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ACT I, SCENE 2: The following morning
This is the day when the insurance check is expected to arrive. Mama and Beneatha are busy doing spring cleaning. Travis is eager to go down to play after finishing his chores. Joseph calls Beneatha, and she invites him over. Ruth comes in and sadly tells everyone that she is pregnant and contemplating having an abortion, a thought that upsets Mama; but since Ruth does not look like she feels well, Mama takes her to her room.
When there is commotion on the street below, the women look out and see that the kids are chasing rats. Travis is, therefore, called back upstairs. Mama again thinks how she wants to move from the neighborhood. Soon Joseph Asagai arrives, bringing Beneatha African records and robes. When Mama enters the room, she is introduced to Asagai. Travis is sent out to do a small chore.
When Travis returns, he is holding the insurance check, which he has found in the mailbox. Walter enters and immediately asks about the arrival of the insurance money. Learning that it has come, he seizes this opportunity to discuss his business plans, but Mama ignores Walter completely. Walter had also previously ignored Ruth's attempts to tell him about her pregnancy, and it is Mama who now informs him of it and her desire to get an abortion. Walter is surprised to learn that his wife is pregnant and is not worried about the abortion, for he thinks that Ruth would never really have one. Mama insists that he act like a man, like Big Walter, and tell Ruth that she cannot have the abortion. Walter, however, is only concerned about the insurance check. Mama is taken aback to learn that his desire for money overshadows his concern for Ruth and the new baby. In frustration, Walter leaves the house.
It is a Saturday morning, and the women are cleaning the house. Although they are poor and their home is small, Mama has instilled a sense of pride in all of them about keeping it nice. Even though the furniture is worn out, she still insists that it be polished. When Asagai calls Beneatha, she is hesitant to have him over, for she knows that Mama would not want the house to be seen in disarray.
Willy, one of the men in the liquor store venture, phones Walter. Although this man is never seen in person during the play, there is regular mention of him in conversation. Through what Walter says over the phone, it is obvious that Willy has asked about the insurance money. After hanging up the phone, Walter makes a quick exit. He is so involved in thinking about the business deal that he thinks of nothing else. He has not even realized that his wife is pregnant.
Beneatha is pleased when Asagai, an African, phones her and agrees to come over. After she hangs up, she takes time to tell Mama about the African culture; like most blacks of her time, Mama knows little about her native country, and Hansberry uses the play as an opportunity to give all people some Background Information. When Asagai arrives, it is clear that he and Beneatha genuinely care for each other in spite of their philosophical differences. Asagai is concerned about her liberated attitudes and teases her for having straightened her hair. While Beneatha is a little confused about her identity, Asagai seems to know exactly who he is and what he wants.
In the conversation between Beneatha and Asagai, Hansberry shows her sense of humor. Beneatha, being witty, tells Asagai that the Youngers suffer from acute ghetto-itis. They are tired of their poverty and their terrible quarters. Most of the conversation, however, is more serious as Asagai tries to convince Beneatha that she has abandoned her heritage. He brings her Nigerian robes to wear and tries to convince her to be proud of being African. He tells her that the world's most liberated women are not really liberated because they talk too much about it.
Ruth enters and tells the women that she is pregnant. Not excited about the thought of another child, she admits that she has been to see a woman who performs abortions. Mama is upset to think that Ruth would consider such a thing, but Beneatha realizes that there is no place for another child in the cramped apartment.
When Travis finally brings in the long awaited insurance check, Mama expresses her sentiments, stating that it is no replacement for the loss of Big Walter. Unlike her son, she is able to put money in its proper perspective. When he returns home and finds out that the check has arrived, Walter can think of nothing else. When Ruth tries to talk to him about her pregnancy, he refuses to listen, and they have another fight.
Mama criticizes her son for his lack of concern about his wife. He justifies his behavior by saying that he is thinking about the future, which he can see stretched out as clear as day. The main focus of the future for him is earning lots of money. Mama tells him there are other things in life. She then breaks the news of Ruth's pregnancy to Walter and tells him that she is considering an abortion. The good news of the check is somewhat spoiled by the thought of another lost life.