Lena Younger, who is in her sixties, is undoubtedly a faithful matriarch of her kin. Lena, affectionately known as “Mama” and mother to both Walter Lee and Beneatha, is a hardworking, strong, and resilient woman. Her commitment to Christianity demonstrates this. Furthermore, Younger has a strong urge to improve the well-being of her kin. As a result, in order to help them, she works as a domestic house cleaner. Regardless of the changes in her life, she adheres to conservative beliefs. Many people consider her to be the “Nobel bearer” from “Southwest Africa.” Lena depicts all African American women who had a dream in life at a time where racism, discrimination and poverty were common among African Americans. Therefore, the paper traces Lena’s development throughout the narrative.
To begin with, Lorraine Hansberry describes Lena Younger as a humble, hardworking and family-loving woman. From the name Lena, it is evident that her family relied (leaned) on her for support. Her character rotates around the way she treats her family with compassion. Also referred to as “Mama”, Lena Younger plays a significant role in uniting the entire family (Mays 1446). With no significant dreams of her own, she lives in the dreams of her children and grandchild. Being the matriarch of the family, she exudes a full bodied and strong woman. She possess great pride in her children in spite of the fact that she works as a domestic maid. To add on, Lena’s behavior depicts a conservative view when she overlooks her husband’s chauvinistic habits. She believes that submission is important in liberating her family from the claws of her husband. Lena’s character develops through her relation with Travis, her grandson. Moreover, her compassionate nature is emphasized by the way she treats Travis (Mays 1446).
Mama’s selfless nature is evident throughout the story. She struggles to connect with her children due to her extremely religious views. The author calls her “Mama” due to her self-sacrificing struggle for her children. Moreover, the novelist uses the word “Mama” to bring hope and comfort to the family. After the death of her abusive husband, mama’s wish to improve the livelihood of her children gets her to receive an insurance check enough to secure a house (Mays 1447). She donates part of the money to her church irrespective of the little wealth that she had. Lena’s profound belief saves her day-to-day struggle. Her strength reinvigorates even after the loss of both her husband and her baby.
Lena Younger humble personality is supplemented with the word “plant”. Essentially, the plant referred to is one that grows with hope and oppression and this is comprehended in Lena’s personality throughout the play. Lena’s life is over and done with hardships and tests, a clear representation of how a plant in pursuit for growth thrives on tough land and scorching sun. ‘The plant’ fronts herself for the betterment of her children. For instance, Lena had no dream for her own although she envisaged those of her children (Mays 1448). At the end of the tory, Hansberry writes, “Like her plant, they are far from perfect, but still there is hope for them yet.” In addition, she plays the role of a man by fending for her family.
Lena can be described as a dreamer due to her persistence, hope and hard work. She dreams of moving out of the ghetto and getting a house where children can play. Sadly, her dream is deferred when they moved to the current apartment that Youngers inhabit. Every day, the thought of moving wakes her up to go and look for money to achieve her dream. No matter how much she and her late husband tried, they could not make their dream a reality. Hansberry paints a picture of Lena’s apartment as compacted and dusky with a “single window”. It is conspicuously the only light source, one that “fights its way through.” The black community yearned for freedom in their lives. However, changing the times meant that money became elusive and difficult to acquire. Youngers’ home represents the only hope they have (Mays 1449). Mama is accustomed to suffering and hardship but she could not allow the world to disturb her inner peace. For instance, after the death of her baby, she still insists on following her dreams. Eventually, her husband’s death presented the first opportunity to realize her dream.
Her relationship with both white and black community reveals her true character as humble and tolerant. Mama’s dream was to buy a house in a better neighborhood. The house that she eyes happens to be in a primarily white neighborhood. Blacks are not welcomed in this community but she relates well with all the white people that she encounters throughout the play. To add on, Lena’s character is explained by the way he handles the conflict between Walter and his sister. Walter’s desires and dream turns to obsession. He anticipates anxiously for the insurance money. His talks about it are endless to the extent that he argues with his sister. This issue then rises to a point where he suggest to his wife, a ploy to get Mama to sign the check needed in his business venture.
To add on, Lena’s source of power is derived from her strong belief in Christianity and family. She is very strict in her faith and depends on God for every decision that she makes. In fact she gives God credit for her breathe and most importantly, her family. Mama did not tolerate any disrespect to God. Her deep religious conviction helps her to fight the psychological and physical battle that she was going through. At her lowest point, Lena asks God to be her strength.
Although most of Lena’s character is faultless, it is clear from the writing that she is self-righteous. She imparts her beliefs and thoughts on her daughter and son. Mama was a believer and therefore, everyone in her family had to become a believer. Mother/daughter conflict is evident because Mama and Beneath have opposing views of life. Lena’s generation considers the man as the head of the family but Beneatha disagrees with this subservient ideology. Also, Beneath’s dream of formal education is supported by Mama, but not in full. Lena teaches her daughter that formal education is good but it should not make her disrespect her family. Although this breeds good behavior, her approach is forceful because most of her daughters ideals conflicted with her traditional family values. On a positive note, they are both united by the desire to be successful in the United States of America (Mays 1447).
Younger reveals a new personality when confronted by Beneatha’s remarks about God. Beneatha’s criticism on Christianity makes her angry and uncontrollable. In fact, she goes so far as to slap Beneatha for questioning her religious beliefs (Mays 1447). At some point, Beneatha argues that God does not exist. Secondly, she is also worried about her son’s obsession with money and she disapproves it. Her flawless and perfect personality is ruined by the way she mistrusts her son. Younger’s faith is put to the test when she trusts her son with the insurance money. At first, she loses her trust when Walter misplaces the money but her faith is redeemed when he refuses Mr Lidner’s money.
Lastly, the story explains Lena’s guiding principles and incorruptible character by exploring the theme of racial discrimination. Her conservative views are clear when she speaks of the disapproval of her husband’s chauvinistic behavior Moreover, the house that Mama was looking to buy was in a predominantly white neighborhood. When the governing body sends a representative to buy their house, she refuses the offer. Unluckily, Walter goes back to renegotiate the bribe. However, Mama insists that she would not compromise her morals, irrespective of the coercion by Lindner. Lena’s bold and defiant personality sums up the character development in the story.
To conclude, the paper sequentially analyses Lenah’s character development throughout the story. The author expounds the writings by describing her personality as bold, loving, humble and hardworking. Principally, Lena Younger emphasizes on family and love throughout the narrative. The importance of family is the exclusive motive. The family goes through both social and economic struggles throughout the play but they unite eventually. Mama’s strong emphasis on unity teaches them values while still keeping them together. Ultimately, the family merges to put their family issues before their own.
Mays, Kelly J. A Raisin in the Sun. 2016. Print.