A raisin in the Sun



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A Raisin in the Sun

By Lorraine Hansberry


To Mama: In gratitude for the dream


What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore

And then run?


Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over

Like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags

Like a heavy load.


Or does it explode?
--Langston Hughes

The action of the play is set in Chicago's Southside,

sometime between World War II and the present.
Act I

Scene One: Friday morning.

Scene Two: The following morning.
Act II

Scene One: Later, the same day.

Scene Two : Friday night, a few weeks later.

Scene Three: Moving day, one week later.


Act III

An hour later.



ACT I

SCENE ONE


The YOUNGER living room would be a comfortable and well-ordered room if it were not for a number of indestructible contradictions to this state of being. Its furnishings are typical and undistinguished and their primary feature now is that they have clearly had to accommodate the living of too many people for too many years and they are tired. Still, we can see that at some time, a time probably no longer remembered by the family {except perhaps for MAMA), the furnishings of this room were actually selected with care and love and even hope and brought to this apartment and arranged with taste and pride.
That was a long time ago. Now the once loved pattern of the couch upholstery has to fight to show itself from under acres of crocheted doilies and couch covers which have themselves finally come to be more important than the upholstery. And here a table or a chair has been moved to disguise the worn places in the carpet; but the carpet has fought back by showing its weariness, with depressing uniformity, elsewhere on its surface.
Weariness has, in fact, won in this room. Everything has been polished, washed, sat on, used, scrubbed too often. All pretenses but living itself have long since vanished from the very atmosphere of this room.
Moreover, a section of this room, for it is not really a room unto itself, though the landlord's lease would make it seem so, slopes backward to provide a small kitchen area, where the family prepares the meals that are eaten in the living room proper, which must also serve as dining room. The single window that has been provided for these "two" rooms is located in this kitchen area. The sole natural light the family may enjoy in the course of a day is only that which fights its way through this little window.
At left, a door leads to a bedroom which is shared by MAMA and her daughter, BENEATHA. At right, opposite, is a second room (which in the beginning of the life of this apartment was probably a breakfast room) which serves as a bedroom for WALTER and his wife, RUTH.
Time: Sometime between World War II and the present.
Place: Chicago's Southside.
At Rise: It is morning dark in the living room. TRAVIS is asleep on the make-down bed at center. An alarm clock sounds from within the bedroom at right, and presently RUTH enters from that room and closes the door behind her. She crosses sleepily toward the window. As she passes her sleeping son she reaches down and shakes him a little. At the window she raises the shade and a dusky Southside morning light comes in feebly. She fills a pot with water and puts it on to boil. She calls to the boy, between yawns, in a slightly muffled voice.
RUTH is about thirty. We can see that she was a pretty girl, even exceptionally so, but now it is apparent that life has been little that she expected, and disappointment has already begun to hang in her face. In a few years, before thirty-five even, she will be known among her people as a "settled woman"
She crosses to her son and gives him a good, final, rousing shake.
RUTH Come on now, boy, it's seven thirty! (Her son sits up at last, in a stupor of sleepiness) I say hurry up, Travis! You ain't the only person in the world got to use a bathroom! (The child, a sturdy, handsome little boy of ten or eleven, drags himself out of the bed and almost blindly takes his towels and "today's clothes" from drawers and a closet and goes out to the bathroom, which is in an outside hall and which is shared by another family or families on the same floor. RUTH crosses to the bedroom door at right and opens it and calls in to her husband) Walter Lee! . . . It's after seven thirty! Lemme see you do some waking up in there now! (She waits) You better get up from there, man! It's after seven thirty I tell you. (She waits again) All right, you just go ahead and lay there and next thing you know Travis be finished and Mr. Johnson'll be in there and yo.u'll be fussing and cussing round here like a madman! And be late too! (She waits, at the end of patience) Walter Lee it's time for you to GET UP! (She waits another second and then starts to go into the bedroom, but is apparently satisfied that her husband has begun to get up. She stops, pulls the door to, and returns to the kitchen area. She wipes her face with a moist cloth and runs her fingers through her sleep-disheveled hair in a vain effort and ties an apron around her housecoat. The bedroom door at right opens and her husband stands in the doorway in his pajamas, which are rumpled and mismated. He is a lean, intense young man in his middle thirties, inclined to quick nervous movements and erratic speech habits and always in his voice there is a quality of indictment)
WALTER Is he out yet?
RUTH What you mean out? He ain't hardly got in there good yet.
WALTER (Wandering in, still more oriented to sleep than to a new day) Well, what was you doing all that yelling for if I can't even get in there yet? (Stopping and thinking) Check coming today?
RUTH They said Saturday and this is just Friday and I hopes to God you ain't going to get up here first thing this morning and start talking to me 'bout no money 'cause I 'bout don't want to hear it.
WALTER Something the matter with you this morning?
RUTH No I'm just sleepy as the devil. What kind of eggs you want?
WALTER Not scrambled. (RUTH starts to scramble eggs) Paper come? (RUTH points impatiently to the rolled up Tribune on the table, and he gets it and spreads it out and vaguely reads the front page) Set off another bomb yesterday.
RUTH (Maximum indifference) Did they?
WALTER (Looking up) What's the matter with you?
RUTH Ain't nothing the matter with me. And don't keep asking me that this morning.
WALTER Ain't nobody bothering you. (Reading the news of the day absently again) Say Colonel McCormick is sick.
RUTH (Affecting tea-party interest) Is he now? Poor thing.
WALTER (Sighing and looking at his watch) Oh, me. (He waits) Now what is that boy doing in that bathroom all this time? He just going to have to start getting up earlier. I can't be being late to work on account of him fooling around in there.
RUTH (Turning on him) Oh, no he ain't going to be getting up no earlier no such thing! It ain't his fault that he can't get to bed no earlier nights 'cause he got a bunch of crazy good-for-nothing clowns sitting up running their mouths in what is supposed to be his bedroom after ten o'clock at night . . .
WALTER That's what you mad about, ain't it? The things I want to talk about .with my friends just couldn't be important in your mind, could they?
(He rises and finds a cigarette in her handbag on the table and crosses to the little window and looks out, smoking and deeply enjoying this first one)
RUTH (Almost matter of factly, a complaint too automatic to deserve emphasis) Why you always got to smoke before you eat in the morning?
WALTER (At the window) Just look at 'em down there . . . Running and racing to work . . . (He turns and faces his wife and watches her a moment at the stove, and then, suddenly) You look young this morning, baby.
RUTH (Indifferently) Yeah?
WALTER Just for a second stirring them eggs. Just for a second it was you looked real young again. (He reaches for her; she crosses away. Then, drily) It's gone now you look like yourself again!
RUTH Man, if you don't shut up and leave me alone.
WALTER (Looking out to the street again) First thing a man ought to learn in life is not to make love to no colored woman first thing in the morning. You all some eeeevil people at eight o'clock in the morning.
(TRAVIS appears in the hall doorway, almost fully dressed and quite wide awake now, his towels and pajamas across his shoulders. He opens the door and signals for his father to make the bathroom in a hurry)
TRAVIS (Watching the bathroom) Daddy, come on!
(WALTER gets his bathroom utensils and flies out to the bathroom)
RUTH Sit down and have your breakfast, Travis.
TRAVIS Mama, this is Friday. (Gleefully) Check coming tomorrow, huh?
RUTH You get your mind off money and eat your breakfast.
TRAVIS (Eating) This is the morning we supposed to bring the fifty cents to school.
RUTH Well, I ain't got no fifty cents this morning. TRAVIS Teacher say we have to.
RUTH I don't care what teacher say. I ain't got it. Eat your breakfast, Travis.
TRAVIS I am eating.
RUTH Hush up now and just eat!
(The boy gives her an exasperated look for her lack of understanding, and eats grudgingly)
TRAVIS You think Grandmama would have it?
RUTH No! And I want you to stop asking your grandmother for money, you hear me?
TRAVIS (Outraged) Gaaaleee! I don't ask her, she just gimme it sometimes!
RUTH Travis Willard Younger I got too much on me this morning to be
TRAVIS Maybe Daddy
RUTH Travis!
(The boy hushes abruptly. They are both quiet and tense for several seconds)
TRAVIS (Presently) Could I maybe go carry some groceries in front of the supermarket for a little while after school then?
RUTH Just hush, I said. (Travis jabs his spoon into his cereal bowl viciously, and rests his head in anger upon his fists) If you through eating, you can get over there and make up your bed.
(The boy obeys stiffly and crosses the room, almost mechanically, to the bed and more or less folds the bedding into a heap, then angrily gets his books and cap)
TRAVIS (Sulking and standing apart from her unnaturally) I'm gone.
RUTH (Looking up from the stove to inspect him automatically) Come here. (He crosses to her and she studies his head) If you don't take this comb and fix this here head, you better! (TRAVIS puts down his books with a great sigh of oppression, and crosses to the mirror. His mother mutters under her breath about his "slubbornness") 'Bout to march out of here with that head looking just like chickens slept in it! I just don't know where you get your slubborn ways . . , And get your jacket, too. Looks chilly out this morning.
TRAVIS (With conspicuously brushed hair and jacket) I’m gone.
RUTH Get carfare and milk money (Waving one finger) and not a single penny for no caps, you hear me?
TRAVIS (With sullen politeness) Yes'm.
(He turns in outrage to leave. His mother watches after him as in his frustration he approaches the door almost comically. When she speaks to him, her voice has become a very gentle tease)
RUTH (Mocking; as she thinks he would say it) Oh, Mama makes me so mad sometimes, I don't know what to do! (She waits and continues to his back as he stands stock-still in front of the door) I wouldn't kiss that woman good-bye for nothing in this world this morning! (The boy finally turns around and rolls his eyes at her, knowing the mood has changed and he is vindicated; he does not, however, move toward her yet) Not for nothing in this world! (She finally laughs aloud at him and holds out her arms to him and we see that it is a way between them, very old and practiced. He crosses to her and allows her to embrace him warmly but keeps his face fixed with masculine rigidity. She holds him back from her presently and looks at him and runs her fingers over the features of his face. With utter gentleness ) Now whose little old angry man are you?
TRAVIS (The masculinity and gruffness start to fade at last) Aw gaalee Mama ...
RUTH (Mimicking) Aw gaaaaalleeeee, Mama! (She pushes him, with rough playfulness and finality, toward the door) Get on out of here or you going to be late.
TRAVIS (In the face of love, new aggressiveness) Mama, could I please go carry groceries?
RUTH Honey, it's starting to get so cold evenings.
WALTER (Coming in from the bathroom and drawing a make-believe gun from a make-believe holster and shooting at his son) What is it he wants to do?
RUTH Go carry groceries after school at the supermarket.
WALTER Well, let him go ...
TRAVIS (Quickly, to the ally) I have to she won't gimme the fifty cents . . .
WALTER (To his wife only) Why not?
RUTH (Simply, and with flavor) 'Cause we don't have it.
WALTER (To RUTH only) What you tell the boy things like that for? (Reaching down into his pants with a rather important gesture) Here, son
(He hands the boy the coin, but his eyes are directed to his wife's. TRAVIS takes the money happily)
TRAVIS Thanks, Daddy.
(He starts out. RUTH watches both of them with murder in her eyes. WALTER stands and stares back at her with defiance, and suddenly reaches into his pocket again on an afterthought)
WALTER (Without even looking at his son, still staring hard at his wife) In fact, here's another fifty cents . . . Buy yourself some fruit today or take a taxicab to school or something!
TRAVIS Whoopee
(He leaps up and clasps his father around the middle with his legs, and they face each other in mutual appreciation; slowly WALTER LEE peeks around the boy to catch the violent rays from his wife's eyes and draws his head back as if shot)
WALTER You better get down now and get to school, man.
TRAVIS (At the door) O.K. Good-bye.
(He exits)
WALTER (After him, pointing with pride) That's my boy. (She looks at him in disgust and turns back to her

