In his play, The Piano Lesson, August Wilson uses the piano to represent the Charles family's history as well as the struggle of African Americans to reclaim their identity, language, and culture in the generations following slavery.
The piano originally belonged to Robert Sutter, the owner of Bernice and Boy Willie's great grandmother and father. He bought it as an anniversary present for his wife, Miss Ophelia, by trading Berneice (great grandmother of Berneice and Boy Willie) and her grandfather for the piano from a neighboring slave owner, Mr. Nolander. At first she loved the piano, but soon she began to miss her slaves and fell sick that they were gone. As Doaker tells us when giving the history of the play:
Miss Ophelia got to missing my grandmother . . . the way she would cook and clean the house and talk to her and what not. And she missed having my daddy around the house to fetch things for her. So she asked to see if maybe she could trade back that piano and get her [slaves] back....
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