What aspects of Boy Willie's character does the open scene illustrates? What aspects of his character are revealed later? What does the land represent to him?

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mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Boy Willie is 30 years old and has come to Pittsburgh from Mississippi to sell watermelons. His actions soon become clear on why he is there.

Boy Willie goes to see his sister and to tell her that Sutter is dead. His sister then blames Willie for pushing him in a well and runs off. She later says that she sees Sutter's ghost. Boy Willie has been serving time in prison in Mississippi. He has plans to sell the piano, that has been in his family for generations. It now belongs to his sister and she refuses to sell it. In the opening scene, we see that Boy Willie is rash and doesn't think before he does things.

Later on in the story we begin to see what Boy Willie really cares about. He wants to sell the piano and buy the land that Sutter had owned. The land was the land that his ancestors worked on as slaves. He believes that owning the land will make him just as important as the white man. All he cares about now is power and standing in the community. He doesn't care about family legacy. The land represents to him, the chance to prove that he can own land as a free person. He doesn't want just because his family worked on it, he wants for selfish reasons. He believes that the piano is actually his birthright from his father.

"If my daddy had seen where he could have traded that piano for some land of his own, it wouldn't be sitting up here now. He spent his whole life farming on somebody else's land. I ain't gonna do that. See, he couldn't do no better. When he come along he ain't had nothing he could build on. His daddy ain't had nothing to give him. The only thing my daddy had to give me was that piano. And he died over giving me that. I ain't gonna let it sit up there and rot without trying to something with it"

He said this showing that he thought his father owed it to him. In the end, however, he realizes that remembering the past and learning from our ancestors is truly important.

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