work) You know what I was thinking 'bout in the bathroom this morning?


RUTH No.
WALTER How come you always try to be so pleasant!
RUTH What is there to be pleasant 'bout!
WALTER You want to know what I was thinking 'bout in the bathroom or not!
RUTH I know what you thinking 'bout.
WALTER (Ignoring her) 'Bout what me and Willy Harris was talking about last night.
RUTH (Immediately a refrain) Willy Harris is a good-for-nothing loudmouth.
WALTER Anybody who talks to me has got to be a good-for-nothing loudmouth, ain't he? And what you know about who is just a good-for-nothing loudmouth? Charlie Atkins was just a "good-for-nothing loud-mouth" too, wasn't he! When he wanted me to go in the dry-cleaning business with him. And now he's grossing a hundred thousand a year. A hundred thousand dollars a year! You still call him a loudmouth!

RUTH (Bitterly) Oh, Walter Lee . . .


(She folds her head on her arms over the table)
WALTER (Rising and coming to her and standing over her) You tired, ain't you? Tired of everything. Me, the boy, the way we live this beat-up hole everything. Ain't you? (She doesn't look up, doesn't answer) So tired moaning and groaning all the time, but you wouldn't do nothing to help, would you? You couldn't be on my side that long for nothing, could you?
RUTH Walter, please leave me alone.
WALTER A man needs for a woman to back him up , . .
RUTH Walter
WALTER Mama would listen to you. You know she listen to you more than she do me and Bennie. She think more of you. All you have to do is just sit down with her when you drinking your coffee one morning and talking 'bout things like you do and (He sits down beside her and demonstrates graphically what he thinks her methods and tone should be) you just sip your coffee, see, and say easy like that you been thinking 'bout that deal Walter Lee is so interested in, 'bout the store and all, and sip some more coffee, like what you saying ain't really that important to you And the next thing you know, she be listening good and asking you questions and when I come home I can tell her the details. This ain't no fly-by-night proposition, baby. I mean we figured it out, me and Willy and Bobo.
RUTH ( With a frown ) Bobo?
WALTER Yeah. You see, this little liquor store we got in mind cost seventy-five thousand and we figured the initial investment on the place be 'bout thirty thousand, see. That be ten thousand each. Course, there's a couple of hundred you got to pay so's you don't spend your life just waiting for them clowns to let your license get approved
RUTH You mean graft?
WALTER (Frowning impatiently) Don't call it that. See there, that just goes to show you what women understand about the world. Baby, don't nothing happen for you in this world 'less you pay somebody off!
RUTH Walter, leave me alone! (She raises her head and

