and WALTER turns and looks at RUTH. TRAVIS goes
to a dish for money.

RUTH: Why don’t you answer the door, man?


Lorraine Hansberry

WALTER (suddenly bounding across the floor to embrace her):
‘Cause sometimes it hard to let the future begin! (Stooping
down in her face.)

I got wings! You got wings!
All God’s children got wings!

He crosses to the door and throws it open. Standing there is a very
slight little man in a not too prosperous business suit and with
haunted frightened eyes and a hat pulled down tightly, brim up,
around his forehead. TRAVIS passes between the men and exits.
WALTER leans deep in the man’s face, still in his jubilance.

When I get to heaven gonna put on my wings,
Gonna fly all over God’s heaven . . .

(The little man just stares at him.)
Heaven —

(Suddenly he stops and looks past the little man into the empty
hallway.) Where’s Willy, man?
BOBO: He ain’t with me.
WALTER (not disturbed): Oh —come on in. You know my wife.
BOBO (dumbly, taking off his hat): Yes—h’you, Miss Ruth.
RUTH (quietly, a mood apart from her husband already, seeing

BOBO,): Hello, Bobo.
WALTER: You right on time today . . . Right on time. That’s the

way! (He slaps BOBO on his back.) Sit down . . . lemme hear.
RUTH stands stiffly and quietly in back of them, as though
somehow she senses death, her eyes fixed on her husband.
BOBO (his frightened eyes on the floor, his hat in his hands): Could

I please get a drink of water, before I tell you about it, Walter

WALTER does not take his eyes off the man. RUTH goes blindly to
the tap and gets a glass of water and brings it to BOBO.
WALTER: There ain’t nothing wrong, is there?
BOBO: Lemme tell you —
WALTER: Man —didn’t nothing go wrong?
BOBO: Lemme tell you—Walter Lee. (looking at RUTH and talking

to her more than to WALTER) You know how it was. I got to
tell you how it was. I mean first I got to tell you how it was all
the way . . . I mean about the money I put in, Walter Lee . . .



WALTER (with taut agitation now): What about the money you
put in?

BOBO: Well—it wasn’t much as we told you—me and Willy—(He
stops.) I’m sorry, Walter. I got a bad feeling about it. I got a
real bad feeling about i t . . .

WALTER: Man, what you telling me about all this for? … Tell me
what happened in Springfield . . .

BOBO: Springfield.
RUTH (like a dead woman): What was supposed to happen in

BOBO (to her): This deal that me and Walter went into with

Willy—Me and Willy was going to go down to Springfield and
spread some money ’round so’s we wouldn’t have to wait so
long for the liquor license . . . That’s what we were going to do.
Everybody said that was the way you had to do, you understand,
Miss Ruth?

WALTER: Man—what happened down there?
BOBO (a pitiful man, near tears): I’m trying to tell you, Walter.
WALTER (screaming at him suddenly): THEN TELL ME GOD-

BOBO: Man . . . I didn’t go to no Springfield, yesterday.
WALTER (halted, life hanging in the moment): Why not?
BOBO (the long way, the hard way to tell): ‘Cause I didn’t have

no reasons to …
WALTER: Man, what are you talking about!
BOBO: I’m talking about the fact that when I got to the train

station yesterday morning—eight o’clock like we planned . . .
Man—Willy didn’t never show up.

WALTER: Why . . . where was he … where is he?
BOBO: That’s what I’m trying to tell you … I don’t know … I

waited six hours . . . I called his house . . . and I waited . . . six
hours . . . I waited in that train station six hours . . . (breaking
into tears) That was all the extra money I had in the world . . .
(looking up at WALTER with the tears running down his face)
Man, Willy is gone.

WALTER: Gone, what you mean Willy is gone? Gone where? You
mean he went by himself. You mean he went off to Springfield
by himself—to take care of getting the license — (turns and looks
anxiously at RUTHJ You mean maybe he didn’t want too many


Lorraine Hansberry

people in on the business down there? (looks to RUTH again, as
before) You know Willy got his own ways, (looks back to
BOBO) Maybe you was late yesterday and he just went on down
there without you. Maybe —maybe—he’s been callin’ you at
home tryin’ to tell you what happened or something. Maybe—
maybe—he just got sick. He’s somewhere—he’s got to be some-
where. We just got to find him—me and you got to find him.
(grabs BOBO senselessly by the collar and starts to shake him)
We got to!

