How does August Wilson use blues music to portray society before the civil rights movement?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The playwright August Wilson uses blues as a device for exploring the melodic, melancholic, resilient, and hopeful inner lives of black people at a time when they sorely lacked political representation and socioeconomic freedoms (even more so than today). He often referred to blues music as his "aesthetic," injecting it figuratively into his stagecraft. Many of his characters enact the blues without singing it; blues is woven into their movements, lyrical diction, and aural qualities. Wilson's plays are also conversational to the point of being mistaken, often, as trivial. This impression of triviality is partly intended to frustrate his unattuned audience members and force them to look more closely for meaning.

Wilson turned away from the normative narrative structures of his profession, choosing to encode meaning in his characters's personalities, ideas, and drives rather than in their explicit discourse. In all of these ways and more, Wilson suggests that the forms of black subjectivity that lived in the time before the civil rights movement were dignified, valid, and beautiful—this is not despite, but because of their differences from white and other hegemonic ways of thinking.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team