stares at him vigorously then says, more quietly) Eat



your eggs, they gonna be cold.
WALTER (Straightening up from her and looking off) That's it. There you are. Man say to his woman: I got me a dream. His woman say: Eat your eggs. (Sadly, but gaining in power) Man say: I got to take hold of this here world, baby! And a woman will say: Eat your eggs and go to work. (Passionately now) Man say: I got to change my life, I'm choking to death, baby! And his woman say (In utter anguish as he brings his fists down on his thighs) Your eggs is getting cold!
RUTH (Softly) Walter, that ain't none of our money.
WALTER (Not listening at all or even looking at her) This morning, I was lookin' in the mirror and thinking about it ... I'm thirty-five years old; I been married eleven years and I got a boy who sleeps in the living room (Very, very quietly) and all I got to give him is stories about how rich white people live . . .
RUTH Eat your eggs, Walter.
WALTER (Slams the table and jumps up) DAMN MY EGGS DAMN ALL THE EGGS THAT EVER WAS!
RUTH Then go to work.
WALTER (Looking up at her) See I'm trying to talk to you 'bout myself (Shaking his head with the repetition) and all you can say is eat them eggs and go to work.
RUTH (Wearily) Honey, you never say nothing new. I listen to you every day, every night and every morning, and you never say nothing new. (Shrugging) So you would rather be Mr. Arnold than be his chauffeur. So I would rather be living in Buckingham Palace.
WALTER That is just what is wrong with the colored woman in this world . . . Don't understand about building their men up and making 'em feel like they somebody. Like they can do something.
RUTH (Drily, but to hurt) There are colored men who do things.
WALTER No thanks to the colored woman.
RUTH Well, being a colored woman, I guess I can't help myself none.
(She rises and gets the ironing board and sets it up and attacks a huge pile of rough-dried clothes, sprinkling them in preparation for the ironing and then rolling them into tight fat balls)
WALTER (Mumbling) We one group of men tied to a race of women with small minds!
(His sister BENEATHA enters. She is about twenty, as slim and intense as her brother. She is not as pretty as her sister-in-law, but her lean, almost intellectual face has a handsomeness of its own. She wears a bright-red flannel nightie, and her thick hair stands wildly about her head. Her speech is a mixture of many things; it is different from the rest of the family's insofar as education has permeated her sense of English and perhaps the Midwest rather than the South has finally at last won out in her inflection; but not altogether, because over all of it is a soft slurring and transformed use of vowels which is the decided influence of the Southside. She passes through the room without looking at either RUTH or WALTER and goes to the outside door and looks, a little blindly, out to the bathroom. She sees that it has been lost to the Johnsons. She closes the door with a sleepy vengeance and crosses to the table and sits down a little defeated)
BENEATHA I am going to start timing those people.
WALTER You should get up earlier.
BENEATHA (Her face in her hands. She is still fighting the urge to go back to bed) Really would you suggest dawn? Where's the paper?
WALTER (Pushing the paper across the table to her as he studies her almost clinically, as though he has never seen her before) You a horrible-looking chick at this hour.
BENEATHA (Drily) Good morning, everybody. WALTER (Senselessly) How is school coming?
BENEATHA (In the same spirit) Lovely. Lovely. And you know, biology is the greatest. (Looking up at him) I dissected something that looked just like you yesterday.
WALTER I just wondered if you've made up your mind and everything.
BENEATHA (Gaining in sharpness and impatience) And what did I answer yesterday morning and the day before that?
RUTH (From the ironing board, like someone disinterested and old) Don't be so nasty, Bennie.
BENEATHA (Still to her brother) And the day before that and the day before that!
WALTER (Defensively) I'm interested in you. Something wrong with that? Ain't many girls who decide
WALTER and BENEATHA (In unison) "to be a doctor."
(Silence)
WALTER Have we figured out yet just exactly how much medical school is going to cost?
RUTH Walter Lee, why don't you leave that girl alone and get out of here to work?
BENEATHA (Exits to the bathroom and bangs on the door) Come on out of there, please!
(She comes back into the room)
WALTER (Looking at his sister intently) You know the check is coming tomorrow.
BENEATHA (Turning on him with a sharpness all her own) That money belongs to Mama, Walter, and it's for her to decide how she wants to use it. I don't care if she wants to buy a house or a rocket ship or just nail it up somewhere and look at it. It's hers. Not ours hers.
WALTER (Bitterly) Now ain't that fine! You just got your mother's interest at heart, ain't you, girl? You such a nice girl but if Mama got that money she can always take a few thousand and help you through school too can't she?
BENEATHA I have never asked anyone around here to do anything for me!
WALTER No! And the line between asking and just accepting when the time comes is big and wide ain't it!
BENEATHA (With jury) What do you want from me, Brother that I quit school or just drop dead, which!
WALTER I don't want nothing but for you to stop acting holy 'round here. Me and Ruth done made some sacrifices for you why can't you do something for the family?
RUTH Walter, don't be dragging me in it.
WALTER You are in it Don't you get up and go work in somebody's kitchen for the last three years to help put clothes on her back?
RUTH Oh, Walter that's not fair . . .
WALTER It ain't that nobody expects you to get on your knees and say thank you, Brother; thank you, Ruth; thank you, Mama and thank you, Travis, for wearing the same pair of shoes for two semesters
BENEATHA (Dropping to her knees) Well I do all right? thank everybody! And forgive me for ever wanting to be anything at all! (Pursuing him on her knees across the floor) FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME, FORGIVE ME!
RUTH Please stop it! Your mama'll hear you.
WALTER Who the hell told you you had to be a doctor? If you so crazy 'bout messing 'round with sick people then go be a nurse like other women or just get married and be quiet . . .
BENEATHA Well you finally got it said ... It took you three years but you finally got it said. Walter, give up; leave me alone it's Mama's money.
WALTER He was my father, too!
BENEATHA So what? He was mine, too and Travis' grandfather but the insurance money belongs to Mama. Picking on me is not going to make her give it to you to invest in any liquor stores (Underbreath, dropping into a chair) and I for one say, God bless Mama for that!
WALTER (To RUTH) See did you hear? Did you hear!
RUTH Honey, please go to work.
WALTER Nobody in this house is ever going to understand me.
BENEATHA Because you're a nut.
WALTER Who's a nut?
BENEATHA You! You are a nut. Thee is mad, boy.
WALTER (Looking at his wife and his sister from the door, very sadly) The world's most backward race of people, and that's a fact.
BENEATHA (Turning slowly in her chair) And then there are all those prophets who would lead us out of the wilderness (WALTER slams out of the house) into the swamps!
RUTH Bennie, why you always gotta be pickin' on your brother? Can't you be a little sweeter sometimes?
(Door opens. WALTER walks in. He fumbles with his cap, starts to speak, clears throat, looks everywhere but at RUTH. Finally:)
WALTER (To RUTH) I need some money for carfare.
RUTH (Looks at him, then warms; teasing, but tenderly) Fifty cents? (She goes to her bag and gets money) Here take a taxi!
(WALTER exits. MAMA enters. She is a woman in her early sixties, full-bodied and strong. She is one of those women of a certain grace and beauty who wear it so unobtrusively that it takes a while to notice. Her dark-brown face is surrounded by the total whiteness of her hair, and, being a woman who has adjusted to many things in life and overcome many more, her face is full of strength. She has, we can see, wit and faith of a kind that keep her eyes lit and full of interest and expectancy. She is, in a word, a beautiful woman. Her bearing is perhaps most like the noble bearing of the women of the Hereros of Southwest Africa rather as if she imagines that as she walks she still bears a basket or a vessel upon her head. Her speech, on the other hand, is as careless as her carriage is precise she is inclined to slur everything but her voice is perhaps not so much quiet as simply soft)
MAMA Who that 'round here slamming doors at this hour?
(See crosses through the room, goes to the window, opens it, and brings in a feeble little plant growing doggedly in a small pot on the window sill. She feels the dirt and puts it back out)
RUTH That was Walter Lee. He and Bennie was at it again.
MAMA My children and they tempers. Lord, if this little old plant don't get more sun than it's been getting it ain't never going to see spring again. (She turns from the window) What's the matter with you this morning, Ruth? You looks right peaked. You aiming to iron all them things? Leave some for me. I'll get to 'em this afternoon. Bennie honey, it's too drafty for you to be sitting 'round half dressed. Where's your robe?
BENEATHA In the cleaners.
MAMA Well, go get mine and put it on.
BENEATHA I'm not cold, Mama, honest.
MAMA I know but you so thin . . .
BENEATHA (Irritably) Mama, I'm not cold.
MAMA (Seeing the make-down bed as TRAVIS has left it) Lord have mercy, look at that poor bed. Bless his heart he tries, don't he?
(She moves to the bed TRAVIS has sloppily made up)
RUTH No he don't half try at all 'cause he knows you going to come along behind him and fix everything. That's just how come he don't know how to do nothing right now you done spoiled that boy so.
MAMA (Folding bedding) Well he's a little boy! Ain't supposed to know 'bout housekeeping. My baby, that's what he is. What you fix for his breakfast this morning?
RUTH (Angrily) I feed my son, Lena!
MAMA I ain't meddling (Underbreath; busy-bodyish) I just noticed all last week he had cold cereal, and when it starts getting this chilly in the fall a child ought to have some hot grits or something when he goes out in the cold
RUTH (Furious) I gave him hot oats is that all right!
MAMA I ain't meddling. (Pause) Put a lot of nice butter on it? (RUTH shoots her an angry look and does not reply) He likes lots of butter.
RUTH (Exasperated) Lena
MAMA (To BENEATHA. MAMA is inclined to wander conversationally sometimes) What was you and your brother fussing 'bout this morning?
BENEATHA It* s not important, Mama.
(She gets up and goes to look out at the bathroom, which is apparently free, and she picks up her towels and rushes out)
MAMA What was they fighting about?
RUTH Now you know as well as I do.
MAMA (Shaking her head) Brother still worrying hisself sick about that money?
RUTH You know he is.
MAMA You had breakfast?
RUTH Some coffee.
MAMA Girl, you better start eating and looking after yourself better. You almost thin as Travis.
RUTH Lena
MAMA Un-hunh?
RUTH What are you going to do with it?
MAMA Now don't you start, child. It's too early in the morning to be talking about money. It ain't Christian.
