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Beneatha is Lena's only daughter and Walter's older sister. A pretty young woman, she prides herself on being an educated and liberated intellectual female and dreams of becoming a doctor. She feels certain that Mama will give her some of the insurance money to continue her college education.
Throughout the play Beneatha is outspoken and witty. When Ruth tells her that she is pregnant, she blurts out, "Where is the baby going to stay? On the roof of the house?" In a similar manner, Beneatha is not afraid to speak her college slang in front of Mama, but when she is reprimanded by her for it, she is humbled. When Walter loses the money she was to receive for college, she is unmerciful in her criticism. She tells him that even Travis would have known not to trust his marbles with Willy. She is equally outspoken with her two boyfriends. She argues with Murchison about his lack of respect for his own black heritage and stands up to Asagai for her own liberated beliefs. In the end, she wisely realizes that Asagai is the better man for her husband, even though Murchison is the richer one. When the kind and charming Asagai criticizes her for being too materialistic and too liberated, she is humbled before him, just as she was in front of Mama. It is obvious that beneath Beneatha's pride, there is a wise, warm, and sensitive woman who will make a good wife for Asagai and a good doctor in Nigeria.
Ruth is Walter's wife and Travis' mother. Through most of the play, she appears weary and depressed. She hates living in the cramped, dingy "rat hole" of an apartment; she knows her marriage is falling apart; she is tired of her husband's foolish dreams and refusal to listen to her; and she is disappointed to be pregnant again, not wanting to bring another baby into the cramped, impoverished Younger household.
Ruth proves herself to be very practical. When Walter wishes to talk about his liquor store investment early in the morning, she asks him to eat his eggs instead and reminds him that the insurance money belongs to Mama. When Travis asks for money to take to school, she refuses to give it, as they cannot afford any extras. Although she dreams of escaping the tiny, cramped apartment, she knows that in order to survive, the practicalities of every day life are more important than any dream. When she learns that Mama has bought a new house, she suddenly feels that her own dreams have come true. She will be able to raise her children away from the rats and in the sunlight. She uncharacteristically whoops with joy at the thought.
Although Ruth is not very aggressive, neither is she weak. She argues with Walter, but normally follows his advice and instructions. She quietly notices, resents, and tolerates Mama's interference in her upbringing of Travis. She is overly apologetic to Murchison, when he finds Beneatha and Walter dancing wildly to African music. But despite her meekness, she is a thinker and a survivor. She manages to save her marriage in spite of all the storms threatening it. She maturely talks to Walter about what is wrong in their relationship. She contemplates abortion, as she does not want to burden her family with another child.
Walter tends to take Ruth for granted. He expects that a wife should always be there to support her husband, no matter how shabbily he treats her. When Ruth tries to talk to him, even about important matters like a new baby, he refuses to listen. He seldom pays her attention or worries about her feelings. When he finally takes her to a movie, she is very excited to finally get out of the apartment.
When Ruth realizes that the insurance money has been stolen and that the family may not be able to move into the new house, she is crushed, feeling her one dream in life has been destroyed. She says with desperation that she will work twenty hours a day in all the kitchens in Chicago and that she will wash all the sheets in America if she has to, but she will make an effort to move out of their old house. When she sees her husband stand up to Mr. Lindner and come into his manhood, she is overjoyed. Now she will have a real husband and a real house.