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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The action of the play takes place in the poor South side of Chicago, sometime after World War II, probably around 1959. Most of the action takes place in the apartment of the Youngers, especially in the living/dining room and near the bathroom that they share with the Johnson family. Some of the action also takes place in the kitchen and in the two small bedrooms. The first bedroom is shared by Mama and her daughter, Beneatha; the second serves as a bedroom for Walter and his wife, Ruth. The furnishings in the Younger household are typical and tasteful, but worn; it is obvious that they have had to accommodate too many people for too many years. Crocheted doilies and covers are used to hide the worn spots in the fabric, and chairs are placed over worn spots in the carpet. Additionally, the rooms are dark, for there are only a few small windows.
LIST OF CHARACTERS
Walter Younger's wife, who is about thirty years old. She was probably a pretty girl, but now she appears disappointed, weary, and tired. She still, however, possesses a "soft personality," always trying to please others and being easily embarrassed. At the same time she is emotionally strong; in spite of her economic and marital problems, she never succumbs to despair. Throughout the play she shares a close relationship with her in-laws.
Ruth and Walter's son, who is the only child presented in the play. Although he longs to be a street kid in his ghetto neighborhood, he is sheltered and overprotected by the adults in the house.
Walter Lee Younger (also called Brother)
The husband of Ruth and the older brother of Beneatha. He comes across as a desperate man, shackled by poverty and prejudice. He is also obsessed with finding a business idea to solve all his social and economic problems.
Walter's younger sister and Lena's daughter, who dreams of becoming a doctor. A strong-willed woman, she takes herself a little too seriously on occasion. She also takes pride in being an intellectual and a South African. Some of her liberal views, gained in college, clash terribly with the orthodox thoughts of her mother.
Lena Younger (Mama)
The matriarch of the Younger household. She is Walter and Beneatha's mother and Ruth's mother-in-law. She is a strong woman with a very clear vision of what is 'good' and what is 'bad'. She wants Beneatha to become a doctor; she also supports Ruth, her daughter-in-law and loves her grandson to distraction.
An African student who is very proud of his culture and who professes to love Beneatha. He presents her with African robes and records and supports her ambition to become a doctor. He also wants her to come with him to his homeland in Africa. His name is taken from the word "assegai," which means a short handled stabbing spear.
The educated and wealthy boyfriend of Beneatha. An academic show-off, he is contemptuous of other blacks. He is also pompous in his behavior with Beneatha, who really prefers Joseph to George.
A typical white prejudiced man who fears having blacks move into his neighborhood. He approaches the Youngers to convince them that it would be better if they did not take up living amongst whites. The Youngers send him away.
One of Walter's friends, who is involved in the business deal with Walter and another friend. Although a little dim-witted, he is honest. He is the one that tells Walter that the third business partner has run off with the insurance money.
The Moving Men
The movers who will take the Younger furnishings to their new home. Mama scolds them for mishandling her furniture.
The Youngers' neighbor, who appears briefly to try and dissuade them from moving into a predominately white neighborhood. Really jealous of this independent decision that they have made, she comes across as an interfering and irritating woman.
The third business partner who never appears on stage. He originally came up with the idea of opening a liquor shop. Walter invests his insurance money in this enterprise, but Willy runs away with the money.
Lena's husband who has passed away before the start of the play. Everything known about him is told by his wife or children. Although he was a womanizer, he was a good husband and family man. The money received from his life insurance causes the main action of the play.