RUTH It's just that he got his heart set on that store
MAMA You mean that liquor store that Willy Harris want him to invest in?
RUTH Yes
MAMA We ain't no business people, Ruth. We just plain working folks.
RUTH Ain't nobody business people till they go into business. Walter Lee say colored people ain't never going to start getting ahead till they start gambling on some different kinds of things in the world investments and things.
MAMA What done got into you, girl? Walter Lee done finally sold you on investing.
RUTH No. Mama, something is happening between Walter and me. I don't know what it is but he needs something something I can't give him any more. He needs this chance, Lena.
MAMA (Frowning deeply) But liquor, honey
RUTH Well like Walter say I spec people going to always be drinking themselves some liquor.
MAMA Well whether they drinks it or not ain't none of my business. But whether I go into business selling it to 'em is, and I don't want that on my ledger this late in life. (Stopping suddenly and studying her daughterin-law) Ruth Younger, what's the matter with you today? You look like you could fall over right there.
RUTH I'm tired.
MAMA Then you better stay home from work today,
RUTH I can't stay home. She'd be calling up the agency and screaming at them, "My girl didn't come in today send me somebody! My girl didn't come in!" Oh, she just have a fit ...
MAMA Well, let her have it. I'll just call her up and say you got the flu
RUTH (Laughing) Why the flu?
MAMA 'Cause it sounds respectable to 'em. Something white people get, too. They know 'bout the flu. Otherwise they think you been cut up or something when you tell 'em you sick.
RUTH I got to go in. We need the money.
MAMA Somebody would of thought my children done all but starved to death the way they talk about money here late. Child, we got a great big old check coming tomorrow.
RUTH (Sincerely, but also self-righteously) Now that's your money. It ain't got nothing to do with me. We all feel like that Walter and Bennie and me even Travis.
MAMA (Thoughtfully, and suddenly very far away) Ten thousand dollars
RUTH Sure is wonderful.
MAMA Ten thousand dollars.
RUTH You know what you should do, Miss Lena? You should take yourself a trip somewhere. To Europe or South America or someplace
MAMA (Throwing up her hands at the thought) Oh, child!
RUTH I'm serious. Just pack up and leave! Go on away and enjoy yourself some. Forget about the family and have yourself a ball for once in your life
MAMA (Drily) You sound like I'm just about ready to die. Who'd go with me? What I look like wandering 'round Europe by myself?
RUTH Shoot these here rich white women do it all the time. They don't think nothing of packing up they suitcases and piling on one of them big steamships and swoosh! they gone, child.
MAMA Something always told me I wasn't no rich white woman.
RUTH Well what are you going to do with it then?
MAMA I ain't rightly decided. (Thinking. She speaks now with emphasis) Some of it got to be put away for Beneatha and her schoolin' and ain't nothing going to touch that part of it. Nothing. (She waits several seconds, trying to make up her mind about something, and looks at RUTH a little tentatively before going on) Been thinking that we maybe could meet the notes on a little old two-story somewhere, with a yard where Travis could play in the summertime, if we use part of the insurance for a down payment and everybody kind of pitch in. I could maybe take on a little day work again, few days a week
RUTH (Studying her mother-in-law furtively and concentrating on her ironing, anxious to encourage without seeming to) Well, Lord knows, we've put enough rent into this here rat trap to pay for four houses by now
MAMA (Looking up at the words t( rat trap" and then looking around and leaning back and sighing in a suddenly reflective mood ) "Rat trap" yes, that's all it is. (Smiling) I remember just as well the day me and Big Walter moved in here. Hadn't been married but two weeks and wasn't planning on living here no more than a year. (She shakes her head at the dissolved dream) We was going to set away, little by little, don't you know, and buy a little place out in Morgan Park. We had even picked out the house. (Chuckling a little) Looks right dumpy today. But Lord, child, you should know all the dreams I had 'bout buying that house and fixing it up and making me a little garden in the back (She waits and stops smiling) And didn't none of it happen.
(Dropping her hands in a futile gesture)
RUTH (Keeps her head down, ironing) Yes, life can be a barrel of disappointments, sometimes.
MAMA Honey, Big Walter would come in here some nights back then and slump down on that couch there and just look at the rug, and look at me and look at the rug and then back at me and I'd know he was down then . . . really down. (After a second very long and thoughtful pause; she is seeing back to times that only she can see) And then, Lord, when I lost that baby little Claude I almost thought I was going to lose Big Walter too. Oh, that man grieved hisself ! He was one man to love his children.
RUTH Ain't nothin' can tear at you like losin' your baby.
MAMA I guess that's how come that man finally worked hisself to death like he done. Like he was fighting his own war with this here world that took his baby from him.
RUTH He sure was a fine man, all right. I always liked Mr. Younger.
MAMA Crazy 'bout his children! God knows there was plenty wrong with Walter Younger hard-headed, mean, kind of wild with women plenty wrong with him. But he sure loved his children. Always wanted them to have something be something. That's where Brother gets all these notions, I reckon. Big Walter used to say, he'd get right wet in the eyes sometimes, lean his head back with the water standing in his eyes and say, "Seem like God didn't see fit to give the black man nothing but dreams but He did give us children to make them dreams seem worth while." (She smiles) He could talk like that, don't you know.
RUTH Yes, he sure could. He was a good man, Mr. Younger.
MAMA Yes, a fine man just couldn't never catch up with his dreams, that's all.
(BENEATHA comes in, brushing her hair and looking up to the ceiling, where the sound of a vacuum cleaner has started up)
BENEATHA What could be so dirty on that woman's rugs that she has to vacuum them every single day?
RUTH I wish certain young women 'round here who I could name would take inspiration about certain rugs in a certain apartment I could also mention.
BENEATHA (Shrugging) How much cleaning can a house need, for Christ's sakes.
MAMA (Not liking the Lord's name used thus) Bennie!
RUTH Just listen to her just listen!
BENEATHA Oh, God!
MAMA If you use the Lord's name just one more time
BENEATHA (A bit of a whine) Oh, Mama
RUTH Fresh just fresh as salt, this girl!
BENEATHA (Drily) Well if the salt loses its savor
MAMA Now that will do. I just ain't going to have you 'round here reciting the scriptures in vain you hear me?
BENEATHA How did I manage to get on everybody's wrong side by just walking into a room?
RUTH If you weren't so fresh
BENEATHA Ruth, I'm twenty years old.
MAMA What time you be home from school today?
BENEATHA Kind of late. (With enthusiasm) Madeline is going to start my guitar lessons today.
(MAMA and RUTH look up with the same expression)
MAMA Your what kind of lessons?
BENEATHA Guitar.
RUTH Oh, Father!
MAMA How come you done taken it in your mind to learn to play the guitar?
BENEATHA I just want to—that's all.
MAMA (Smiling) Lord, child, don't you know what to get tired of this now like you got tired of that little do with yourself? How long it going to be before you play-acting group you joined last year? (Looking at RUTH) And what was it the year before that?
RUTH The horseback-riding club for which she bought that fifty-five-dollar riding habit that's been hanging in the closet ever since!
MAMA (To BENEATHA) Why you got to flit so from one thing to another, baby?
BENEATHA (Sharply) I just want to learn to play the guitar. Is there anything wrong with that?
MAMA Ain't nobody trying to stop you. I just wonders sometimes why you has to flit so from one thing to another all the time. You ain't never done nothing with all that camera equipment you brought home
BENEATHA I don't flit! I I experiment with different forms of expression
RUTH Like riding a horse?
BENEATHA People have to express themselves one way or another.
MAMA What is it you want to express?
BENEATHA (Angrily) Me! (MAMA and RUTH look at each other and burst into raucous laughter) Don't worry I don't expect you to understand.
MAMA (To change the subject) Who you going out with tomorrow night?
BENEATHA (With displeasure) George Murchison again.
MAMA (Pleased) Oh you getting a little sweet on him?
RUTH You ask me, this child ain't sweet on nobody but herself (Vnderbreath) Express herself !
(They laugh)
BENEATHA Oh I like George all right, Mama. I mean I like him enough to go out with him and stuff, but
RUTH (For devilment) What does and stuff mean? BENEATHA Mind your own business.
MAMA Stop picking at her now, Ruth. (She chuckles then a suspicious sudden look at her daughter as she turns in her chair for emphasis) What DOES it mean?
BENEATHA (Wearily) Oh, I just mean I couldn't ever really be serious about George. He's he's so shallow.
RUTH Shallow what do you mean he's shallow? He's Rich!
MAMA Hush, Ruth.
BENEATHA I know he's rich. He knows he's rich, too.
RUTH Well what other qualities a man got to have to satisfy you, little girl?
BENEATHA You wouldn't even begin to understand. Anybody who married Walter could not possibly understand.
MAMA (Outraged) What kind of way is that to talk about your brother?
BENEATHA Brother is a flip let's face it.
MAMA (To RUTH, helplessly) What's a flip?
RUTH (Glad to add kindling) She's saying he's crazy.
BENEATHA Not crazy. Brother isn't really crazy yet he he's an elaborate neurotic.
MAMA Hush your mouth!
BENEATHA As for George. Well. George looks good he's got a beautiful car and he takes me to nice places and, as my sister-in-law says, he is probably the richest boy I will ever get to know and I even like him sometimes but if the Youngers are sitting around waiting to see if their little Bennie is going to tie up the family with the Murchisons, they are wasting theirtime.
RUTH You mean you wouldn't marry George Murchison if he asked you someday? That pretty, rich thing? Honey, I knew you was odd.
BENEATHA No I would not marry him if all I felt for him was what I feel now. Besides, George's family wouldn't really like it
MAMA Why not?
BENEATHA Oh, Mama The Murchisons are honest-to-God-real-live-rich colored people, and the only people in the world who are more snobbish than rich white people are rich colored people. I thought everybody knew that. I've met Mrs. Murchison. She's a scene!
MAMA You must not dislike people 'cause they well off, honey.
BENEATHA Why not? It makes just as much sense as disliking people 'cause they are poor, and lots of people do that.
RUTH (A wisdom-of-the-ages manner. To MAMA) Well, she'll get over some of this
BENEATHA Get over it? What are you talking about, Ruth? Listen, I'm going to be a doctor. I'm not worried about who I'm going to marry yet if I ever get married.
MAMA and RUTH If!
MAMA Now, Bennie
BENEATHA Oh, I probably will ... but first I'm going to

