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Ruth Younger in A Raisin in the Sun

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  • 0:04 Who Is Ruth Younger?
  • 2:02 Some Important Quotes
  • 3:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Washington

Danielle is a certified English Language Arts educator with 8 years of classroom experience, and has an education specialist degree in curriculum and instruction.

What do you get when you combine a dedicated housewife and a determined working mom? You get Ruth Younger, a character from Lorraine Hansberry's play 'A Raisin in the Sun.' In this lesson, you'll learn about this minor character who had a major impact.

Who Is Ruth Younger?

In the 1950s, it was really common for women to stay at home and take care of their families. Ruth Younger, who is the main character of A Raisin in the Sun and who we are looking at today, was no exception. As a wife and mom, she did what most women did around the house: cook, clean, support her husband, and raise her son. However, unlike most women, Ruth was also a domestic worker who cleaned the homes of rich white people day in and day out. Ruth's living situation also made her different than many other women of the time. Not only did she share her space with her husband Walter Lee and son named Travis, but their cramped two-bedroom apartment also housed her mother-in-law Lena and sister-in-law Beneatha.

As a poor black family living on the Southside of Chicago, the Younger family deals with tremendous financial stress. Ruth's husband Walter works as a chauffeur for a rich white man, but barely makes enough money to support the family. He hates his job and yearns to be his own boss. As a result, Walter often takes out his frustrations on Ruth. Ruth is no doormat, though. She takes her frustrations out on Walter as well, and thus causes the couple to have a rocky, uneven marriage.

At the beginning of the play, we learn that the family is getting some unexpected cash. Their father has recently passed away, and they are expecting a $10,000 life insurance check. Every member of the family wants to use the money to make his or her own individual dreams come true: Lena wants a new house for the family, Beneatha wants to go to medical school, and Walter wants to invest in a liquor store so he can finally be his own boss. The only person who doesn't express an individual dream is Ruth. Ruth constantly puts the wellbeing of the family above her own needs. When she learns that she's pregnant, she even considers having an abortion because she knows the family can't afford another mouth to feed.

In the end, Ruth finds hope in the family's decision to move into a bigger house in a better neighborhood. She decides to keep her baby. Even though she will still have to work hard to support her family, she feels hopeful that a fresh start will be good for everyone.

Some Important Quotes

Let's go through the play and how Ruth Younger is portrayed throughout, act by act.

We'll start with Act One, scene one:

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 anymore. He needs this chance, Lena.

This quote shows us how worried Ruth is about her marriage. She knows how unhappy Walter is with his life, and with his job. She's trying to persuade Lena to give Walter the money he needs to invest in the liquor store, and finally become his own boss. She hopes that this will help their relationship improve.

Well, I ain't got no fifty cents this morning…I don't care what teacher say. I ain't got it. Eat your breakfast, Travis.

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