'A Raisin in the Sun' Act III Plot Summary and Study Guide

1959 Marquee: A Raisin in the Sun
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This plot summary and study guide for Lorraine Hansberry's play, A Raisin in the Sun, provides an overview of Act Three.

The third act of A Raisin in the Sun is a single scene. It takes place an hour after the events of Act Two (when $6500 was swindled from Walter Lee). In the stage directions, playwright Lorraine Hansberry describes the light of the living room as gray and gloomy, just as it was at the beginning of Act One. This dismal lighting represents the feeling of hopelessness, as though the future promises nothing.

Joseph Asagai's Proposal

Joseph Asagai pays a spontaneous visit to the household, offering to help the family pack. Beneatha explains that Walter Lee lost her money for medical school. Then, she recounts a childhood memory about a neighbor boy who injured himself severely. When the doctors fixed his face and broken bones, young Beneatha realized she wanted to become a doctor. Now, she thinks that she has stopped caring enough to join the medical profession.

Joseph and Beneatha then launch into an intellectual discussion about idealists and realists. Joseph sides with idealism. He is dedicated to improving life in Nigeria, his homeland. He even invites Beneatha to return home with him, as his wife. She is both bewildered and flattered by the offer. Joseph leaves her to think about the idea.

Walter's New Plan

During his sister's conversation with Joseph Asagai, Walter has been listening intently from the other room. After Joseph leaves, Walter enters the living room and finds the business card of Mr. Karl Lindner, the chairman of the so-called "welcoming committee" of Clybourne Park, a neighborhood with White residents who are willing to pay a large amount of money to prevent Black families from moving into the community. Walter leaves to contact Mr. Lindner.

Mama enters and starts to unpack. (Because Walter lost the money, she no longer plans to move to the new house.) She remembers when as a child people would say that she always aimed too high. It seems she finally agrees with them. Ruth still wants to move. She is willing to go to work extreme hours in order to keep their new house in Clybourne Park.

Walter returns and announces that he has made a call to "the Man" -- more specifically, he has asked Mr. Lindner back to their home to discuss a business arrangement. Walter plans to accept Lindner's segregationist terms in order to make a profit. Walter has determined that humanity is divided into two groups: those who take and those who are "tooken." From now on, Walter vows to be a taker.

Walter Hits Rock Bottom

Walter breaks down as he imagines putting on a pathetic show for Mr. Lindner. He pretends that he is speaking to Mr. Lindner, using a dialect of an enslaved person to express how subservient he is in comparison to the White property owner. Then, he goes into the bedroom, alone.

Beneatha verbally disowns her brother. But Mama devoutly says that they must still love Walter, that a family member needs love the most when they have reached his lowest point. Little Travis runs in to announce the arrival of the moving men. At the same time, Mr. Lindner appears, carrying contracts to be signed.

A Moment of Redemption

Walter enters the living room, somber and ready to do business. His wife Ruth tells Travis to go downstairs because she does not want her son to see his father debase himself. However, Mama declares:

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.

When Travis smiles up at his father, Walter Lee has a sudden change of heart. He explains to Mr. Lindner that his family members are plain but proud people. He tells of how his father worked for decades as a laborer, and that ultimately his father earned the right for his family to move into their new home in Clybourne Park. In short, Walter Lee transforms into the man his mother had prayed he would become.

Realizing that the family is bent on moving into the neighborhood, Mr. Lindner shakes his head in dismay and leaves. Perhaps the most excited of all the family members, Ruth joyously shouts, "Let's get the hell out of here!" The moving men enter and begin to pack up the furniture. Beneatha and Walter exit as they argue about who would be a more suitable husband: the idealistic Joseph Asagai or the wealthy George Murchison.

All of the family except Mama have left the apartment. She looks around one last time, picks up her plant, and leaves for a new home and a new life.

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Bradford, Wade. "'A Raisin in the Sun' Act III Plot Summary and Study Guide." ThoughtCo, Nov. 1, 2020, thoughtco.com/raisin-in-the-sun-act-three-2713026. Bradford, Wade. (2020, November 1). 'A Raisin in the Sun' Act III Plot Summary and Study Guide. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/raisin-in-the-sun-act-three-2713026 Bradford, Wade. "'A Raisin in the Sun' Act III Plot Summary and Study Guide." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/raisin-in-the-sun-act-three-2713026 (accessed March 27, 2023).