BOBO (in sudden angry, frightened agony): What’s the matter with
you, Walter! When a cat take off with your money he don’t
leave you no road maps!

WALTER (turning madly, as though he is looking for WILLY in the
very room): Willy! . . . Willy . . . don’t do i t . . . Please don’t do
i t . . . Man, not with that money . . . Man, please, not with that
money . . . Oh, God . . . Don’t let it be true . . . (He is wander-
ing around, crying out for WILLY and looking for him or perhaps
for help from God.) Man . . . I trusted you . . . Man, I put my
life in your hands . . . (He starts to crumple down on the floor
as RUTH just covers her face in horror. MAMA opens the door
and comes into the room with BENEATHA behind her.) Man . . .
(He starts to pound the floor with his fists, sobbing wildly.)

BOBO (standing over him helplessly): I’m sorry, Walter . . . (Only
WALTER’S sobs reply. BOBO puts on his hat.) I had my life staked
on this deal, too . . . (He exits.)

MAMA (to WALTERJ: Son— (She goes to him, bends down to him,
talks to his bent head.) Son . . . Is it gone? Son, I gave you sixty-
five hundred dollars. Is it gone? All of it? Beneatha’s money too?

WALTER (lifting his head slowly): Mama … I never . . . went to
the bank at a l l . . .

MAMA (not wanting to believe him): You mean . . . your sister’s
school money . . . you used that too . . . Walter? . . .

WALTER: Yessss! All of i t . . . It’s all gone . . .

There is total silence. RUTH stands with her face covered with her
hands; BENEATHA leans forlornly against a wall, fingering a piece
of red ribbon from the mother’s gift. MAMA stops and looks at her
son without recognition and then, quite without thinking about it,



starts to beat him senselessly in the face. BENEATHA goes to them
and stops it.


MAMA stops and looks at both of her children and rises slowly and
wanders vaguely, aimlessly away from them.

MAMA: I seen . . . him . . . night after night. . . come in … and
look at that rug … and then look at me … the red showing in
his eyes . . . the veins moving in his head . . . I seen him grow
thin and old before he was forty . . . working and working and
working like somebody’s old horse .. . killing himself. . . and
you—you give it all away in a day—(She raises her arms to strike
him again.)

MAMA: Oh, God . . . (She looks up to Him.) Look down here—

and show me the strength.
MAMA (folding over): Strength . ..
BENEATHA (plaintively): Mama …
MAMA: Strength!


An hour later.
At curtain, there is a sullen light of gloom in the living room,

gray light not unlike that which began the first scene of Act One.
At left we can see WALTER within his room, alone with himself.
He is stretched out on the bed, his shirt out and open, his arms
under his head. He does not smoke, he does not cry out, he merely
lies there, looking up at the ceiling, much as if he were alone in
the world.

In the living room BENEATHA sits at the table, still surrounded
by the now almost ominous packing crates. She sits looking off.
We feel that this is a mood struck perhaps an hour before, and it
lingers now, full of the empty sound of profound disappointment.
We see on a line from her brother’s bedroom the sameness of their
attitudes. Presently the bell rings and BENEATHA rises without am-


Lorraine Hansberry

bition or interest in answering. It is ASAGAI, smiling broadly, strid-
ing into the room with energy and happy expectation and conver-

ASAGAI: I came over . . . I had some free time. I thought I might
help with the packing. Ah, I like the look of packing crates! A
household in preparation for a journey! It depresses some peo-
ple . . . but for me . . . it is another feeling. Something full of the
flow of life, do you understand? Movement, progress . . . It
makes me think of Africa.

ASAGAI: What kind of a mood is this? Have I told you how deeply

you move me?
BENEATHA: He gave away the money, Asagai. . .
ASAGAI: Who gave away what money?
BENEATHA: The insurance money. My brother gave it away.
ASAGAI: Gave it away?
BENEATHA: He made an investment! With a man even Travis

wouldn’t have trusted with his most worn-out marbles.
ASAGAI: And it’s gone?
ASAGAI: I’m very sorry . . . And you, now?
BENEATHA: Me? . . . Me? . . . Me, I’m nothing . . . Me. When I was

very small. . . we used to take our sleds out in the wintertime
and the only hills we had were the ice-covered stone steps of
some houses down the street. And we used to fill them in with
snow and make them smooth and slide down them all day . . .
and it was very dangerous, you know . . . far too steep . . . and
sure enough one day a kid named Rufus came down too fast
and hit the sidewalk and we saw his face just split open right
there in front of us … And I remember standing there looking
at his bloody open face thinking that was the end of Rufus. But
the ambulance came and they took him to the hospital and they
fixed the broken bones and they sewed it all up … and the next
time I saw Rufus he just had a little line down the middle of his
face … I never got over that. . .

