The Piano Lesson
Do you ever have one of those days when you remember your parents taking away all of your baseball cards or all of your comic books because you got a bad grade in one of your classes? You feel a little depressed and your priced possession has been stolen. This event is the same as August Wilsons, The Piano Lesson. The story is about a sibling rivalry, Boy Willie Charles against Berniece Charles, regarding an antique, family inherited piano. Boy Willie wants to sell the piano in order to buy the same Mississippi land that his family had worked as slaves. However, Berniece, who has the piano, declines Boy Willies request to sell the piano because it is a reminder of the history that is their family heritage. She believes that the piano is more consequential than hard cash Boy Willie wants. Based on this idea, one might consider that Berniece is more ethical than Boy Willie.
Bernieces action is more ethical because a familys history can never replace a land. In one of their arguments, Berniece tells Boy Willie, Money cant buy what that piano cost. You cant sell your soul for money (50). Berniece is trying to open up Boy Willies mind by telling him that their familys legacy can seize their imaginations after years, decades, and centuries of blissfulness and sorrow. Each of their ancestors stories is a great novel that really happened, even if it is a good or a bad chapter.
Berniece tries to show Boy Willie that the piano experienced more than pleasant events during those days. She interprets their Mama Olas pain by saying, Mama Ola polished this piano with her tears for seventeen years. For seventeen years she rubbed on it till her hands bled…she rubbed and cleaned and polished and prayed over it…seventeen years worth of cold nights and an empty bed. For what? For a piano? For a piece of wood? (52). The tragedy of their Mama Ola is an almost mythic quality in their unified imagination, but the time has robbed it in Boy Willies face. He forces himself to think of his Mama Olas suffering as a metaphor than an actual event.
Fortunately, Boy Willie sees everything that Berniece has been trying to tell him. He finds out about this when Sutters ghost came to the Charles house who tried to stop him from taking the piano away and started a big chaos. While the whole thing was happening, Berniece goes up to the piano and started playing gallantly. She asked for their help. Mama Berniece, Mama Ola, Mama Esther, and Papa Boy Charles. The play ends when Boy Willie tells Berniece, Hey Berniece…if you and Maretha dont keep playing on that piano…aint no telling…me and Sutter both liable to be back (108). Saying these words, Boy Willie probably understands the real piano lesson. It is a reminder that blacks or minorities are often deprived both of the symbols for their past and of opportunity in the present.
In conclusion, one might say that Berniece is the only character in the play that has a sensible, defensive, nostalgic personality. Above all, she knows that life is uncertain, the future unknowable, the unthinkable possible.
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The Piano Lesson