be a doctor, and George, for one, still thinks that's

pretty funny. I couldn't be bothered with that. I am

going to be a doctor and everybody around here better



understand that!
MAMA (Kindly) 'Course you going to be a doctor, honey, God willing.
BENEATHA (Drily) God hasn't got a thing to do with it.
MAMA Beneatha that just wasn't necessary.
BENEATHA Well neither is God. I get sick of hearing about God.
MAMA Beneatha!
BENEATHA I mean it! I'm just tired of hearing about God all the time. What has He-got to do with anything? Does he pay tuition?
MAMA You 'bout to get your fresh little jaw slapped!
RUTH That's just what she needs, all right!
BENEATHA Why? Why can't I say what I want to around here, like everybody else?
MAMA It don't sound nice for a young girl to say things like that you wasn't brought up that way. Me and your father went to trouble to get you and Brother to church every Sunday.
BENEATHA Mama, you don't understand. It's all a matter of ideas, and God is just one idea I don't accept. It's not important. I am not going out and be immoral or commit crimes because I don't believe in God. I don't even think about it. It's just that I get tired of Him getting credit for all the things the human race achieves through its own stubborn effort. There simply is no blasted God there is only man and it is he who makes miracles!
(MAMA absorbs this speech, studies her daughter and rises slowly and crosses to BENEATHA and slaps her powerfully across the face. After, there is only silence and the daughter drops her eyes from her mother's face, and MAMA is very tall before her)
MAMA Now you say after me, in my mother's house there is still God. (There is a long pause and BENEATHA stares at the floor wordlessly. MAMA repeats the phrase with precision and cool emotion) In my mother's house there is still God.
BENEATHA In my mother's house there is still God.
(A long pause)
MAMA (Walking away from BENEATHA, too disturbed for triumphant posture. Stopping and turning back to her daughter) There are some ideas we ain't going to have in this house. Not long as I am at the head of this family.
BENEATHA Yes, ma'am.
(MAMA walks out of the room)
RUTH (Almost gently, with profound understanding) You think you a woman, Bennie but you still a little girl. What you did was childish so you got treated like a child.
BENEATHA I see. (Quietly) I also see that everybody thinks it's all right for Mama to be a tyrant. But all the tyranny in the world will never put a God in the heavens!
(She picks up her books and goes out. Pause)
RUTH (Goes to MAMA'S door) She said she was sorry.
MAMA (Coming out, going to her plant) They frightens me, Ruth. My children.
RUTH You got good children, Lena. They just a little off sometimes but they're good.
MAMA No there's something come down between me and them that don't let us understand each other and I don't know what it is. One done almost lost his mind thinking 'bout money all the time and the other done commence to talk about things I can't seem to understand in no form or fashion. What is it that's changing, Ruth.
RUTH (Soothingly, older than her years) Now . . . you taking it all too seriously. You just got strong-willed children and it takes a strong woman like you to keep 'em in hand.
MAMA (Looking at her plant and sprinkling a little water on it) They spirited all right, my children. Got to admit they got spirit Bennie and Walter. Like this little old plant that ain't never had enough sunshine or nothing and look at it ... (She has her back to RUTH, who has had to stop ironing and lean against something and put the back of her hand to her forehead)
RUTH (Trying to keep MAMA from noticing) You . . . sure . . . loves that little old thing, don't you? . . .
MAMA Well, I always wanted me a garden like I used to see sometimes at the back of the houses down home. This plant is close as I ever got to having one. (She looks out of the window as she replaces the plant) Lord, ain't nothing as dreary as the view from this window on a dreary day, is there? Why ain't you singing this morning, Ruth? Sing that "No Ways Tired." That song always lifts me up so (She turns at last to see that RUTH has slipped quietly to the floor, in a state of semi consciousness) Ruth! Ruth honey what's the matter with you . . . Ruth!
Curtain

