Describe the complications of the tension of "racial ownership." Where do other characters fit into this?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the tension of racial ownership relates to how different characters understand their own past and the condition of slavery.  This tension is brought out by the piano, itself.  The very idea that this piano is a reflection of slavery, representing the slave experience. The tension regarding racial ownership is present in this object itself:  Something intended for beautiful music, capable of redemption, but forever "marked" with the stain of slavery.  This is an embodiment of how slavery's racial ownership and tension impacts the characters in the narrative.  Berniece struggles between understanding her own past in both psychological and racial elements and not being trapped by them.  Boy Willie Charles' own attitude towards how the piano can be sold and the past discarded represents another element of "racial ownership," something that he must grudgingly accept is larger than his own sense of self.  Doaker Charles represents what it means to engage in "racial ownership," as he represents the source of the piano's story, almost reflecting how one way to navigate the tension is within the idea of sharing it with others.  In this, different characters navigate through different challenges within the tension of racial ownership of the past and its impact on their present and the future.

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The Piano Lesson

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