BENEATHA: That that was what one person could do for another,

fix him up —sew up the problem, make him all right again. That



was the most marvelous thing in the world . . . I wanted to do
that. I always thought it was the one concrete thing in the world
that a human being could do. Fix up the sick, you know—and
make them whole again. This was truly being God . . .

ASAGAI: You wanted to be God?
BENEATHA: No—I wanted to cure. It used to be so important to

me. I wanted to cure. It used to matter. I used to care. I mean
about people and how their bodies h u r t . . .

ASAGAI: And you’ve stopped caring?
BENEATHA: Yes—I think so.
BENEATHA (bitterly): Because it doesn’t seem deep enough, close

enough to what ails mankind! It was a child’s way of seeing
things —or an idealist’s.

ASAGAI: Children see things very well sometimes —and idealists
even better.

BENEATHA: I know that’s what you think. Because you are still
where I left off. You with all your talk and dreams about Africa!
You still think you can patch up the world. Cure the Great Sore
of Colonialism—(loftily, mocking it) with the Penicillin of In-

BENEATHA: Independence and then what? What about all the

crooks and thieves and just plain idiots who will come into
power and steal and plunder the same as before—only now they
will be black and do it in the name of the new Independence —

ASAGAI: That will be the problem for another time. First we must
get there.

BENEATHA: And where does it end?
ASAGAI: End? Who even spoke of an end? To life? To living?
BENEATHA: An end to misery! To stupidity! Don’t you see there

isn’t any real progress, Asagai, there is only one large circle that
we march in, around and around, each of us with our own little
picture in front of us —our own little mirage that we think is the

ASAGAI: That is the mistake.
ASAGAI: What you just said—about the circle. It isn’t a circle —it


Lorraine Hansberry

is simply a long line —as in geometry, you know, one that
reaches into infinity. And because we cannot see the end—we
also cannot see how it changes. And it is very odd but those
who see the changes—who dream, who will not give up —are
called idealists . . . and those who see only the circle—we call
them the “realists”!

BENEATHA: Asagai, while I was sleeping in that bed in there, people
went out and took the future right out of my hands! And nobody
asked me, nobody consulted me—they just went out and
changed my life!

ASAGAI: Was it your money?
ASAGAI: Was it your money he gave away?
BENEATHA: It belonged to all of us.
ASAGAI: But did you earn it? Would you have had it at all if your

father had not died?

ASAGAI: Then isn’t there something wrong in a house —in a
world—where all dreams, good or bad, must depend on the
death of a man? I never thought to see you like this, Alaiyo.
You! Your brother made a mistake and you are grateful to him
so that now you can give up the ailing human race on account
of it! You talk about what good is struggle, what good is any-
thing! Where are we all going and why are we bothering!

ASAGAI (shouting over her): I LIVE THE ANSWER! (pause) In

my village at home it is the exceptional man who can even read
a newspaper . . . or who ever sees a book at all. I will go home
and much of what I will have to say will seem strange to the
people of my village. But I will teach and work and things will
happen, slowly and swiftly. At times it will seem that nothing
changes at a l l . . . and then again the sudden dramatic events
which make history leap into the future. And then quiet again.
Retrogression even. Guns, murder, revolution. And I even will
have moments when I wonder if the quiet was not better than
all that death and hatred. But I will look about my village at the
illiteracy and disease and ignorance and I will not wonder long.
And perhaps . . . perhaps I will be a great man . . . I mean per-
haps I will hold on to the substance of truth and find my way



always with the right course . . . and perhaps for it I will be
butchered in my bed some night by the servants of empire . . .

BENEATHA: The martyr!
ASAGAI (He smiles): . . . or perhaps I shall live to be a very old

man, respected and esteemed in my new nation . . . And perhaps
I shall hold office and this is what I’m trying to tell you, Alaiyo:
Perhaps the things I believe now for my country will be wrong
and outmoded, and I will not understand and do terrible things
to have things my way or merely to keep my power. Don’t you
see that there will be young men and women—not British sol-
diers then, but my own black countrymen—to step out of the
shadows some evening and slit my then useless throat? Don’t
you see they have always been there . . . that they always will
be. And that such a thing as my own death will be an advance?
They who might kill me even . . . actually replenish all that I

BENEATHA: Oh, Asagai, I know all that.
ASAGAI: Good! Then stop moaning and groaning and tell me what

you plan to do.
ASAGAI: I have a bit of a suggestion.
ASAGAI (rather quietly for him): That when it is all over—that you

come home with me—
BENEATHA (staring at him and crossing away with exasperation):

Oh—Asagai — a t this moment you decide to be romantic!
ASAGAI (quickly understanding the misunderstanding): My dear,

young creature of the New World—I do not mean across the
city—I mean across the ocean: home—to Africa.

BENEATHA (slowly understanding and turning to him with mur-
mured amazement): To Africa?

ASAGAI: Yes! . . . (smiling and lifting his arms playfully) Three
hundred years later the African Prince rose up out of the seas
and swept the maiden back across the middle passage over which
her ancestors had come —

BENEATHA (unable to play): To—to Nigeria?
ASAGAI: Nigeria. Home, (coming to her with genuine romantic

flippancy) I will show you our mountains and our stars; and
give you cool drinks from gourds and teach you the old songs


Lorraine Hansberry

and the ways of our people—and, in time, we will pretend that—
(very softly)—you have only been away for a day. Say that you’ll
come—(He swings her around and takes her full in his arms in
a kiss which proceeds to passion.)

BENEATHA (pulling away suddenly): You’re getting me all mixed

BENEATHA: Too many things—too many things have happened

today. I must sit down and think. I don’t know what I feel about
anything right this minute. (She promptly sits down and props
her chin on her fist.)

ASAGAI (charmed): All right, I shall leave you. No—don’t get up.
(touching her, gently, sweetly) Just sit awhile and think . . .
Never be afraid to sit awhile and think. (He goes to door and
looks at her.) How often I have looked at you and said, “Ah —
so this is what the New World hath finally wrought…”

He exits. BENEATHA sits on alone. Presently WALTER enters from
his room and starts to rummage through things, feverishly looking
for something. She looks up and turns in her seat.

BENEATHA (hissingly): Yes—just look at what the New World
hath wrought! . . . Just look! (She gestures with bitter dis-
gust.) There he is! Monsieur le petit bourgeois noir—himself!
There he is—Symbol of a Rising Class! Entrepreneur! Titan of
the system! (WALTER ignores her completely and continues
frantically and destructively looking for something and hurling
things to floor and tearing things out of their place in his
search. BENEATHA ignores the eccentricity of his actions and
goes on with the monologue of insult.) Did you dream of
yachts on Lake Michigan, Brother? Did you see yourself on
that Great Day sitting down at the Conference Table, sur-
rounded by all the mighty bald-headed men in America? All
halted, waiting, breathless, waiting for your pronouncements
on industry? Waiting for you—Chairman of the Board! (WAL-
TER finds what he is looking for—a small piece of white pa-
per—and pushes it in his pocket and puts on his coat and
rushes out without ever having looked at her. She shouts after
him.) I look at you and I see the final triumph of stupidity in
the world!



The door slams and she returns to just sitting again. RUTH comes
quickly out of MAMA’S room.

RUTH: Who was that?
BENEATHA: Your husband.
RUTH: Where did he go?
BENEATHA: Who knows—maybe he has an appointment at U.S.

RUTH (anxiously, with frightened eyes): You didn’t say nothing

bad to him, did you?
BENEATHA: Bad? Say anything bad to him? N o — I told him he was

a sweet boy and full of dreams and everything is strictly peachy
keen, as the ofay kids say!

MAMA enters from her bedroom. She is lost, vague, trying to catch
hold, to make some sense of her former command of the world,
but it still eludes her. A sense of waste overwhelms her gait; a
measure of apology rides on her shoulders. She goes to her plant,
which has remained on the table, looks at it, picks it up and takes
it to the window sill and sits it outside, and she stands and looks
at it a long moment. Then she closes the window, straightens her
body with effort and turns around to her children.

MAMA: Well—ain’t it a mess in here, though? (a false cheerfulness,
a beginning of something) I guess we all better stop moping
around and get some work done. All this unpacking and every-
thing we got to do. (“RUTH raises her head slowly in response to
the sense of the line; and BENEATHA in similar manner turns very
slowly to look at her mother.) One of you all better call the
moving people and tell ’em not to come.