SCENE TWO


It is the following morning; a Saturday morning, and house cleaning is in progress at the YOUNGERS. Furniture has been shoved hither and yon and MAMA is giving the kitchen-area walls a washing down. BENEATHA, in dungarees, with a handkerchief tied around her face, is spraying insecticide into the cracks in the walls. As they work, the radio is on and a Southside disk-jockey program is inappropriately filling the house with a rather exotic saxophone blues. TRAVIS, the sole idle one, is leaning on his arms, looking out of the window.
TRAVIS Grandmama, that stuff Bennie is using smells awful. Can I go downstairs, please?
MAMA Did you get all them chores done already? I ain't seen you doing much.
TRAVIS Yes'm finished early. Where did Mama go this morning?
MAMA (Looking at BENEATHA) She had to go on a little errand.
(The phone rings. BENEATHA runs to answer it and reaches it before WALTER, who has entered from bedroom)
TRAVIS Where?
MAMA To tend to her business.
BENEATHA Haylo . . . (Disappointed) Yes, he is. (She tosses the phone to WALTER, who barely catches it) It's Willie Harris again.
WALTER (As privately as possible under MAMA'S gaze) Hello, Willie. Did you get the papers from the lawyer?. . . No, not yet. I told you the mailman doesn't get here till ten-thirty . . . No, I'll come there . . . Yeah! Right away. (He hangs up and goes for his coat)
BENEATHA Brother, where did Ruth go?
WALTER (As he exits) How should I know!
TRAVIS Aw come on, Grandma. Can I go outside?
MAMA Oh, I guess so. You stay right in front of the house, though, and keep a good lookout for the postman.
TRAVIS Yes'm. (He darts into bedroom for stickball and bat, reenters, and sees BENEATHA on her knees spraying under sofa with behind upraised. He edges closer to the target, takes aim, and lets her have it. She screams) Leave them poor little cockroaches alone, they ain't bothering you none! (He runs as she swings the spray-gun at him viciously and playfully) Grandma! Grandma!
MAMA Look out there, girl, before you be spilling some of that stuff on that child!
TRAVIS (Safely behind the bastion of MAMA) That's right look out, now! (He exits)
BENEATHA (Drily) I can't imagine that it would hurt him it has never hurt the roaches.
MAMA Well, little boys' hides ain't as tough as Southside roaches. You better get over there behind the bureau. I seen one marching out of there like Napoleon yesterday.
BENEATHA There's really only one way to get rid of them, Mama
MAMA HOW?
BENEATHA Set fire to this building! Mama, where did Ruth go?
MAMA (Looking at her with meaning) To the doctor, I think.
BENEATHA The doctor? What's the matter? (They exchange glances) You don't think
MAMA (With her sense of drama) Now I ain't saying what I think. But I ain't never been wrong 'bout a woman neither.
(The phone rings)
BENEATHA (At the phone) Hay-lo . . . (Pause, and a moment of recognition) Well when did you get back! . . . And how was it? ... Of course I've missed you in my way . . . This morning? No . . . house cleaning and all that and Mama hates it if I let people come over when the house is like this . . . You have? Well, that's different . . . What is it Oh, what the hell, come on over . . . Right, see you then. Arrividerci. (She hangs up)
MAMA (Who has listened vigorously, as is her habit) Who is that you inviting over here with this house looking like this? You ain't got the pride you was born with!
BENEATHA Asagai doesn't care how houses look, Mama he's an intellectual.
MAMA Who?
BENEATHA Asagai Joseph Asagai. He's an African boy I met on campus. He's been studying in Canada all summer.
MAMA What's his name?
BENEATHA Asagai, Joseph. Ah-sah-guy . . . He's from Nigeria.
MAMA Oh, that's the little country that was founded by slaves way back . , .
BENEATHA No, Mama that’ s Liberia.
MAMA I don't think I never met no African before.
BENEATHA Well, do me a favor and don't ask him a whole lot of ignorant questions about Africans. I mean, do they wear clothes and all that.
MAMA Well, now, I guess if you think we so ignorant 'round here maybe you shouldn't bring your friends here
BENEATHA It's just that people ask such crazy things. All anyone seems to know about when it comes to Africa is Tarzan
MAMA (Indignantly) Why should I know anything about Africa?
BENEATHA Why do you give money at church for the missionary work?
MAMA Well, that's to help save people.
BENEATHA You mean save them from heathenism.
MAMA (Innocently) Yes.
BENEATHA I'm afraid they need more salvation from the British and the French.
(RUTH comes in forlornly and pulls off her coat with dejection. They both turn to look at her)
RUTH (Dispiritedly) Well, I guess from all the happy f aces everybody knows.
BENEATHA You pregnant?
MAMA Lord have mercy, I sure hope it's a little old girl. Travis ought to have a sister.
(BENEATHA and RUTH give her a hopeless look for this grandmotherly enthusiasm)
BENEATHA How far along are you?

RUTH Two months.


BENEATHA Did you mean to? I mean did you plan it or was it an accident?
MAMA What do you know about planning or not planning?
BENEATHA Oh, Mama.
RUTH ( Wearily) She's twenty years old, Lena.
BENEATHA Did you plan it, Ruth?
RUTH Mind your own business.
BENEATHA It is my business where is he going to live, on the roof? (There is silence following the remark as the three women react to the sense of it) Gee I didn't mean that, Ruth, honest. Gee, I don't feel like that at all. I - I think it is wonderful.
RUTH (Dully) Wonderful.
BENEATHA Yes really.
MAMA (Looking at RUTH, worried) Doctor say everything going to be all right?
RUTH (Far away) Yes she says everything is going to be fine . . .
MAMA (Immediately suspicious) "She" What doctor

you went to?


(RUTH folds over, near hysteria)
MAMA (Worriedly hovering over RUTH) Ruth honey, what's the matter with you, you sick?
(RUTH has her fists clenched on her thighs and is fighting hard to suppress a scream that seems to be rising in her)
BENEATHA What's the matter with her, Mama?
MAMA (Working her fingers in RUTH'S shoulders to relax her) She be all right. Women gets right depressed sometimes when they get her way. (Speaking softly, expertly, rapidly) Now you just relax. That's right . . . just lean back, don't think 'bout nothing at all ... nothing at all
RUTH I'm all right . . .
(The glassy-eyed look melts and then she collapses into a fit of heavy sobbing. The bell rings)
BENEATHA Oh, my God that must be Asagai.
MAMA (To RUTH) Come on now, honey. You need to lie down and rest awhile . . . then have some nice hot food.
(They exit, RUTH'S weight on her mother-in-law. BENEATHA, herself profoundly disturbed, opens the door to admit a rather dramatic-looking young man with a large package)
ASAGAI Hello, Alaiyo
BENEATHA (Holding the door open and regarding him with pleasure) Hello . . . (Long pause) Well come in. And please excuse everything. My mother was very upset about my letting anyone come here with the place like this.
ASAGAI' (Coming into the room) You look disturbed too ... Is something wrong?
BENEATHA (Still at the door, absently) Yes . . . we've all got acute ghetto-itus. (She smiles and comes toward him, finding a cigarette and sitting) So sit down! No! Wait! (She whips the spray gun off sofa where she had left it and puts the cushions back. At last perches on arm of sofa. He sits) So, how was Canada?
ASAGAI (A sophisticate) Canadian.
BENEATHA (Looking at him) Asagai, I'm very glad you are back.
ASAGAI (Looking back at her in turn) Are you really?
BENEATHA Yes very.
ASAGAI Why? you were quite glad when I went away. What happened?
BENEATHA You went away.
ASAGAI Ahhhhhhhh.
BENEATHA Before you wanted to be so serious before there was time.
ASAGAI How much time must there be before one knows what one feels?
BENEATHA (Stalling this particular conversation. Her hands pressed together, in a deliberately childish gesture) What did you bring me?
ASAGAI (Handing her the package) Open it and see.
BENEATHA (Eagerly opening the package and drawing out some records and the colorful robes of a Nigerian woman) Oh, Asagai! . . . You got them for me! . . . How beautiful . . . and the records too! (She lifts out the robes and runs to the mirror with them and holds the drapery up in front of herself)
ASAGAI (Coming to her at the mirror) I shall have to teach you how to drape it properly. (He flings the material about her for the moment and stands back to look at her) Ah Oh-pay-gay~day, oh-gbah-mu-shay. (A Yoruba exclamation for admiration) You wear it well . . . very well . . . mutilated hair and all.
BENEATHA (Turning suddenly) My hair what's wrong with my hair?
ASAGAI (Shrugging) Were you born with it like that?

BENEATHA (Reaching up to touch it) No ... of course not. (She looks back to the mirror, disturbed)



