The Piano Lesson by August Wilson is taking place in Pittsburg because many Blacks travelled North to escape poverty and racial judgment in the South. This rapid mass movement in history is known as The Great migration. The migration meant African Americans are leaving behind what had always been their economic and social base in America, and having to find a new one. The main characters in this play are Berniece and Boy Willie who are siblings fighting over a piano that they value in different ways. Berniece wants to have it for sentimental reasons, while Boy Willie wants it so he can sell it and buy land. The piano teaches many lessons about the effects of separation, migration, and the reunion of Black families.
To some people when they see a piano they would just think someone plays it while others see the meaning and history behind it. In the Piano Lesson the main symbol is the piano in Berniece’s home. The piano has a lot of meaning behind it and has been through a lot. This piano has made it all the way from the South to the North, which wasn’t easy. Berniece brought the piano miles from where it was because it meant so much to her. The carvings on this piano are magnificent they represent all of her ancestors. The blood and sweat that were put into making this piano means so much more than just something you play is amazing: “ Willie Boy carved all this. He got a picture of his mama… Mamma Esther… and his daddy, Boy Charles. He got all kinds of things that happened with our family” (1183). Instead of carving what Sutter asked he made the whole piano about the history of his family. After the carving was done, the piano became a monument to his family’s past.
This play illustrates...
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...s, “ Hey Berniece … if you and Maretha don’t keep that piano … ain’t no telling … me and Sutter both liable to be back” (1230). The piano truly is the soul of their family and now that is proven. Boy Willie decided that it was better off staying at Berniece’s home as long as she continued playing it.
The Piano Lesson claims that African Americans can’t ever forget their heritage of slavery, because the experience of this painful past lie pride and strength. The piano was the main symbol of this play it represented the struggles the Charles family endured and other African Americans during this awful time. Wilson really opened the eyes to many people who before never realized how horrible this time period was. If you lived during this time would you hold onto an object that has a lot of meaning behind it, or would you sell it and buy something you’ve always wanted?
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