RUTH: Tell ’em not to come?
MAMA: Of course, baby. Ain’t no need in ’em coming all the way

here and having to go back. They charges for that too. (She sits
down, fingers to her brow, thinking.) Lord, ever since I was a
little girl, I always remembers people saying, “Lena —Lena
Eggleston, you aims too high all the time. You needs to slow
down and see life a little more like it is. Just slow down some.”
That’s what they always used to say down home —”Lord, that
Lena Eggleston is a high-minded thing. She’ll get her due one

RUTH: No, Lena . . .


Lorraine Hansberry

MAMA: Me and Big Walter just didn’t never learn right.
RUTH: Lena, no! We gotta go. Bennie—tell her . . . (She rises and

crosses to BENEATHA with her arms outstretched. BENEATHA
doesn’t respond.) Tell her we can still move . . . the notes ain’t
but a hundred and twenty-five a month. We got four grown
people in this house—we can work . . .

MAMA (to herself): Just aimed too high all the time—
RUTH (turning and going to MAMA fast—the words pouring out

with urgency and desperation): Lena—I’ll work . . . I’ll work
twenty hours a day in all the kitchens in Chicago . . . I’ll strap
my baby on my back if I have to and scrub all the floors in
America and wash all the sheets in America if I have to—but
we got to MOVE! We got to get OUT OF HERE!!

MAMA reaches out absently and pats RUTH’S hand.

MAMA: N o — I sees things differently now. Been thinking ’bout
some of the things we could do to fix this place up some. I seen
a second-hand bureau over on Maxwell Street just the other day
that could fit right there. (She points to where the new furniture
might go. RUTH wanders away from her.) Would need some
new handles on it and then a little varnish and it look like some-
thing brand-new. And—we can put up them new curtains in the
kitchen . . . Why this place be looking fine. Cheer us all up so
that we forget trouble ever come … (to RUTHJ And you could
get some nice screens to put up in your room round the baby’s
bassinet. . . (She looks at both of them, pleadingly.) Sometimes
you just got to know when to give up some things . . . and hold
on to what you got. . .

WALTER enters from the outside, looking spent and leaning against
the door, his coat hanging from him.

MAMA: Where you been, son?
WALTER (breathing hard): Made a call.
MAMA: To who, son?
WALTER: To The Man. (He heads for his room.)
MAMA: What man, baby?
WALTER (stops in the door): The Man, Mama. Don’t you know

who The Man is?
RUTH: Walter Lee?



WALTER: The Man. Like the guys in the streets say—The Man.
Captain Boss—Mistuh Charley . . . Old Cap’n Please Mr. Boss-
man . . .

BENEATHA (suddenly): Lindner!
WALTER: That’s right! That’s good. I told him to come right over.
BENEATHA (fiercely y understanding): For what? What do you want

to see him for!
WALTER (looking at his sister): We going to do business with him.
MAMA: What you talking ’bout, son?
WALTER: Talking ’bout life, Mama. You all always telling me to

see life like it is. Well—I laid in there on my back today . . . and
I figured it out. Life just like it is. Who gets and who don’t get.
(He sits down with his coat on and laughs.) Mama, you know
it’s all divided up. Life is. Sure enough. Between the takers and
the “tooken.” (He laughs.) I’ve figured it out finally. (He looks
around at them.) Yeah. Some of us always getting “tooken.”
(He laughs.) People like Willy Harris, they don’t never get
“tooken.” And you know why the rest of us do? ‘Cause we all
mixed up. Mixed up bad. We get to looking ’round for the right
and the wrong; and we worry about it and cry about it and stay
up nights trying to figure out ’bout the wrong and the right of
things all the time . . . And all the time, man, them takers is out
there operating, just taking and taking. Willy Harris? Shoot-
Willy Harris don’t even count. He don’t even count in the big
scheme of things. But I’ll say one thing for old Willy Harris . . .
he’s taught me something. He’s taught me to keep my eye on
what counts in this world. Yeah—(shouting out a little.)
Thanks, Willy!

RUTH: What did you call that man for, Walter Lee?
WALTER: Called him to tell him to come on over to the show.

Gonna put on a show for the man. Just what he wants to see.
You see, Mama, the man came here today and he told us that
them people out there where you want us to move—well they
so upset they willing to pay us not to move! (He laughs again.)
And—and oh, Mama—you would of been proud of the way me
and Ruth and Bennie acted. We told him to get out. . . Lord
have mercy! We told the man to get out! Oh, we was some
proud folks this afternoon, yeah. (He lights a cigarette.) We
were still full of that old-time s t u f f . . .