(Smiling) How then?
BENEATHA You know perfectly well how ... as crinkly as yours . . . that's how.
ASAGAI And it is ugly to you that way?
BENEATHA (Quickly) Oh, no not ugly . . . (More slowly, apologetically) But it's so hard to manage when it's, well raw.
ASAGAI And so to accommodate that you mutilate it every week?
BENEATHA It's not mutilation!
ASAGAI (Laughing aloud at her seriousness) Oh ... please! I am only teasing you because you are so very serious about these things. (He stands back from her and folds his arms across his chest as he watches her pulling at her hair and frowning in the minor) Do you remember the first time you met me at school? . . . (He laughs) You came up to .me and you said and I thought you were the most serious little thing I had ever seen you said: (He imitates her) "Mr. Asagai I want very much to talk with you. About Africa. You see, Mr. Asagai, I am looking for my identity! ' (He laughs)
BENEATHA (Turning to him, not laughing) Yes (Her face is quizzical, profoundly disturbed)
ASAGAI (Still teasing and reaching out and taking her face in his hands and turning her profile to him) Well . . . it is true that this is not so much a profile of a Hollywood queen as perhaps a queen of the Nile (A mock dismissal of the importance of the question) But what does it matter? Assimilationism is so popular in your country.
BENEATHA (Wheeling, passionately, sharply) I am not an assimilationist!
ASAGAI (The protest hangs in the room for a moment and ASAGAI studies her, his laughter fading) Such a serious one, (There is a pause) So you like the robes? You must take excellent care of them they are from my sister's personal wardrobe.
BENEATHA (With incredulity) You—you sent all the way home for me?
ASAGAI (With charm) For you I would do much more . . . Well, that is what I came for. I must go.
BENEATHA Will you call me Monday?
ASAGAI Yes . . . We have a great deal to talk about. I mean about identity and time and all that.
BENEATHA Time?
ASAGAI Yes. About how much time one needs to know what one feels.
BENEATHA You see! You never understood that there is more than one kind of feeling which can exist between a man and a woman or, at least, there should be.
ASAGAI (Shaking his head negatively but gently) No. Between a man and a woman there need be only one kind of feeling. I have that for you . . . Now even . . . right this moment ...
BENEATHA I know and by itself it won't do. I can find that anywhere.
ASAGAI For a woman it should be enough.
BENEATHA I know because that's what it says in all the novels that men write. But it isn't. Go ahead and laugh but I'm not interested in being someone's little episode in America or (With feminine vengeance) one of them! (ASAGAI has burst into laughter again) That's funny as hell, huh!
ASAGAI It's just that every American girl I have known has said that to me. White black in this you are all the same. And the same speech, too!
BENEATHA (Angrily) Yuk, yuk, yuk!
ASAGAI It's how you can be sure that the world's most liberated women are not liberated at all. You all talk about it too much!
(MAMA enters and is immediately all social charm because of the presence of a guest)
BENEATHA Oh Mama this is Mr. Asagai.
MAMA How do you do?
ASAGAI (Total politeness to an elder) How do you do, Mrs. Younger. Please forgive me for coming at such an outrageous hour on a Saturday.
MAMA Well, you are quite welcome. I just hope you understand that our house don't always look like this. (Chatterish) You must come again. I would love to here all about (Not sure of the name) your country. I think it's so sad the way our American Negroes don't know nothing about Africa 'cept Tarzan and all that. And all that money they pour into these churches when they ought to be helping you people over there drive out them French and Englishmen done taken away your land. (The mother flashes a slightly superior look at her daughter upon completion of the recitation)
ASAGAI (Taken aback by this sudden and acutely unrelated expression of sympathy) Yes ... yes ...
MAMA (Smiling at him suddenly and relaxing and looking him over) How many miles is it from here to where you come from?
ASAGAI Many thousands.
MAMA (Looking at him as she would WALTER) I bet you don't half look after yourself, being away from your mama either. I spec you better come 'round here from time to time to get yourself some decent home cooked meals . . .
ASAGAI (Moved) Thank you. Thank you very much. (They are all quiet, then ) Well ... I must go. I will call you Monday, Alaiyo.
MAMA What's that he call you?
ASAGAI Oh "Alaiyo." I hope you don't mind. It is what you would call a nickname, I think. It is a Yoruba word. I am a Yoruba.
MAMA (Looking at BENEATHA) I—I thought he was from (Uncertain)
ASAGAI (Understanding) Nigeria is my country. Yoruba is my tribal origin
BENEATHA You didn't tell us what Alaiyo means . . . for all I know, you might be calling me Little Idiot or something . . .
ASAGAI Well . . . let me see ... I do not know how just to explain it ... The sense of a thing can be so different when it changes languages.
BENEATHA You're evading.
ASAGAI No really it is difficult . . . (Thinking) It means

... it means One for Whom Bread Food Is Not Enough. (He looks at her) Is that all right?


BENEATHA ( Understanding, softly) Thank you.
MAMA (Looking from one to the other and not understanding any of it) Well , . . that's nice . . . You must come see us again Mr.
ASAGAI: Ah-sah-guy.
MAMA Yes . . . Do come again.
ASAGAI Good-bye, (He exits)
MAMA (After him) Lord, that's a pretty thing just went out here! (Insinuatingly, to her daughter) Yes, I guess I see why we done commence to get so interested in Africa 'round here. Missionaries my aunt Jenny! (She exits)
BENEATHA Oh, Mama! . . .
(She picks up the Nigerian dress and holds it up to her in front of the mirror again. She sets the headdress on haphazardly and then notices her hair again and clutches at it and then replaces the headdress and frowns at herself. Then she starts to wriggle in front of the mirror as she thinks a Nigerian woman might. TRAVIS enters and stands regarding her)
TRAVIS What's the matter, girl, you cracking up?
BENEATHA Shut Up. (She pulls the headdress off and looks at herself in the mirror and clutches at her hair again and squinches her eyes as if trying to imagine something. Then, suddenly, she gets her raincoat and kerchief and hurriedly prepares for going out)
MAMA (Coming back into the room) She's resting now. Travis, baby, run next door and ask Miss Johnson to please let me have a little kitchen cleanser. This here can is empty as Jacob's kettle.
TRAVIS I just came in.
MAMA Do as you told. (He exits and she looks at her daughter) Where you going?
BENEATHA (Halting at the door) To become a queen of the Nile!
(She exits in a breathless blaze of glory. RUTH appears in the bedroom doorway)
MAMA Who told you to get up?
RUTH Ain't nothing wrong with me to be lying in no bed for. Where did Bennie go?
MAMA (Drumming her fingers) Far as I could make out to Egypt. (RUTH just looks at her) What time is it getting to?
RUTH Ten twenty. And the mailman going to ring that bell this morning just like he done every morning for the last umpteen years.
(TRAVIS comes in with the cleanser can)
TRAVIS She say to tell you that she don't have much.
MAMA (Angrily) Lord, some people I could name sure is tight-fisted! (Directing her grandson) Mark two cans of cleanser down on the list there. If she that hard up for kitchen cleanser, I sure don't want to forget to get her none!
RUTH Lena maybe the woman is just short on cleanser
MAMA (Not listening) Much baking powder as she done borrowed from me all these years, she could of done gone into the baking business!
(The bell sounds suddenly and sharply and all three are stunned serious and silent mid-speech. In spite of all the other conversations and distractions of the morning, this is what they have been waiting for, even TRAVIS, who looks helplessly from his mother to his grandmother. RUTH is the first to come to life again)
RUTH (To TRAVIS) Get down them steps, boy!
(TRAVIS snaps to life and flies out to get the mail)
MAMA (Her eyes wide, her hand to her breast) You mean it done really come?
RUTH (Excited) Oh, Miss Lena!
MAMA (Collecting herself) Well ... I don't know what we all so excited about 'round here for. We known it was coming for months.
RUTH That's a whole lot different from having it come and being able to hold it in your hands ... a piece of paper worth ten thousand dollars . . . (TRAVIS bursts back into the room. He holds the envelope high above his head, like a little dancer, his face is radiant and he is breathless. He moves to his grandmother with sudden slow ceremony and puts the envelope into her hands. She accepts it, and then merely holds it and looks at it) Come on! Open it ... Lord have mercy, I wish Walter Lee was here!
TRAVIS Open it, Grandmama!
MAMA (Staring at it) Now you all be quiet. It's just a check.
RUTH Open it ...
MAMA (Still staring at it) Now don't act silly ... We ain't never been no people to act silly 'bout no money
RUTH (Swiftly) We ain't never had none before OPEN IT!
(MAMA finally makes a good strong tear and pulls out the thin blue slice of paper and inspects it closely. The boy and his mother study it raptly over MAMA'S shoulders)
MAMA Travis! (She is counting off with doubt) Is that the right number of zeros.
TRAVIS Yes'm . . . ten thousand dollars. Gaalee, Grandmama, you rich.
MAMA (She holds the check away from her, still looking at it. Slowly her face sobers into a mask of unhappiness) Ten thousand dollars. (She hands it to RUTH) Put it away somewhere, Ruth. (She does not look at RUTH; her eyes seem to be seeing something somewhere very far off) Ten thousand dollars they give you. Ten thousand dollars,
TRAVIS (To his mother, sincerely) What's the matter with Grandmama don't she want to be rich?
RUTH (Distractedly) You go on out and play now, baby. (TRAVIS exits. MAMA starts wiping dishes absently, humming intently to herself. RUTH turns to her, with kind exasperation) You've gone and got yourself upset.
MAMA (Not looking at her) I spec if it wasn't for you all ... I would just put that money away or give it to the church or something.
RUTH Now what kind of talk is that. Mr. Younger would just be plain mad if he could hear you talking foolish like that.
MAMA (Stopping and staring off) Yes . . . he sure would. (Sighing) We got enough to do with that money, all right. (She halts then, and turns and looks at her daughter-in-law hard; RUTH avoids her eyes and MAMA wipes her hands with finality and starts to speak firmly to RUTH) Where did you go today, girl?
RUTH To the doctor.
MAMA (Impatiently) Now, Ruth , . . you know better than that. Old Doctor Jones is strange enough in his way but there ain't nothing 'bout him make somebody slip and call him "she" like you done this morning.
RUTH Well, that's what happened my tongue slipped.
MAMA You went to see that woman, didn't you?
RUTH (Defensively, giving herself away) What woman you talking about?
MAMA (Angrily ) That woman who
(WALTER enters in great excitement)
WALTER Did it come?
MAMA (Quietly) Can't you give people a Christian greeting before you start asking about money?
WALTER (To RUTH) Did it come? (RUTH unfolds the check and lays it quietly before him, watching him intently with thoughts of her own. WALTER sits down and grasps it close and counts off the zeros) Ten thousand dollars (He turns suddenly, frantically to his mother and draws some papers out of his breast pocket) Mama look. Old Willy Harris put everything on paper
MAMA Son I think you ought to talk to your wife . . .

