Essay on 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
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The piano is in fact an extension of herself and this connection is emphasised by the fact that the longest gaze in the film is given not to a man looking on a woman but to a woman gazing on a supposedly inanimate object. This gaze emphasises the isolation that she herself feels at this moment.

Literature is strewn with references to pianos 6 and its feminine characteristics make it an obvious symbol of the vulnerability and treatment of women. It assumes a feminine role in The Piano. Men of both cultures treat it roughly: Maori manhandle it through the bush, and thump unmusically on it when it is moved to Stewart's house; Stewart keeps time coarsely on its frame as Flora plays for him. Baines' acquaintances too, clearly regard it as unmanly to learn to play the piano. The physicality of the piano and its connection to Ada's body is emphasised on many occasions by both Ada and Baines: by Baines who bargains parts of Ada's piano in return for parts of her body he is given permission to touch and see and who, in Ada's absence, strips naked to delicately and lovingly dust the piano; by Ada writing on the A key "Ada loves George"; and when barricaded into the house by Stewart and cannot see Baines in person, she removes a key (G) from the piano and inscribes on it "Dear George, you have my heart. Ada McGrath.".

Ada communicates in three ways: through Flora by
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