Lorraine Hansberry

RUTH (coming toward him slowly): You talking ’bout taking them
people’s money to keep us from moving in that house?

WALTER: I ain’t just talking ’bout it, baby—I’m telling you that’s
what’s going to happen!

BENEATHA: Oh, God! Where is the bottom! Where is the real hon-
est-to-God bottom so he can’t go any farther!

WALTER: See—that’s the old stuff. You and that boy that was here
today. You all want everybody to carry a flag and a spear and
sing some marching songs, huh? You wanna spend your life
looking into things and trying to find the right and the wrong
part, huh? Yeah. You know what’s going to happen to that boy
someday—he’ll find himself sitting in a dungeon, locked in for-
ever—and the takers will have the key! Forget it, baby! There
ain’t no causes—there ain’t nothing but taking in this world,
and he who takes most is smartest—and it don’t make a damn
bit of difference how.

MAMA: You making something inside me cry, son. Some awful
pain inside me.

WALTER: Don’t cry, Mama. Understand. That white man is going
to walk in that door able to write checks for more money than
we ever had. It’s important to him and I’m going to help him . . .
I’m going to put on the show, Mama.

MAMA: Son—I come from five generations of people who was
slaves and sharecroppers — b u t ain’t nobody in my family never
let rjobody pay ’em no money that was a way of telling us we
wasn’t fit to walk the earth. We ain’t never been that poor.
(raising her eyes and looking at him) We ain’t never been that—
dead inside.

BENEATHA: Well—we are dead now. All the talk about dreams
and sunlight that goes on in this house. It’s all dead now.

WALTER: What’s the matter with you all! I didn’t make this world!
It was give to me this way! Hell, yes, I want me some yachts
someday! Yes, I want to hang some real pearls ’round my wife’s
neck. Ain’t she supposed to wear no pearls? Somebody tell me —
tell me, who decides which women is suppose to wear pearls in
this world. I tell you I am a man —and I think my wife should
wear some pearls in this world!

This last line hangs a good while and WALTER begins to move about


the room. The word “Man” has penetrated his consciousness; he
mumbles it to himself repeatedly between strange agitated pauses
as he moves about.

MAMA: Baby, how you going to feel on the inside?
WALTER: Fine! . . . Going to feel fine . . . a man . . .
MAMA: You won’t have nothing left then, Walter Lee.
WALTER (coming to her): I’m going to feel fine, Mama. I’m going

to look that son-of-a-bitch in the eyes and s a y — ( H e falters.) —
and say, “All right, Mr. Lindner— (He falters even more.) —
that’s your neighborhood out there! You got the right to keep
it like you want! You got the right to have it like you want! Just
write the check and—the house is yours.” And—and I am going
to s a y — ( H i s voice almost breaks.) “And you—you people just
put the money in my hand and you won’t have to live next to
this bunch of stinking niggers! . . .” (He straightens up and
moves away from his mother, walking around the room.) And
maybe—maybe I’ll just get down on my black knees . . . (He
does so; RUTH and BENNIE and MAMA watch him in frozen hor-
ror.) “Captain, Mistuh, Bossman — (groveling and grinning and
wringing his hands in profoundly anguished imitation of the
slow-witted movie stereotype.) A-hee-hee-hee! Oh, yassuh boss!
Yasssssuh! Great white! — (Voice breaking, he forces himself to
go on.) — Father, just gi’ ussen de money, fo’ God’s sake, and
we’s—we’s ain’t gwine come out deh and dirty up yo’ white
folks neighborhood …” (He breaks down completely.) And
I’ll feel fine! Fine! FINE! (He gets up and goes into the bed-

BENEATHA: That is not a man. That is nothing but a toothless rat.
MAMA: Yes —death done come in this here house. (She is nodding,

slowly, reflectively.) Done come walking in my house on the
lips of my children. You what supposed to be my beginning
again. You—what supposed to be my harvest, (to BENEATHAJ
You—you mourning your brother?

BENEATHA: He’s no brother of mine.
MAMA: What you say?
BENEATHA: I said that that individual in that room is no brother

of mine.
MAMA: That’s what I thought you said. You feeling like you better


Lorraine Hansberry

than he is today? (BENEATHA does not answer.) Yes? What you
tell him a minute ago? That he wasn’t a man? Yes? You give
him up for me? You done wrote his epitaph too—like the rest
of the world? Well, who give you the privilege?

