The Play

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All the action of the play takes place in the kitchen and parlor of Doaker Charles’s house, which, though sparsely furnished, has an old upright piano in the parlor. The piano’s legs are covered with mask-like figures, artfully carved in the manner of African sculpture.

When the play begins, it...

(The entire section contains 4947 words.)

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All the action of the play takes place in the kitchen and parlor of Doaker Charles’s house, which, though sparsely furnished, has an old upright piano in the parlor. The piano’s legs are covered with mask-like figures, artfully carved in the manner of African sculpture.

When the play begins, it is five o’clock in the morning and Boy Willie is at the front door banging and shouting. Doaker admits Boy Willie and Lymon, who have just arrived from the South with a truckload of watermelons. Boy Willie soon informs Doaker that Sutter, a descendant of the white family that once owned the Charles family, has died, that Sutter’s brother wants to sell Boy Willie the remaining one hundred acres of Sutter’s farm, and that he, Boy Willie, intends to sell the piano as a means of helping him buy the land. Doaker calmly tells him that Berniece “ain’t gonna sell that piano.”

After Berniece is heard screaming from upstairs because she has seen Sutter’s ghost, Maretha comes downstairs, greets Boy Willie, and plays a song for him on the piano. Soon, Avery Brown arrives and tells the story of how he has been called to preach. By scene’s end, Boy Willie confronts Berniece with his intention of selling the piano, to which Berniece rejoins that if he has come to Pittsburgh to sell the piano, he “done come up here for nothing.” As the scene ends, Boy Willie announces that “I’m gonna cut it in half and go on and sell my half.”

Scene 2 begins three days later, with Doaker and Winning Boy sitting around drinking and reminiscing about their lives. Boy Willie and Lymon enter, and, in a crucial scene, Doaker tells Lymon the story of how his grandmother, also named Berniece, and her little boy, who grew up to become Doaker’s father, were traded by their owner, Robert Sutter, to another white man for a piano that Sutter wished to give to his wife, Miss Sophie, on their wedding anniversary. Because Miss Sophie started missing her slaves and could not get them back, Sutter ordered pictures of Berniece and her son to be carved into the piano by one of his slaves, who also added pictures of other members of the family as well as of important family events. After Miss Sophie’s death, Doaker’s father, Boy Charles, became obsessed with the idea that he must take the piano away from Sutter. When he did and was found hiding in a railroad boxcar along with four hobos, the boxcar was set on fire. Not long afterward, the suspected murderers started falling down wells, and the legend was created that it was the ghosts of the boxcar who were doing the pushing. When Boy Willie and Lymon try to move the piano, the sound of Sutter’s ghost is heard, and then Maretha from upstairs screams at the sight of Sutter’s ghost.

In the first scene of act 2, Doaker tells Winning Boy that he too has seen Sutter’s ghost in the house. Boy Willie and Lymon come home to announce that they have had good luck selling the watermelons, Winning Boy convinces Lymon to buy his old but fancy clothes, and Lymon prepares to go out with Boy Willie to find some women.

In scene 2, Avery arrives to tell Berniece that he has found a place for his church and that what he now needs is a wife. Berniece tries to get Avery to rid the house of Sutter’s ghost by blessing it. Meanwhile, Avery tries to persuade Berniece to donate her piano to his new church, where she could play it and even start a choir.

Later on that night, in scene 3, Boy Willie arrives with Grace, a woman he has just met, but Berniece chases them both away. Lymon then arrives and, after complaining about his luck with women, offers perfume to Berniece, kisses her, and is rebuffed by her.

In scene 4, Boy Willie wakes up Lymon to tell him he has been offered $1,150 for the piano. Together they try, but fail, to move the piano, which elicits the sound of Sutter’s ghost, while Doaker informs Boy Willie that they are not taking the piano anywhere until Berniece comes home. Boy Willie leaves, telling Doaker that he is going to get some rope and wheels and that nobody is going to stop him from taking the piano.

In scene 5, Boy Willie sits attaching casters to a board in preparation for moving the piano while he makes one last defense of his need to make his way in the world with a farm; Berniece challenges him by mentioning her gun. Soon, Avery enters with his Bible, Lymon arrives with the rope, Boy Willie tries to move the piano, Winning Boy comes in and sits down to play the piano, and Grace, who has been waiting for Lymon in his truck outside, tries to get Lymon to leave. Amid all the confusion, Sutter’s ghost appears. Avery begins an exorcism and sprinkles the place with water, while Boy Willie engages in a struggle with the ghost itself. Berniece suddenly sits down at the piano and begins to play with rousing intensity until a calm settles over the house. Boy Willie, realizing Berniece’s triumph, urges her to keep playing and leaves to catch a train. Berniece, who has been enlisting the aid of her ancestors in her song, expresses her gratitude for the peace that has returned to her life.

