Summary – Act Two, Scene Three
It is Saturday and this is the day the family is due to move. Before the curtain rises, Ruth’s voice can be heard: ‘Oh Lord, I don’t feel no ways tired! Children, oh, glory hallelujah!’ When the curtain rises, Ruth is in the living room packing and Beneatha enters and they talk. Ruth says that the first thing she will do in the new house is have a bath. Beneatha is absent-mindedly writing a note to pin to a crate that contains Mama’s china and has written it in large letters. She explains this as such: ‘I guess I always think things have more emphasis if they are big, somehow!’ Ruth points out how she and Walter have the same philosophy and says that he has changed lately. She explains that they have been to the movies and held hands afterwards.
Walter enters with a package and has a ‘new-found exuberance’. He puts a record on and encourages Ruth to dance with him. Beneatha calls them ‘old-fashioned Negroes’ and Walter does not get angry. He says even the NAACP takes a holiday sometime (implying she should do the same) and Ruth and Beneatha laugh.
The bell sounds and Beneatha answers the door to a middle-aged white man. He asks for Mrs Lena Younger and he is invited in. He is Karl Lindner and he tells them he is a representative of the Clybourne Park Improvement Association. He says how it was brought to their attention at the last meeting that ‘you people – or at least your mother’ has bought a property on Clybourne Street. Beneatha watches him closely as he explains that they have a welcoming committee for the new people, ‘and sort of give them the lowdown on the way we do things out in Clybourne Park.’ Beneatha sees the double meaning, which escapes Ruth and Walter.
Lindner then tells them they have a category for special community problems and explains hesitatingly about bombings and ugliness. He says trouble exists ‘because people just don’t sit down and talk to each other.’ He has Beneatha’s interest now, as well as Ruth’s and Walter’s. He goes on to say how those in the neighborhood are hard working and share a common background. He says racial prejudice does not come into it, but ‘for the happiness of all concerned’ they believe ‘Negro families are happier when they live in their own communities’. Beneatha reacts bitterly (about the Welcoming Committee) and Walter is dumbfounded. Lindner continues and says they are prepared to make them a generous offer. Beneatha says, ‘thirty pieces of silver and not a coin less!’ Lindner informs them they are prepared to buy their house and the family will gain financially.
Walter tells him to leave his house and turns his back as he walks to the door. Before he leaves, Lindner says he does not understand why ‘you people’ are reacting like this and says he does not know what they hope to gain by moving to a neighborhood where they are not wanted. He also makes a veiled threat that ‘people can get awful worked up when they feel their whole way of life and everything they’ve ever worked for is threatened’. Walter tells him to get out.
He leaves and they say nothing. When Mama and Travis enter, Beneatha tells them they have had a visit from the Welcoming Committee and Ruth and Walter giggle. All three joke that the committee cannot wait to meet her. Mama realizes what they mean and throws the card that Lindner left on to the floor and asks knowingly if he threatened them. Beneatha says they don’t do it like that anymore: ‘He talked Brotherhood. He said everybody ought to learn how to sit down and hate each other with good Christian fellowship.’ Beneatha and Walter then shake hands ‘to ridicule the remark’. Beneatha asks if they are worried they are going to eat them and Ruth says, no, ‘marry ‘em’.
Mama is fixing her plant so it does not get harmed on the journey and when Beneatha says, ‘that raggedy-looking old thing?’, Mama replies, ‘it expresses me’. Walter comes over and squeezes her. He kneels beside her and asks her if she knows what it means to climb up on the chariot. Mama is happy and when he sings she tells him (with pleasure) to get on with his work.
He gives her the package he brought in earlier and tells her to open it. It is the first present she has had, apart from at Christmas and does so slowly. One by one she takes out the brand new gardening tools. She then reads the note (from Beneatha, Ruth and Walter) which is addressed to ‘our Mrs Miniver’. Travis gives her a gardening hat and although it is considerably oversized, she puts it on.
The bell rings and Walter stiffens and looks at the door. Ruth asks him why he does not answer it and says, ‘cause sometimes it hard to let the future begin’. He then opens the door in jubilance and Bobo is standing there ‘with haunted frightened eyes’. Walter asks him where Willy is and Bobo says, ‘he ain’t with me’. Walter invites him in and still has not noticed anything untoward (whereas Ruth somehow senses death). Bobo explains haltingly that he and Willy did not put in as much money as Walter did. He mentions Springfield and Ruth (like a dead woman) asks what was supposed to happen there. Bobo tells her how he and Willy were going there to spread some money around to get their liquor licence more quickly, but he did not go. He was supposed to meet Willy at the station at 8 am yesterday, but Willy did not show up.
He tells them that Willy has gone. Walter asks what he means and looks anxiously at Ruth. He then grabs Bobo and shakes him, and says they have to find him. Walter wanders around the room as though looking for Willy or for help from God. He begins to crumple to the floor and Ruth covers her face in horror.
Beneatha and Mama enter as he is pounding the floor saying, ‘that money is made out of my father’s flesh’. Bobo leaves and Mama asks if he used Beneatha’s money too. He says yes, ‘it’s all gone’, and there is total silence. Mama looks at him without recognition and without thinking she starts beating him senselessly in the face. Beneatha stops it and Mama moves aimlessly away from both of them. This act ends as Mama looks up to God and asks Him for strength.
Analysis – Act Two, Scene Three
The theme of segregation predominates in this scene and Lindner’s visit is a vehicle for highlighting its existence in the North. As Beneatha points out, he uses the more modern approach of pretending to be a friend, and a Christian brother, instead of using the overt violence that Mama thought she had escaped from. Lindner’s presence in the play acts as a reminder that racism as segregation – as separate but never equal – appears in many forms and economic power is a lever for maintaining the divisions between different groups in society.
A further significant feature of this scene occurs when Walter learns that his friend, Willy, has betrayed him and taken the money earned from his father’s death. This deceit breaks Walter and his collapse to the floor, and the violence inflicted by Mama, gives a dramatic representation of his loss of status