BENEATHA: Be on my side for once! You saw what he just did,
Mama! You saw him—down on his knees. Wasn’t it you who
taught me to despise any man who would do that? Do what he’s
going to do?

MAMA: Yes—I taught you that. Me and your daddy. But I thought
I taught you something else too . . . I thought I taught you to
love him.

BENEATHA: Love him? There is nothing left to love.
MAMA: There is always something left to love. And if you ain’t

learned that, you ain’t learned nothing. (Looking at her.) Have
you cried for that boy today? I don’t mean for yourself and for
the family ’cause we lost the money. I mean for him: what he
been through and what it done to him. Child, when do you
think is the time to love somebody the most? When they done
good and made things easy for everybody? Well, then, you ain’t
through learning—because that ain’t the time at all. It’s when
he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in hisself ’cause the world
done whipped him so! When you starts measuring somebody,
measure him right, child, measure him right. Make sure you
done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through
before he got to wherever he is.

TRAVIS bursts into the room at the end of the speech, leaving the
door open.

TRAVIS: Grandmama —the moving men are downstairs! The truck
just pulled up.

MAMA (turning and looking at him): Are they, baby? They down-

She sighs and sits. LINDNER appears in the doorway. He peers in
and knocks lightly, to gain attention, and comes in. All turn to
look at him.

LINDNER (hat and briefcase in hand): Uh—hello . . .

RUTH crosses mechanically to the bedroom door and opens it and
lets it swing open freely and slowly as the lights come up on



WALTER within, still in his coat, sitting at the far corner of the
room. He looks up and out though the room to LINDNER.
RUTH: He’s here. (A long minute passes and WALTER slowly gets

LINDNER (coming to the table with efficiency, putting his briefcase

on the table and starting to unfold papers and unscrew fountain
pens): Well, I certainly was glad to hear from you people. (WAL-
TER has begun the trek out of the room, slowly and awkwardly,
rather like a small boy, passing the back of his sleeve across his
mouth from time to time.) Life can really be so much simpler
than people let it be most of the time. Well—with whom do I
negotiate? You, Mrs. Younger, or your son here? (MAMA sits
with her hands folded on her lap and her eyes closed as WALTER
advances. TRAVIS goes closer to LINDNER and looks at the papers
curiously.) Just some official papers, sonny.

RUTH: Travis, you go downstairs—
MAMA (opening her eyes and looking into WALTER’S,): No. Travis,

you stay right here. And you make him understand what you
doing, Walter Lee. You teach him good. Like Willy Harris
taught you. You show where our five generations done come to.
(WALTER looks from her to the boy, who grins at him inno-
cently.) Go ahead, son — (She folds her hands and closes her
eyes.) Go ahead.

WALTER (at last crosses to LINDNER, who is reviewing the contract:
Well, Mr. Lindner. (BENEATHA turns away.) We called you—
(There is a profound, simple groping quality in his speech.) —
because, well, me and my family (He looks around and shifts
from one foot to the other.) Well—we are very plain people . . .

WALTER: I mean—I have worked as a chauffeur most of my life—

and my wife here, she does domestic work in people’s kitchens.
So does my mother. I mean—we are plain people . . .

LINDNER: Yes, Mr. Younger—
WALTER (really like a small boy, looking down at his shoes and

then up at the man): And—uh—well, my father, well, he was a
laborer most of his life . . .

LINDNER (absolutely confused): Uh, yes—yes, I understand. (He
turns back to the contract.)

WALTER (a beat, staring at him): And my father— (with sudden


Lorraine Hansberry

intensity) My father almost beat a man to death once because
this man called him a bad name or something, you know what
I mean?

LINDNER (looking up, frozen): No, no, I’m afraid I don’t—
WALTER (A beat. The tension hangs; then WALTER steps back from

it.): Yeah. Well—what I mean is that we come from people
who had a lot of pride. I mean—we are very proud people. And
that’s my sister over there and she’s going to be a doctor—and
we are very proud—

LINDNER: Well—I am sure that is very nice, but—
WALTER: What I am telling you is that we called you over here to

tell you that we are very proud and that this —(signaling to
TRAVISJ Travis, come here. (“TRAVIS crosses and WALTER draws
him before him facing the man.) This is my son, and he makes
the sixth generation our family in this country. And we have all
thought about your offer—

LINDNER: Well, good . . . good —
WALTER: And we have decided to move into our house because

my father—my father—he earned it for us brick by brick.
(MAMA has her eyes closed and is rocking back and forth as
though she were in church, with her head nodding the Amen
yes.) We don’t want to make no trouble for nobody or fight no
causes, and we will try to be good neighbors. And that’s all we
got to say about that. (He looks the man absolutely in the eyes.)
We don’t want your money. (He turns and walks away.)