The Play

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A play about family inheritance and legacy, The Piano Lesson revolves around a piano that has been in Berniece and Boy Willie’s family for several generations. The play opens with Boy Willie and his friend Lymon driving from Mississippi to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to sell watermelons. Boy Willie has another motive for going to Pittsburgh: He has his mind set on selling the family piano to raise enough money to buy a farm. Boy Willie believes that once he owns land, he can be the master of his own destiny. However, his sister Berniece disagrees; she refuses to sell the piano, although she hesitates to touch it. Avery, a self-anointed preacher and Berniece’s boyfriend, is also interested in the piano. He wants Berniece to give the piano to him so that he can raise money to build his own church. Berniece, however, wants to keep the piano in the family.

Doaker, Berniece and Boy Willie’s uncle, recounts the story behind the piano. It was originally owned by Joel Nolander. Robert Sutter, who owned Berniece and Boy Willie’s great-grandparents as slaves, wanted to buy his wife, Ophelia, an anniversary present. Since he had no money, he traded Berniece and Boy Willie’s great-grandmother and their grandfather for the piano. After a while, Ophelia missed having Berniece and Boy Willie’s great-grandmother around. At Sutter’s request, Berniece and Boy Willie’s great-grandfather, a first-rate woodworker, went to Sutter’s house and carved pictures of his wife and son on the piano. However, he did not stop there; he continued until the piano was covered with pictures of family members. Years later, Boy Charles, Berniece and Boy Willie’s father, started to believe that the piano belonged to his family and that so long as Sutter kept the piano, he had the family. Boy Charles and his friends managed to move the piano out of Sutter’s house and hide it while Sutter was at a picnic. When Sutter found the piano missing, someone set Boy Charles’s house on fire. When a mob found Boy Charles in a railroad boxcar in a train called the Yellow Dog, they set it afire as well. The fire killed everyone in the boxcar, including Berniece and Boy Willie’s father and four hobos. The people who died in the boxcar became known as the Ghosts of the Yellow Dog.

Before Boy Willie and Lymon start for Pittsburgh, James Sutter, Robert Sutter’s grandson, mysteriously falls into a well. Some people suspect it is not an accident, and Berniece starts to feel the presence of Sutter’s ghost in her house. Boy Willie is greatly annoyed by Berniece’s refusal to sell the piano. Acting childishly, he wants to cut the piano in half and sell his half. At Berniece’s request, Avery tries to bless the house, but his blessing fails to get rid of Sutter’s ghost. In panic, Berniece begins playing on the piano, chanting her ancestors’ names for help. Sutter’s ghost almost disappears.

At the end of the play, Berniece and Boy Willie reconcile. However, Boy Willie warns Berniece that if she does not continue to play on the piano, both he and Sutter’s ghost will return.

Dramatic Devices

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Wilson’s thematic accentuation of the continuity of history in The Piano Lesson takes on an epic scope that is emphasized in the characters’ names. For example, Berniece is named after the great-grandmother who was traded for the piano, and Boy Willie is named after a great-grandfather named Willie Boy. Doaker and Wining Boy also remind the audience of the bards in Greco-Roman epics, whose responsibilities are to ensure that the past and the present are connected. Both Doaker and Wining Boy are storytellers. Doaker is down to earth and makes judgments mainly on empirical experience. Because of his strong ties to the past, Wining Boy enjoys reliving the past in his stories more than he is interested in keeping up with the present. His sense of humor provides a thematic as well as stylistic contrast to Doaker’s seriousness. Both Doaker’s and Wining Boy’s stories are moving and mesmerizing. They are imbued in the richness, cadence, and rhythm of the African American vernacular tradition. Their stories provide historical information that makes possible fusions of the past and the present and of history and reality.

The epic scope of The Piano Lesson is also circumscribed by the presence of ghosts who are as much engaged in fighting for the possession of the piano as the living African Americans who are struggling to identify their relationship with history. The Piano Lesson is filled with ghost figures that reflect the influence of Magical Realism on Wilson’s writing. Ghosts in the play, such as that of James Sutter, haunt, confuse, scare, and bedevil people to a point at which they begin to question the adequacy of their own sense of history. There are also ghosts with whom Wining Boy and Boy Willie believe they can communicate. Boy Willie believes that people can talk to the Ghosts of the Yellow Dog. He explains to his niece Maretha:They like the wind you can’t see them. But sometimes you be in trouble they might be around to help. They say if you go where the Southern cross the Yellow Dog . . . you go to where them two railroads cross each other . . . and call out their names . . . they say they talk back to you.

