The Piano Lesson Questions and Answers
by August Wilson

Start Your Free Trial

How is the piano a symbol of the Charles' family spirituality in The Piano Lesson by August Wilson?

Expert Answers info

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write4,539 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

The Piano Lesson by August Wilson centers, unsurprisingly, around a piano. This piano has a complicated history, but it begins as a simple musical instrument given as a gift to Ophelia Sutter by her husband, Robert. Sutter paid for the gift in trade; he traded two slaves for the piano. Those two slaves were members of the Charles family, the ancestors of the current keeper of the piano, Berniece Charles.

Because he lost his wife and son in the piano trade. Papa Boy Willie Charles asks permission, which he receives, to carve the faces of his wife and child as well as a kind of panorama of the Charles family history into the piano. It is a kind a family tree, of sorts.The piano stays with the Sutters through the Emancipation, but later it is stolen by the Charles family. They justified the criminal act by stating that their family would never be free until the piano (with their representative legacy carved into it) was in the hands of a Charles.

This is the history of the piano, but this does not tell us everything we need to know about it. Berniece always had a kind of spiritual connection to the piano. When her mother was alive, Berniece would play the piano and something unusual would happen. She says:

[W]hen I played [the piano] she could hear my daddy talking to her.

Somehow the piano has the ability to speak on behalf of dead family members. That sounds rather other-worldly, of course, and in a way it is. In another way, it is not surprising that Berniece's mother would hear her husband's voice, as he is the member of the Charles family who lost his life in the effort to recover the piano. The piano is his symbolic voice, and Berniece's mother's tears are now part of the piano.

There is a kind of spirituality connected with...

(The entire section contains 634 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial