Lena (Mama), an 8, the religious matriarch and head of the family. Gets a $10,000 insurance check from the death of her husband, on which the dreams of the other characters rest. For Ruth, a new house. For Walter, a new business and a way to become someone and make something of himself. For Beneatha, medical school. Lena wants to protect and ensure the best possible future for her family.
Lena starts the movie by saying "I'm not meddling" 3 times to Ruth, but she can't help herself. She's a strong 8 personality and feels protective of the family. Lots of evidence of her 8ness
- She tells Ruth she's not investing her husband's death check in a liquor store — an instinctual and firm answer in the style of 8
- She buys a house for the whole family to move into without consulting anyone, and in a white neighborhood no less (!!!)
- She makes the rules of the house — when Beneatha goes on about their not being a God, she slaps Beneatha and makes her repeat that in her house, there is
- She guiltlessly spills the beans to Walter about Ruth's pregnancy before Ruth does, and when Ruth admits that she's thinking about an abortion, Lena's monologue, gist of: "I'm waiting for you to be a man and say we don't take life" etc —
- Her whole dynamic with Walter — he wants to be respected as head of the family, but she is too powerful
- She entrusts Walter with the remaining $6500 — giving him a chance, even after he's been drinking for 3 days... the kind of chance an 8 would give
- She defends Walter and tells Beneatha off after Walter says he's about to sell back the house — her "mama bear" energy. She protects her kids, gives big love and defends the people she loves, even in the darkest moments
Ruth, a 6, a quiet yet emotionally strong mother and pregnant woman. Persevering, downtrodden, responsible — gets up and makes breakfast for Walter and travis, keeps things going, "the trouper," operating under stress and letting it show, but doing it anyway. Ironing and tending to the chores, even as she's exhausted, on the verge of fainting. Ruth's dream is to get away from this miserable and cramped little apartment infested with cockroaches. She is not at all pushy about her dream and doesn't ask Mama about it at all, in fact recommends that Mama splurge on a trip for herself (like a responsible, "I'm thinking about you not me" 6 — and btw not leaning in like a 2, more neutral and resigned to her fate like a 6). When Mama buys the house, she is ecstatic.
There is an argument that Ruth is a quiet 9, but she is too alert and watchful to be so. She's a 6.
Beneatha, a 4w3, dreams of being a doctor and discovering who she really is by avoiding assimilation and reconnecting to her roots. Her journey is both "forward" and "backward," in the sense that she is reaching higher professionally than others in her family have done before (forward) while simultaneously reaching further "backward" to explore African culture. Her identity crisis is of course bigger than just her character — the tension between assimilation and reconnecting to African roots is a major theme of the movie, further embodied by her two courters — George, a preppy college boy who goes to the theater and assimilates into white culture; and Joseph Asagai, who is so "African" that Mama can't even pronounce his name. And of course, Mama is so much an American now, 5 generations deep in this country, descended from slaves, and uneducated, that she doesn't have much of an interest in her African roots. Anyway, Beneatha, a 4w3, is overtly trying to be “true to herself.” She spurns assimilation even as she aspires to become a doctor and she experiments with various forms of self-expression such as theater and guitar. She delights in trying on a Nigerian outfit and becoming a "Queen of the Nile." Her 3 wing makes her ambitious, not settling to be just another laborer like the other members of her family. But her 4-ish “I am going to be myself” theme dominates.
Walter is probably a 7. While his ambitions to "be somebody," to become more than his father was, to make something of himself has a 3-ish flavor, it can't be pinned to just 3-ness. 3s don't have a monopoly on ambition, and Walter wants to transcend the racial and socio-economic situation that he and the rest of the black community finds themselves in. Walter hears white boys he chauffeurs talking about investments all day long and a friend of his even started a dry cleaning business that grosses $100k per year. He wants out of his circumstance and he is willing to make a reckless bet on what seems like his only chance.
Walter is uninhibited in his expressiveness and lights up the room when he is having fun, like when he dances with his wife. He can be quite demanding and unselfconscious in his temper tantrums, like a 7 and unlike a 3. Walter seems to be a 7 a the end of his rope... he's lost the capacity for sunshine and becomes childish, dismissive, and hurtful in the style of a 7. "Who cares about you anyway." He escapes to drinking, makes no attempt to hide his foibles, and even skips out on work without calling in (unlike a 3).
The 7→5 security point (where 7s become cynical, provocative, and dark) is clear throughout the movie, but especially in his final breakdown when he is ready to sell back the house.
(Btw, Walter and Mama's misunderstanding can also be understood through a lens of Spiral Dynamics... Mama, coming from Blue, with a childhood memory of segregation and even more profound inequality, is a "stay the course," be faithful, work hard, and make your way slowly into the sunlight kind of a lens. Walter, the product of 5 generations of Blue, find himself with more potential for economic success than any of his ancestors, yet is held frustratingly held back by circumstance. In his job as a chauffeur, he finds not dignity and the promise of a better future for his child, but a trap, a ceiling that artificially constrains his success. He is inhabiting an Orange mentality but living in a world still operating in a racist and socio-economically entrenched Blue paradigm that hadn't yet given way to Orange opportunity for all.)