Cindy Her Professor Davidson English 10221 March 2005 The Piano Lesson: A Deeper Look Winner of multiple awards such as the Tony Award, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize, August Wilson is known most for his forceful cultural plays. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Wilson was born to a white father that later abandoned his family, and a black mother. Wilson dropped out of school in the ninth grade after being accused of plagiarism. Wilson after went to public libraries and read various books; this was an initiation for Wilson and his successful future. When Wilson first started writing he didn't think he was able to write his own works because of such great writers before him. "Quote black literature criticism".
However Wilson has managed to accomplish great works such as his second Pulitzer Award winning play, The Piano Lesson. The play introduces an outstanding and dynamic cultural view of many black Americans in the twentieth century. It conveys a family feud that is set off by a piano, a miraculous piano. In The Piano Lesson, August Wilson introduces two siblings, Boy Willie Charles and Berniece Charles Crawley, set in 1937.
Wilson first reveals that Boy Willie lives in Mississippi, and Berniece lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (set of the play). This identification of the two allows the audience and reader to know that there is and will be a difference between the two siblings. The play is about the two siblings and their conflict between the piano. During slavery time, Boy Willie and Bernieces' grandfather's (Willie Boy Charles) slave owner Sutter had exchanged their grandmother and uncle for the piano as a gift for his wife.
After getting worn out of the piano, Sutter's wife missed her slaves so much, Sutter had Willie Boy to hand-carve the faces of his wife and son's faces on the legs of the piano. However, Willie Boy didn't stop there; he carved all of their ancestors on to the piano. The conflict between Boy Willie and Berniece is set off when Berniece's husband dies due to stealing the piano with Boy Willie. Because of this, Berniece blames her brother for the cause of her husband's death. She moves to Pittsburgh after and leaves Boy Willie. When the land that their ancestors worked on is offered to Boy Willie, Boy Willie decides to sell the piano as a down payment.
Boy Willie thinks that it " ll be better to have the land and make profit, rather than keep the piano in remembrance of their family. Boy Willie's idea crashes when he reaches Pittsburgh to a rejection from Berniece. To identify the importance of the play, Wilson introduces symbolism as a mean of the play. The symbols the piano, Sutter's ghost, and the song bring about the core of the play, and give a deeper look into The Piano Lesson. The play starts off with Boy Willie and his friend Lemon heading towards north to Pittsburgh.
Their intentions are to sell a truck load of watermelons, and most of all to convince Berniece into selling the piano. Boy Willie knows very well that Berniece will not give up the piano, but resumes with his journey to sell the piano. The piano in this play is the heart of the play. It is the main cause for the tension between Boy Willie and Berniece. The piano has brought upon many grieves to the Charles family, and has caused many lives. The piano is a symbol for every life that it has taken.
And for those lives, Berniece resists in letting go of the piano. Even though, it is the most important matter in the family. To Berniece, the piano is also a prize possession because of their ancestors, but most of all she refuses to sell it because their mother polished it everyday after their father died. Berniece accuses Boy Willie of not considering what their mother has done. But even after all that their family has gone through to finally claim the piano, Boy Willie wants to sell it anyway. The piano is the only family value that both siblings can hold on to and pass on to next generations.
Boy Willie feels the need to, instead of having the piano, have land to pass on to next generations. Boy Willie believes that there needs to be a change in the Charles family, and to look on to a better future; not to continue grief over the piano. Unfortunately the piano symbolizes more than what Boy Willie can gain by selling it. August Wilson uses Sutter's ghost as a symbol in the play to remind Berniece of how fortunate the piano is.
Before Boy Willie arrives to Pittsburgh, Do aker (lives with Berniece), Boy Willie and Berniece's uncle, sees Sutter's ghost play on the piano. Berniece though doesn't realize that Sutter's ghost was present before Boy Willie arrived, and blames Boy Willie for wanting to sell the piano to the cause of Sutter's ghost. To Berniece's surprise, Sutter's ghost was after Berniece all along. Surprisingly Sutter's ghost frightens Berniece and is brought upon sort of like a trick to make Berniece play on the piano again.
Even after Sutter has already died, the piano still means as much as priceless to him even as a ghost, but not without putting it into use. In the end, his ghost reminds Berniece of how fortunate she is to have the piano, and that she should put it to use. The song at the end of the play that Berniece plays after she is frightened by Sutter's ghost is a symbol of a spiritual need and family tie that Berniece has turned from after their mother died. When their mother died, Berniece never played the piano again, leaving the piano to sit in her home unused. She loses all ties with her heritage while in Pittsburgh and only praises the piano for it's meaning from what she sees on the outside of the piano. The song symbolizes how worthy the piano is; it has to be played.
The song is also what makes Sutter's ghost disappear at the end of the play. It plays a very important role in the play in that it was taught to Berniece by her mother. Perhaps her mother appeared to Berniece spiritually at the end of the play to urge Berniece to play the song again to get rid of Sutter's ghost. Having Sutter's ghost appear to Berniece doesn't only motivate her to play the song, but also sends Boy Willie back to Mississippi. After frightening both Berniece and Boy Willie, it is clear to the two that the piano is more significant than they both thought before. August Wilson does a very fine job by presenting three symbols: the piano, Sutter's ghost, and the song.
All three symbols play major roles and are the foundations of the play. The symbols here allows the reader and audience to tie the history of the Charles family and the feud between Boy Willie and Berniece together. It's a relation between the past and the present..