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ACT II, SCENE 1: Later, the same day
Later on the same day, Beneatha dances to African music in her new Nigerian robes and headdress as Ruth stands ironing nearby. When a drunken Walter enters the room, he joins in Beneatha's ritualistic African dance. As they move, they both seem to "look out into the past."
The dance is interrupted by the arrival of George Murchison, who has come to take Beneatha to the theater. Seeing her in native dress, he argues with Beneatha about the importance of African history and heritage to the black people in America; it is obvious that he holds Africans in contempt. When Beneatha leaves the room, he angers Walter by dismissing his efforts to discuss "big" business plans with him. When Beneatha returns, she has changed her clothes.
After Murchison and Beneatha depart, Walter and Ruth remember their early days together and wonder how things have become so stale and difficult between them. Mama returns home unexpectedly, just as Walter and Ruth are kissing. She tells them that she has just paid a hefty down payment on a new house in an all-white neighborhood. Ruth is delighted at the news, for she is eager to move out of their present cramped, dingy apartment. Walter, however, is crushed by Mama's news; he has wanted to use all of the insurance money on his business venture. He seems bitter about the fact that Mama has apparently butchered his dreams.
Beneatha is happy wearing her Nigerian clothes. She prances about to African music and seems almost childlike in her enthusiasm. When Walter returns home, he joins her rhythmic dancing and speaks in a strange way, like his ancestors would have done. Hansberry seems to be saying that all blacks are really linked to the tribal Africans.
When Murchison arrives to take Beneatha to the theater, he is shocked to see her in African dress and to realize that her hair is no longer straightened. Obviously, the wishes of Asagai are more important to Beneatha than those of Murchison. When they get into an argument about the importance of African heritage, Beneatha even uses the same language as Asagai. She says that she does not want to be an "assimilationist Negro."
Murchison comes across as a vain, self-centered person. He brags to Walter and Ruth about seeing plays in New York. Walter lies and says he has also been to New Work. Ruth is shocked by this lie, but Walter shuts her up. He then tries to talk to Murchison about his business venture, but is largely ignored. Murchison cruelly calls him a Prometheus, a Greek god who has an impossible dream. Walter's anguish is clear when he says that nobody is with him, not even his mother.
After Beneatha and George leave, Ruth and Walter are again left alone together. Ruth expresses her sadness over the lack of love and understanding in their marriage. It is a very realistic scene, interrupted by the entry of Mama. Walter wants to know where she has been. When Mama announces dramatically that she has spent part of the insurance money on a down payment for a house, Walter is crushed and Ruth is delighted. Mama tries to console her son and make him interested in the new house too. It is clear that despite her reluctance to give him money for investing in the liquor store, she truly loves him.
Mama explains that the new house is in Clybourne Park, an all white neighborhood. The Youngers will be the first black family there. Ruth is a little worried about the location, but she thinks anything is better than the present rat hole. She shows her positive nature when she asks if there will be a lot of sunshine in the new house. The question is a dramatic one, filled with double meaning.
After Ruth leaves, Mama asks Walter if he understands what she has done. Walter's bitterness about her control over the money is very obvious. He accuses her of butchering his dreams, emphasizing one of the main themes of the play.