The Piano Lesson starts with Doaker’s recounting the history of the piano to Boy Willie and Lyman. It ends with Boy Willie’s describing to Maretha the possibility of communicating spiritually with their ancestors. The continuum of the family history is delineated by legends and stories in which three generations of people find resonance.

Historical Context

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Slavery and Reconstruction
The widespread importation of slaves to America began in the 1690s in Virginia. Although slaves had been imported earlier than this, it was in the 1690s that indentured servants, who sold themselves to masters for contracts of five to eleven years in exchange for the price of their passage from England or Ireland to America and the cost of their keep during their indenture, were increasingly replaced by permanently enslaved laborers. Contrary to popular misconception, the colonists actually preferred indentured servants to slaves, for the latter were a more expensive investment. But after six decades of migration, there were simply not enough English, Irish, and Scots migrants to meet the colonists’ demand. The foundation was set for slavery in America: the kidnaping of human beings, their transportation from Africa to Jamaica, the West Indies, and North America, their forced labor in those colonies and later generations’ inheritance of their parents’ enslaved status.

It was the rhetoric of the American Revolution (1775-1783) that for the first time forced Americans to reconsider their attitudes towards slavery: the Revolution’s expressions of freedom and equality for all men was contradicted by the existence of an enslaved underclass. Some southerners and northerners briefly entertained emancipating the slaves (and repatriating them to Liberia or settling them in an empty part of America), but these schemes were soon abandoned.

During the ante-bellum period (the era before the American Civil War) strong opposition to slavery developed in the North. Partly in response to abolitionist attacks and partly as a result of the growing racism within southern society, southern slave-owners and apologists for slavery began to offer the public ‘‘scientific’’ and ‘‘philosophical’’ defenses of slavery.

As the decades rolled by, the gulf between the defenders and the opponents of slavery widened, although there was considerable overlap in misconceptions about blacks between the more conservative of the abolitionists and their opponents. The growing tension within society about slavery came to a head in the American Civil War (1861-1865). Should slavery be extended to the newly settled states of Kansas and Missouri? Should slavery be abolished in the southern states? What kind of labor system would replace it and would the agrarian South still be able to function economically, particularly in competition with the more industrialized North? What would happen to the emancipated slaves?

Although slavery was the key issue dividing the North and South, Abraham Lincoln prioritized maintaining the American union of states above all else. The Emancipation Proclamation issued on January 1st, 1863, emancipated slaves in the southern states; congress passed the thirteenth amendment in 1865, thus emancipating all remaining slaves.

The North’s triumph over the South in the Civil War and its determination to help the emancipated African Americans adjust to their new position in society soon subsided under a growing wave of conciliatory action and nostalgic sentiment for the South. The promises of the Reconstruction Era (1865-1876)—the dream of better treatment of and opportunity for blacks, and the possibility of integration and reconciliation between the races—were quickly cut short. Republican presidents adopted a conciliatory approach to the southern leadership. All hope of establishing a truly egalitarian society in the South was destroyed in the 1880s and 1890s when southern legislatures successively introduced the ‘‘Jim Crow’’ segregation laws that disenfranchised blacks and made true civil rights impossible.

During and after the Reconstruction, southern blacks struggled to define their new place in society. Although there had always been a small but signifi- cant free black population in America who enjoyed better educational and occupational possibilities than their enslaved brethren, most ex-slaves were trained for nothing but rural labor. The choices facing them were limited: they could either leave the land and work in urban factories or they could remain on the land as sharecroppers. Many chose to remain, but in the boom years of the 1910s and 1920s, and during and after World War I (1914- 1919) in particular, there was a mass exodus of southern blacks to the northern cities.

America in the 1930s
The 1930s were characterized by severe economic depression in America and abroad. The Great Depression had its roots in Britain and America’s punitive reparations policy after their victory in First World War, in technological advances that increased output and profits but made many workers redundant, and in depressed agricultural, mining, and textile markets. Stock-market speculation only concealed the weaknesses eating away at America’s economic heart. The stock market crash of 1929 did not trigger the Depression but rather was a response to and a confirmation of existing problems within the market and the international banks.

From 1929 to 1932, unemployment in America rose from about 1.5 million to about 15 million. On the land, in the early-1930s, good weather produced an over-supply in agricultural produce, but people in the cities went hungry. By the mid-1930s, drought and bank foreclosures had driven farm prices down by more than 50% and many tenant-farmers were forced off their land. Agricultural laborers, many of whom were black southerners, were as badly hit as factory workers in the city, who, like them, joined millions of others in the bread lines (welfare handouts for those who could not afford to buy food).

