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The protagonist of the play is Walter Younger, a young, impoverished black man. He is the husband of Ruth and the son of Lena. Totally dissatisfied with his position in life, he longs to lead his family out of its poverty to live in a nice neighborhood outside the ghettos of South Chicago. To make his dreams come true, he immaturely and foolishly invests the insurance money from his father's death to open a liquor store. He also considers giving in to the threats of Mr. Lindner and not moving in to the white neighborhood.
Walter's main problem, or antagonist, is himself. Dreaming of a better life, he follows a foolish get-rich scheme, investing the family insurance money in a business venture against his mother's wishes. Additionally, he also considers giving in to the pressure applied by the whites who do not want Walter and his family to move in to their neighborhood.
The play reaches its climax when the Youngers learn that Willy has run off with all of the insurance money. This action causes Walter to grow up. He is forced to see the error of his ways, to face reality instead of living in a dream world, and to make some important, mature decisions.
The play is a tragic comedy. Although the insurance money is stolen by Willy, Walter is forced to grow up and become a realist. He stands up to Mr. Lindner and continues with the plan to move the family into the white neighborhood. He may have to struggle a lot to pay for the house, but he is brave in his effort to overcome his fears and try. At last, he is acting like his proud father, Big Walter. Additionally, Lena's dream of living in her own home comes true for her, and Ruth is proud of her husband's courage.