What, specifically, do the carvings on the piano represent?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The carvings on the piano represent the past.  There is a very profound implication here.  On one hand, Miss Ophelia felt bad that the slaves to whom she had grown attached were now gone because of the piano.  When Boy Willie carves both Doaker's grandmother and father in the piano, he also carves the entire past of slavery and what it means to live with such a long, deep, and painful scar.  This casting of "the original sin" in the piano moves the object from merely a piano to a legacy of great implications.  It is here where the carvings end up representing what it means to endure a painful past.  In etching them on the piano, Boy Willie also ensures that the past never leaves.  As long as the piano is there, the past's pain and experience will be there as well.  The implications that Wilson ends up drawing from this is that the narratives of pain and suffering that are in the past are always with us.  There has to be a confronting and understanding them, looking at them for what they are and not running away from them.  It is here where Wilson is able to extract thematic implications from the carvings on the piano.

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The Piano Lesson

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