Nonetheless, President Herbert Hoover’s administration maintained an attitude of stoic indifference, believing that ‘‘market forces’’ would solve the escalating crisis—a proclamation that proved false. In March, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to the presidency. He immediately began implementing his ‘‘New Deal’’ reform plan: relief for the unemployed, fiscal reform, and stimulus measures to boost economic recovery. Roosevelt owed his election success in part to African Americans’ desertion of the Republicans—the party of Abraham Lincoln, which they had traditionally supported— for Roosevelt’s party, the Democrats. Both Roosevelt’s New Deal and African Americans’ switch in political allegiance transformed twentieth- century American politics. In subsequent decades, the struggle for African-American civil rights would be closely related to the politics of the Democratic Party.

Literary Style

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Naturalism
Naturalism is often confused with realism; however, although the two styles both represent ‘‘real life,’’ there are important differences between them. Naturalist writers were influenced by scientific and evolutionary theories of human character and of social interaction. One of the central motifs of Naturalist writing is the individual’s struggle to adapt to an often hostile environment. Indeed, most Naturalist writers emphasize their characters’ environment to such an extent that it becomes an integral element in their narratives. Moreover, their protagonists usually belong to a less fortunate class than their middle-class audience or readership, and the description of their struggle to survive and succeed against all odds usually allows the writer the opportunity to make powerful social criticism.

Wilson is considered a Naturalist playwright par excellence. Although the play’s conflict is triggered by Boy Willie’s sudden appearance, the drama unfolds during the Charles family’s everyday activities. Doaker describes precisely what kind of ‘‘ham hocks’’ he wants Berniece to buy, and he shares with her and the audience his plans to cook ‘‘cornbread and . . . turnip greens.’’ When Avery arrives to propose to Berniece, she is busy heating up water for her evening bath. The final climatic argument between Berniece and Boy Willie occurs while Berniece is combing her daughter’s hair. These kinds of details are the staple of Naturalism: they foreground the everyday experiences of the characters while deepening the veracity of the characterizations.

Like many American Naturalist dramas—Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, for example—the action of The Piano Lesson takes place over a short period of time: from Thursday morning to Friday evening. The brevity of the plot’s span intensifies the drama of the events that unfold, while the kinds of detail described above allow the audience an extraordinarily intimate glimpse of the family’s life. The brevity of the time frame is an implicit contrast to the length of the family’s history; this contrast emphasizes the Charles’ inherent problems in relating to and narrating their family history, since, when their family were illiterate slaves, they relied upon storytelling, music, and art, rather than writing, to recite and remember their joys and sorrows.

The African Tradition: Ancestor Worship and Storytelling
In the final scene, Wilson describes Berniece’s decision to play the piano as a ‘‘rustling of wind blowing across two continents.’’ The playwright himself merges two different cultural traditions within the play, the African and the American, and seems to suggest that this melding of cultures is essential to African-American identity. Ancestor worship is integral to African religious practice, and the spirits of the ancestors are believed to be able to influence people’s lives and cause good or bad events, depending upon whether the spirits are malevolent or benevolent. In fact, although ancestor worship is premised upon respecting and honoring the dead, the practice also ensures that spirits will remain benevolent and will protect the worshipers from malevolent forces. Neglect of the spirits removes their protection and may even incur their wrath.

The piano is the Charles’ family totem: it visibly records the lost lives of Berniece and Boy Willie’s ancestors, and it is the only tangible link remaining between past and present. Their ancestors’ spirits coalesce in the piano, which is precisely why Berniece’s mother, Mama Ola, polishes it, prays over it, and asks her daughter to play it. She keeps the shrine to her ancestors clean and pure and maintains her link with them by praying and playing it.

Berniece refuses to play the piano after her mother’s death because she ‘‘don’t want to wake them spirits.’’ Consequently, ‘‘they never be walking around in this house.’’ However, her refusal to honor the piano in the ways her mother has taught her means she has abandoned her African heritage and ‘‘disrespected’’ her family history. Berniece comes to realize that her neglect has allowed the Charles’ to be persecuted by Sutter’s ghost. When Berniece finally starts playing again and calls upon her ancestors’ spirits, she affirms the importance of maintaining African cultural practice and of honoring the history of slavery.

The other important African cultural practice in The Piano Lesson is storytelling. Again, this is a cross-cultural practice, but one that is particularly important to African Americans, who were denied formal education and literacy skills even after Emancipation. Slaves created or adapted songs and relied upon community storytelling to remember their heritage and history. Two scenes in particular hinge upon African-American storytelling.

