In The Piano Lesson by August Wilson, how is the South important to the drama?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The South is the home of slavery.  It is the birthplace of "the original sin," something that is carved on the piano, the narratives of the characters in the drama, as well as what it means to be African- American.  Wilson uses this in a couple of ways.  The first is that the South represents the realm where the characters endured the worst in consciousness.  Berniece and Boy Willie might not have lived through what it was to be a slave, but both of them have to wrestle with the implications of it.  When Doaker explains the basic premise of the piano and what it means, he does not flinch in describing the slavery experience as a part of it and the South is the home where all of this evident.  The other way in which Wilson ends up utilizing the South in the construction of his narrative is in the fact that the South is the place from which African- Americans leave in the Great Migration to the North.  There is an open sense of questioning about how things would have been different for African- Americans had they been able to partaken in the full realization of Reconstruction.  The reasons for their departure of the South, the one area they had known in America, is because of their marginalization from the promises and possibilities of Reconstruction.  In this, Wilson constructs the South as both home to some of the very worst in consciousness, but also a "home."  In this, the piano and the South represent the totality of being in the world.  Both a reminder of the pain and suffering in what it means to live in consciousness, but it is also one where one cannot simply sever it off from one's own being.  In this, the South represents those memories of revulsion and pain that force confrontation and understanding in one's own conception of the present and future.

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