LINDNER: (looking around at all of them): I take it then—that
you have decided to occupy . . .

BENEATHA: That’s what the man said.
LINDNER (to MAMA in her reverie): Then I would like to appeal

to you, Mrs. Younger. You are older and wiser and understand
things better I am sure . . .

MAMA: I am afraid you don’t understand. My son said we was
going to move and there ain’t nothing left for me to say. (briskly)
You know how these young folks is nowadays, mister. Can’t do
a thing with ’em! (As he opens his mouth, she rises.) Good-

LINDNER (folding up his materials): Well —if you are that final
about i t . . . there is nothing left for me to say. (He finishes,
almost ignored by the family, who are concentrating on WALTER



LEE. At the door LINDNER halts and looks around.) I sure hope
you people know what you’re getting into. (He shakes his head
and exits.)

RUTH (looking around and coming to life): Well, for God’s sake—
if the moving men are here-LET’S GET THE HELL OUT OF

MAMA (into action): Ain’t it the truth! Look at all this here mess.
Ruth, put Travis’ good jacket on him . . . Walter Lee, fix your
tie and tuck your shirt in, you look like somebody’s hoodlum!
Lord have mercy, where is my plant? (She flies to get it amid
the general bustling of the family, who are deliberately trying to
ignore the nobility of the past moment.) You all start on down
. . . Travis child, don’t go empty-handed . . . Ruth, where did I
put that box with my skillets in it? I want to be in charge of it
myself. . . I’m going to make us the biggest dinner we ever ate
tonight. . . Beneatha, what’s the matter with them stockings?
Pull them things up, girl. . .

The family starts to file out as two moving men appear and begin
to carry out the heavier pieces of furniture, bumping into the family
as they move about.

BENEATHA: Mama, Asagai asked me to marry him today and go
to Africa—

MAMA (in the middle of her getting-ready activity): He did? You
ain’t old enough to marry nobody—(seeing the moving men lift-
ing one of her chairs precariously) Darling, that ain’t no bale
of cotton, please handle it so we can sit in it again! I had that
chair twenty-five years …

The movers sigh with exasperation and go on with their work.

BENEATHA (girlishly and unreasonably trying to pursue the con-
versation): To go to Africa, Mama —be a doctor in Africa . . .

MAMA (distracted): Yes, baby—
WALTER: Africa! What he want you to go to Africa for?
BENEATHA: To practice there . . .
WALTER: Girl, if you don’t get all them silly ideas out your head!

You better marry yourself a man with some loot. . .
BENEATHA (angrily, precisely as in the first scene of the play):

What have you got to do with who I marry!
WALTER: Plenty. Now I think George Murchison —


Lorraine Hansberry

BENEATHA: George Murchison! I wouldn’t marry him if he was
Adam and I was Eve!

WALTER and BENEATHA go out yelling at each other vigorously and
the anger is loud and real till their voices diminish. RUTH stands
at the door and turns to MAMA and smiles knowingly.

MAMA (fixing her hat at last): Yeah—they something all right, my
children . . .

RUTH: Yeah—they’re something. Let’s go, Lena.
MAMA (stalling, starting to look around at the house): Yes—I’m

coming. Ruth—
RUTH: Yes?
MAMA (quietly, woman to woman): He finally come into his man-

hood today, didn’t he? Kind of like a rainbow after the rain .. .
RUTH (biting her lip lest her own pride explode in front of MAMA):

Yes, Lena.

WALTER’S voice calls for them raucously.

WALTER (off stage): Y’all come on! These people charges by the
hour, you know!

MAMA (waving RUTH out vaguely): All right, honey—go on down.
I be down directly.

RUTH hesitates, then exits. MAMA stands, at last alone in the living
room, her plant on the table before her as the lights start to come
down. She looks around at all the walls and ceilings and suddenly,
despite herself, while the children call below, a great heaving thing
rises in her and she puts her fist to her mouth to stifle it, takes a
final desperate look, pulls her coat about her, pats her hat and
goes out. The lights dim down. The door opens and she comes
back in, grabs her plant, and goes out for the last time.


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