The Symbolism of the Piano in The Piano

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The Symbolism of the Piano in The Piano The piano has been inextricably linked with the roles and expectations of women in British society since its advent in the mid 1700s to the late 1800s when rising standards of living made it more accessible to middle class society. Pianos were regarded as "secure icons of social distinction" 1 and a wife was viewed similarly as a possession of "privatization, success and respectability."2 Pianos were instrumental in both reinforcing gender roles and as delineators of class distinction thus perpetuating the class system. 3 While concentrating primarily on Ada, this essay will discuss the symbolism of the piano in The Piano expressed through the relationship with each of the four main characters of the film. I will also comment on the piano as a colonial representation of conquest. In one of the earliest scenes in The Piano, Ada waits with her young daughter for the arrival of her new husband and a party of Maori workers who will carry the their baggage to the house. On the empty beach in a new land, and alone with her daughter asleep beside her, she consoles herself by fingering her piano, still trapped within its wooden house. On Stewart's arrival the next day, he quickly rejects her plea to have the piano carried to Ada's new home or even to return to collect it. As the party climb a ridge behind the beach, Ada stands on a promontory and views the piano standing alone on the sand below her. Framed in the overpowering and commanding landscape of the harsh, unyielding New Zealand bush, the crafted wood and iron piano stands as an image of colonialism.4 However, the dominant image conveyed in the scene is one of loss, isolation and the separation of the pi... ... middle of paper ... ...ight and mocking "carnivalesque". (Politics of Voice, p.36). 8 The performance of music was to be "in private company" Music and Image, p.39 9 Hazel, Valerie The Politics of Voice and Jane Campion's Piano, p.30 10 As for instance when he offers four keys for them to lie together, she counters with five. 11 Gordon, Suzy "I clipped your wing, that's all": auto-erotism and the female spectator, p.202 12 "And the wind said 'remember how we used to play?' "Then the wind took her hand and said 'come with me.' "But she refused." This story suggests a change from a compliant Flora to an independent, free-thinking Flora whose choice is her own. 13 Edmond Abat quoted in Reading Readings 14 The piano was not previously at his house so it cannot really be termed a return. Baines' comment "I'm giving it back" refers more to possession than place.
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