"A Raisin in the Sun" Act Two, Scene One Summary and Study Guide

Poster for film adaptation of "A Raisin in the Sun"
Poster for film adaptation of "A Raisin in the Sun". Getty Images

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

Searching for Cultural Identity

Act Two, Scene One takes place during the same day as Act One, Scene Two -- the Younger Family's cramped apartment.

The tension of earlier events seems to have subsided. Ruth is ironing clothes while listening to the radio. Beneatha enters, wearing a traditional Nigerian robe, a recent gift from her love-interest, Joseph Asagai. She turns off the radio -- calling its music "assimilationist junk" and plays Nigerian music on a phonograph.

Walter Lee enters. He is intoxicated; he often responds to pressure by getting drunk. And now that his wife is pregnant and he has been denied the money to invest in a liquor store, Walter Lee has gotten plastered! Yet the tribal music invigorates him, and he jumps into an improvised "warrior mode," as he shouts things like: "OCOMOGOSIAY! THE LION IS WAKING!"

Beneatha, by the way, is really getting into this. Through most of Act One, she has been annoyed by her brother, the stage directions say that "she is thoroughly caught up with this side of him." Even though Walter is drunk and a bit out of control, Beneatha is happy to see her brother embrace his ancestral heritage.

Amid this frivolity, George Murchison enters. He is Beneatha's date for the evening. He is also a wealthy black man who (at least to Walter Lee) represents a new age, a society in which African Americans can achieve power and financial success. At the same time, Walter is resentful of George, perhaps because it is George's father and not George himself that has acquired wealth.

(Or perhaps because most big brothers are distrustful of their little sister's boyfriends.)

Walter Lee suggests that he meets with George father to discuss some business ideas, but it soon becomes clear that George has no interest in helping Walter. As Walter becomes angry and frustrated, insulting college boys such as George. George calls him on it: "You're all wacked up with bitterness, man." Walter Lee responds:

WALTER: (Intently, almost quietly, between the teeth, glaring at the boy.) And you - ain't you bitter, man? Aint 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 -- surrounded by ants! Ants who can't even understand what it is the giant is talking about.

His speech upsets and embarrasses his wife. George is mildly amused by it. When he leaves, he tells Walter, "Goodnight, Prometheus." (Poking fun at Walter by comparing him the the Titan from Greek Mythology who created humans and gave mankind the gift of fire.) Walter Lee does not understand the reference, however.

Mama Buys a House

After George and Beneatha leave on their date, Walter and his wife begin to argue.

During their exchange Walter makes a disparaging comment about his own race:

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!

As if he realizes how venomous his words are, he begins to calm down. His mood softens even more, when Ruth, despite being verbally abused, offers him a glass of hot milk. Soon, they begin saying words of kindness to each other. Just as they about to reconcile further, Walter's mother enters.

Mama announces to her grandson, Travis Younger, as well as Walter and Ruth, that she has purchased a three-bedroom house. The house is located in a predominately white neighborhood in Clybourne Park (in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago).

Ruth is ecstatic to have a new home, although she does feel some trepidation about moving into a white neighborhood. Mama hopes that Walter will share in the family's joy, but instead he says:

WALTER: So you butchered up a dream of mine -- you -- who always talking 'bout your children's dreams.
And with that incredibly bitter, self-pitying line, the curtain falls on Act Two, Scene One of a Raisin in the Sun