Symbolism In August Wilson's The Piano Lesson

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In August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson”, the major conflict is the struggle between siblings Berniece and Boy Willie on what to do with their piano. The piano has a long history with the family. It began as a present for a white woman named Miss Ophelia, and was exchanged for Berniece’s grandfather and great grandmother. Miss Ophelia had Berniece’s great grandfather carve pictures into the piano, and he ended up carving an entire collection of images from the family history. To Berniece and Boy Willie, the piano is both a physical and symbolic representation of the past, but beyond that their views differ immensely. Berniece refuses to sell or even touch the piano, preferring to mourn and keep the family’s history to herself. She does not share her heritage with her daughter. On the other hand, Boy Willie is eager to sell the piano to buy Sutter’s land. Berniece and Boy Willie both have valid claims, but Boy Willie’s view is the one that best embraces his heritage, while making something of it. Interestingly, August Wilson appears to display overall support for Berniece’s view.…show more content…
For Boy Willie, taking back the land from Sutter, who has recently drowned in a well, represents a role switch between the black and white man. Additionally, Boy Willie wants to create a future with the past he’s been given. He tells Berniece, "The only thing make that piano worth something is them carvings Papa Willie Boy put on there... Now, I'm supposed to build on what they left me" (1.2.160). He feels that taking back Sutter’s land, which his family was forced to work on, will truly honor his ancestors, along with giving him a chance at a prosperous life. Boy Willie recognizes his history, but wants to move on to his

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