Summary and Analysis
An hour later, having no knowledge of the Youngers' financial reversals, Asagai drops by the apartment, hoping to help with the packing, but instead he is greeted by a changed Beneatha. Seemingly, she is in shock. Very simply, she states, "He gave away the money." Her previous positive idealism has been replaced by a loss of faith in humanity. The money that should have financed her medical education is gone.
She wants and expects sympathy from Asagai, but instead, he upbraids her for her materialistic outlook. (Later, in her often quoted "measure him right" speech, Mama too will challenge Beneatha's egocentric perceptions concerning the loss of the money.) Beneatha listens, then agrees to consider Asagai's proposal of marriage, along with his invitation that she move to Nigeria to practice medicine.
Later, Walter comes in and begins searching frantically for Lindner's telephone number while ignoring Beneatha's insults. Mama suggests that they give up on their dream of moving and that they make themselves satisfied with the apartment in which they are presently living, a suggestion that seems to upset Ruth more than anyone else.
Shortly thereafter, we learn that Walter has decided to accept Lindner's offer of paying them generously not to move in. Aghast, the three Younger women watch Walter rehearse an exaggerated servility with which he plans to greet Lindner. However, moved by Mama's word about black pride, Walter changes his mind and disappoints Lindner. He tells him that he and his family have decided to live in Clybourne Park.
Through Asagai, we see that the African struggle for independence is similar to Walter's struggle for independence; however, at the same time, Hansberry expresses her own fears that the new black leadership of the emerging African nations might prove to be as corruptly oppressive as the previous colonial rulers. Ironically, Walter achieves his independence — that is, he comes "into his manhood" without the money that has been his obsession throughout the play. Previously, Walter stated that his self worth was predicated on the amount of money he could garner or generate. He is broke now and feeling foolish over his egregious error, but he has a more realistic and mature vision of what independence means and demands of individuals. It is also through Asagai that we are made aware of the Western definition of success, as he questions the happiness one should expect through money gained because of someone's death.
Hansberry also uses the final scene to show us the maturation of each character, including Mama, who has learned while teaching. When she tells Beneatha that the true test of love is the ability to love a person when he is at his lowest, we realize that Mama has had time to reflect upon this fact herself.
Monsieur le petit bourgeois noir Beneatha is so angry at Walter Lee for having entrusted their family's money to the unscrupulous Willy that she mockingly derides Walter Lee for having shown such mercantile naivete. To Beneatha, it is apparent that Walter Lee's financial folly was due to his total lack of knowledge about the workings of the business world; she taunts him by referring to him as "Monsieur le petit bourgeois noir," meaning "Mister [black] small businessman." She goes on to taunt him by calling him other names, such as "Symbol of the Rising Class," "Entrepreneur," "Titan of the System," and "Chairman of the Board," none of which Walter is and few of which Walter has ever heard. By calling Walter Lee "Monsieur le petit bourgeois noir," Beneatha gives us proof that she is oppressively pedantic since she is clearly showing off her learning and is bragging (once again) about her college student status. She speaks mostly for her own emotional benefit, for she knows that Walter has no knowledge of the meaning of her words in French, just as he barely understands the meaning of the insults she hurls at him in English.
peachy keen, as the ofay kids say This is a reference to the racial differences in language, most especially in the area of slang. When Raisin opened in 1959, the expression "peachy keen" was common to white teenagers, as was "swell," both of which were used to refer to something that was "good," while in the black communities, "boss," "zanzy" or "bad" were used to refer to something "good." In addition, the word "ofay" was a slang word used in the black communities at that time to refer to a white person. (It is the word "foe" in the nonsense language of Pig Latin, in which the first letter of a word is placed at the end with the addition of the long "A" sound. "Pig" would become "Igpay"; in order to refer to a white person as a "foe," one would say "ofay.") This is somewhat of a testament to the racial climate of the country in 1959, when fears of reprisals often had blacks concealing their negative feelings in the code words of slang. Translated then, "Peachy keen, as the ofay kids say" means "That's very good — as the white kids would say."
Lena Eggleston is a high-minded thing Mama is so distraught over Walter's having lost the family's remaining money that, at first, she decides against moving into Clyboume Park and tries to make herself satisfied with the thought of remaining in her cramped Southside apartment. Mama reminisces about her youth and how she had always wanted more than what had been offered to her. She realizes now, she says, in her moment of defeat, that she was foolish to set her sights so high. She says that everyone around her used to laugh at her; they would say, "That Lena Eggleston is a high-minded thing. She'll get her due one day." Mama implies that perhaps her misfortune now is the "due" that her detractors warned her of.
sharecroppers Many blacks were sharecroppers in the south before the mass exodus of blacks to the northern cities. A sharecropper lives on someone else's farmland and pays, as his rent, a large share of the crop he yields from this farmland. Sharecroppers were, for this reason, poor; it was nearly impossible to clear up the initial debt incurred by renting someone else's land and farming it for profit, the bulk of which went to the landowner.
You done wrote his epitaph too Mama says this to Beneatha when Beneatha speaks so harshly against Walter Lee upon learnlng that he lost the family's remaining money. Beneatha is so relentlessly unforgiving toward Walter Lee that Mama is forced to defend him. She makes Beneatha consider this question: who is Beneatha to write his epitaph — to write him off as though he no longer exists just because she is so angry at him?