Piano Lesson Symbolism Essay

1743 Words Nov 7th, 2005 7 Pages
August Wilson's use of symbolism is an important and effective method of storytelling in The Piano Lesson. Symbolism is a technique used by writers to associate one object or idea with another. This technique is essential in The Piano Lesson due to the small-scale, rural environment in which the story is told. Important thoughts and ideas that Wilson is trying to portray about African-American society could never be expressed without symbolism, due to this small setting. There are many examples of symbolism in The Piano Lesson, but one can get a good idea of the importance of this technique by exploring some of the more prevalent ones. The most recognizable symbol throughout the story is the piano that the family owns. Another …show more content…
She looked just like that. And he put a picture of my daddy when he wasn't nothing but a little boy the way he remembered him." (44) The piano is a symbol of the family because it is literally covered with this history. Doaker states that Boy Charles "say it was the story of our whole family and as long as Sutter had it . . . he had us" (45) Under normal circumstances, a piano would not be something valuable enough to risk your life in order to steal. However, it is clear that Boy Charles viewed it as an important family heirloom, a symbol of their family history. By stealing the piano, he hopes to end the control that Sutter has over them. We see in the story that the ghost of Sutter is still haunting the family, through the piano. At the same time the piano is a symbol of family history, it is also a link to the slavery that the family had to endure. It is only through playing the piano, not through some christian exorcism, nor by physically fighting Sutter that they are able to drive off the ghost of Sutter. Boy Willie says "Hey Berniece… if you and Maretha don't keep playing on that piano… ain't no telling… me and Sutter both liable to be back." (108) By continuing to play the piano, Berniece and her daughter can continue to keep these dark links to their past away. Just like Mama Ola tendered the piano and taught Berniece about it, Berniece can teach Maretha about the importance of
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