I'll go on out and leave you alone if you want


WALTER I can talk to her later Mama, look--
MAMA: Son--
WALTER: WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE LISTEN TO ME TODAY!
MAMA (Quietly) I don't 'low no yellin' in this house, Walter Lee, and you know it (WALTER stares at them in frustration and starts to speak several times) And there ain't going to be no investing in no liquor stores.
WALTER But, Mama, you ain't even looked at it.
MAMA I don't aim to have to speak on that again. (A long pause)
WALTER You ain't looked at it and you don't aim to have to speak on that again? You ain't even looked at it and you have decided (Crumpling his papers) Well, you tell that to my boy tonight when you put him to sleep on the living-room couch . . . (Turning to MAMA and speaking directly to her) Yeah and tell it to my wife, Mama, tomorrow when she has to go out of here to look after somebody else's kids. And tell it to me, Mama, every time we need a new pair of curtains and I have to watch you go out and work in somebody's kitchen. Yeah, you tell me then! (WALTER starts out)
RUTH Where you going?
WALTER I'm going out!
RUTH Where?
WALTER Just out of this house somewhere
RUTH (Getting her coat) I'll come too.
WALTER I don't want you to come!
RUTH I got something to talk to you about, Walter.
WALTER That's too bad.
MAMA (Still quietly) Walter Lee (She waits and he finally turns and looks at her) Sit down.
WALTER I'm a grown man, Mama.
MAMA Ain't nobody said you wasn't grown. But you still in my house and my presence. And as long as you are you'll talk to your wife civil. Now sit down.
RUTH (Suddenly) Oh, let him go on out and drink himself to death! He makes me sick to my stomach! (She flings her coat against him and exits to bedroom)
WALTER (Violently flinging the coat after her) And you turn mine too, baby! (The door slams behind her) That was my biggest mistake
MAMA (Still quietly) Walter, what is the matter with you?
WALTER Matter with me? Ain't nothing the matter with me!
MAMA Yes there is. Something eating you up like a crazy man. Something more than me not giving you this money. The past few years I been watching it happen to you. You get all nervous acting and kind of wild in the eyes (WALTER jumps up impatiently at her words) I said sit there now, I'm talking to you!
WALTER Mama I don't need no nagging at me today.
MAMA Seem like you getting to a place where you always tied up in some kind of knot about something. But if anybody ask you 'bout it you just yell at 'em and bust out the house and go out and drink somewheres. Walter Lee, people can't live with that. Ruth's a good, patient girl in her way but you getting to be too much. Boy, don't make the mistake of driving that girl away from you.
WALTER Why what she do for me?
MAMA She loves you.
WALTER Mama I'm going out. I want to go off somewhere and be by myself for a while.
MAMA I'm sorry 'bout your liquor store, son. It just wasn't the thing for us to do. That's what I want to tell you about
WALTER I got to go out, Mama (He rises)
MAMA It's dangerous, son.
WALTER What's dangerous?
MAMA When a man goes outside his home to look for peace.
WALTER (Beseechingly) Then why can't there never be no peace in this house then?
MAMA You done found it in some other house?
WALTER No there ain't no woman! Why do women always think there's a woman somewhere when a man gets restless. (Picks up the check) Do you know what this money means to me? Do you know what this money can do for us? (Puts it back) Mama… Mama I want so many things
MAMA Yes, son
WALTER I want so many things that they are driving me kind of crazy . . . Mama look at me.
MAMA I'm looking at you. You 1 a good-looking boy. You got a job, a nice wife, a fine boy and--
WALTER A job. (Looks at her) Mama, a job? I open and close car doors all day long. I drive a man around in his limousine and I say, "Yes, sir; no, sir; very good, sir; shall I take the Drive, sir?" Mama, that ain't no kind of job . . . that ain't nothing at all. (Very quietly) Mama, I don't know if I can make you understand.
MAMA Understand what, baby?
WALTER (Quietly) Sometimes it's like I can see the future stretched out in front of me just plain as day. The future, Mama. Hanging over there at the edge of my days. Just waiting for me a big, looming blank space full of nothing. Just waiting for me. But it don't have to be. (Pause. Kneeling beside her chair) Mama sometimes when I'm downtown and I pass them cool, quiet-looking restaurants where them white boys are sitting back and talking 'bout things . . . sitting there turning deals worth millions of dollars . . . sometimes I see guys don't look much older than me
MAMA Son how come you talk so much ‘bout money?
WALTER (With immense passion) Because it is life, Mama!
MAMA (Quietly) Oh (Very quietly) So now it's life. Money is life. Once upon a time freedom used to be life now it's money. I guess the world really do change . . .
WALTER No it was always money, Mama. We just didn't know about it.
MAMA No ... something has changed. (She looks at him) You something new, boy. In my time we was worried about not being lynched and getting to the North if we could and how to stay alive and still have a pinch of dignity too . . . Now here come you and Beneatha talking 'bout things we ain't never even thought about hardly, me and your daddy. You ain't satisfied or proud of nothing we done. I mean that you had a home; that we kept you out of trouble till you was grown; that you don't have to ride to work on theback of nobody's streetcar You my children but how different we done become.
WALTER (A long beat. He pats her hand and gets up) You just don't understand, Mama, you just don't understand.
MAMA Son do you know your wife is expecting another baby? (WALTER stands, stunned, and absorbs what his mother has said) That's what she wanted to talk to you about. (WALTER sinks down into a chair) This ain't for me to be telling but you ought to know. (She waits) I think Ruth is thinking 'bout getting rid of that child.
WALTER (Slowly understanding) No, no. Ruth wouldn't do that.
MAMA When the world gets ugly enough a woman
will do anything for her family. The part tha’s already living.
WALTER You don't know Ruth, Mama, if you think she would do that,
(RUTH opens the bedroom door and stands there a little limp)
RUTH (Beaten) Yes I would too, Walter. (Pause) I gave her a five-dollar down payment.
(There is total silence as the man stares at his wife and the mother stares at her son)
MAMA (Presently) Well (Tightly) Well son, I'm waiting to hear you say something . . . (She waits) I'm waiting to hear how you be your father's son. Be the man he was . . . (Pause. The silence shouts) Your wife say she going to destroy your child. And I'm waiting to hear you talk like him and say we a people who give children life, not who destroys them (She rises) I'm waiting to see you stand up and look like your daddy and say we done give up one baby to poverty and that we ain't going to give up nary another one . . . I'm waiting.
WALTER Ruth (He can say nothing)
MAMA If you a son of mine, tell her! (WALTER picks up his keys and his coat and walks out. She continues, bitterly) You . . . you are a disgrace to your father's memory. Somebody get me my hat!
Curtain




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