The Piano Lesson

by August Wilson

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How is the piano central to the wrangling of the siblings in August Wilson's The Piano Lesson?

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In Wilson's The Piano Lesson, the piano is a key symbol in the play. It represents something different to each character, especially the two central characters. To Berniece, it has blood on it and represents their family heritage. Boy Willie sees the piano as a means to an end (he wants to sell it to buy Sutter's land). Because Berniece wants to keep the piano and Boy Willie wants to sell it, the piano becomes central to their wrangling or arguing throughout the play.  

Other characters also argue over the piano. Lymon questions Boy Willie when he tries to take the piano without Berniece's approval. Avery at first wants to sell it for his church, and then later wants Berniece to give it to his church and start a choir. Wining Boy wants to play it. Maretha is learning how to play it. The piano is central to almost every character and the debate between whether to keep it or sell it is the driving force behind the escalating tension in the play. Not only is the piano a symbol of the past or possible future, it is the main cause of the characters' conflict throughout the play.

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