The Piano Lesson Essay

2324 words - 10 pages

Kelton Oberle
English 102
Professor Carlberg
May 2, 2014

The Inter-locking Connection Between the Piano and the Ghost

Through extensive review of The Piano Lesson, it can be believed that the Piano, a item treasured by the Charles family, is embodied by the ghost of Sutter, attempting to keep the piano in the Charles family name.

In 1619 the Dutch introduced the first captured Africans, to America, to aid in the production of crops such as tobacco. (History.com) Through out the years of the slave trade, the south continued to import slaves due to the huge demand for their labor. The life of a slave was not a life worth living. Living conditions such as basic sanitation, health, and ...view middle of the document...

Lise Kildegaard, author of White Students Meet Black History in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, associates Boy Willie’s need to buy land and be a farmer instead of holding a city job to his free willed spirit that is prevalent in the story. One of his main characteristics is that Boy Willie has the ability to persuade people into doing the things that he wants them to do. An example of this can be found in Act II, Scene 1; where Boy Willie persuaded Lymon, his friend and accomplice, to buy Boy Willie’s suit. This particular suit Boy Willie claimed had a “magical effect on the ladies”. Another example of Boy Willie’s persuasive characteristic is in Act II, Scene 3; when Boy Willie steals Lymon’s conquest by smooth talking her into leaving with him.

Another prominent character in The Piano Lesson is Berniece. Berniece is the eldest child of the Charles family, now working as a housekeeper for a wealthy family. Throughout her life she has experienced many tragedies, first the death of her and Boy Willie’s Mother, Mama Ola, then the murder of her husband Crawley. Crawley being killed at the hands of Boy Willie’s plot to steal lumber, Crawley being the one to get caught by the land owner and shot. The tragic death raised conflict between Bernice and her brother, which inevitably sets the tone for the continuum of the story. After such tragedies the only positive influence in Bernice’s life is her daughter, Maretha.
Through Bernice’s trying experiences, that of the death of her mother and husband, the only thing that kept her from falling into depression was families sacred piano. Being an iconic symbol of the play, the dated 137 year old piano had the faces of Berniece and Boy Willie’s family linage carved into it’s sides. This in part due to the original owners request. Author of Call-and-Response: Parallel “Slave Narrative” in August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson,” Devon Boan states that: “it [the piano] was important enough enough for black men to die for it, and it was important enough for white men to kill for it.”

The previous remarks gives great emphasis on the importance the piano will play in the story. The piano was an anniversary gift, given to Miss. Ophelia, the wife of Bernice and her brother’s slave owner, the original home to the piano. However, in order to gift the piano to his wife, the slave owner had to sell one and a half slaves. The Miss Ophelia grew accustomed to the slaves presence so when her husband sold them, the wife attempted to trade the piano back for the slaves to return to plantation. When the craftsman, the man who built the piano, refused her plea, Miss. Ophelia fell desperately ill. The slave owner called over Berniece and Boy Willie’s great grandfather to carve the faces of the slaves sold, his wife and child, into the piano. Once the carvings were completed, added were the faces of his parents and important scenes from their family history. (Act 1, Scene 2 pg. 22)

To Berniece, this piano is...

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