Avery’s dream, which he narrates in Act One, scene one, reflects the importance of the Book of Revelations and of the scriptural promise of redemption to African-American Christianity. His narration of the story is a testimony to his conversion experience and displays the speech patterns of evangelical preachers. His dream is influenced by the New Testament story of Christ’s birth as well as by Old Testament stories of prophets being called and chosen by God. But Avery has cast these traditions in an African-American context: the pilgrimage begins in a ‘‘railway yard,’’ the three wise men become ‘‘three hobos’’ (who are reminiscent of the murdered hobos on the Yellow Dog), and he strongly emphasizes the ecstatic elements of the experience.

An even more important story is told in the next scene by Doaker, the de facto patriarch of the Charles family. Doaker uses the call and response structure that is common to African ritual practice and to evangelical preaching: ‘‘‘I’m talking to the man . . . let me talk to the man. . . . Now . . . am I telling it right, Wining Boy?’ ‘You telling it.’’’ He also uses rhythm to great effect by pausing throughout his story and repeats certain phrases to intensify its drama. Doaker’s story is the core of the play: it reveals the importance of the piano, and he is shown to be the one family member who still honors the ancestors’ spirits by telling their stories.

Many of the other characters tell stories about themselves during the play, a practice that emphasizes Wilson’s belief in the importance of the oral tradition to African-American identity. Storytelling keeps the past alive in the present, for it establishes the individual’s connection to their personal and cultural history. Survival depends upon the continuation of this practice across the generations: in the final scene of the play, Boy Willie begins to teach Maretha her family stories. He insists that if she knows about and celebrated her history, it will dramatically improve her self-esteem: she ‘‘wouldn’t have no problem in life. She could walk around here with her head head high. . . . She [would] know where she at in the world.’’

Compare and Contrast

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1936: President Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected for a second term by a massive majority. He wins every state but Virginia and Maine. Congress is 80% Democrat. Roosevelt’s unprecedented victory depends upon a big swing in the black voting population from the Republicans to the Democrats.
1987: Ronald Reagan is serving his second term in office. He had been reelected in 1984 by the greatest Republican landslide in U.S. history, having won in forty-nine states. Nonetheless, during his seventh year in office he attracts severe criticism for his involvement in the Iran- Contra Affair and his veto of the Clean Water Act.

Today: President Bill Clinton was reelected to office in November, 1996, with 49% of the vote, the first Democrat since Roosevelt to be reelected. However, his second term in office is marred by the Whitewater investigation and the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

1936: Eight million people are unemployed and the economy is in deep recession. Roosevelt’s New Deal offers support to the unemployed and attempts to boost the economy with public works programs and support for farmers.

1987: The 19th of October is ‘‘Black Monday’’ on Wall Street: a massive slump in share prices of over 20%. The crash is the worst in the history of the New York Stock Exchange, and the decline in stock prices is nearly double the 1929 plunge.

Today: Contrary to all predictions, the American economy continues to boom. The collapse of the Japanese and Mexican markets only affected the New York Stock Exchange briefly. The Dow Jones Index passed the 10,000 mark for the first time in January of 1999, the bull market continues to grow, and the unemployment rate is the lowest in forty years.

1936: Eugene O’Neill becomes the first American playwright to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

1987: August Wilson becomes the first African- American playwright to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama with his play Fences. In the same year, Rita Dove, an African-American poet, wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her collection Thomas and Beulah.

Today: African-American writers continue to accrue honors nationally and internationally. African-American novelist Toni Morrison became the first African American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1994, and August Wilson won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for a second time in 1990.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Sources
Barnes, Clive. ’’Piano Lesson Hits All the Right Keys’’ in the New York Post, April 17, 1990.

Brustein, Robert. ‘‘The Lesson of The Piano Lesson’’ in the New Republic, Vol. 202, no. 21, May 21, 1990, pp. 28-30.

Henry, William A., III. ‘‘A Ghostly Past, in Ragtime’’ in Time, Vol. 133, no. 5, January 30, 1989, p. 69.

Hill, Holly, K. A. Berney, and N. G. Templeton, editors. Contemporary American Dramatists, St. James Press, 1994.

Morales, Michael. ‘‘Ghosts on the Piano: August Wilson and the Representation of Black American History’’ in May All Your Fences Have Gates: Essays on the Drama of August Wilson, edited by Alan Nadel, University of Iowa Press, 1994, pp. 105-15.

Rich, Frank. ‘‘A Family Confronts Its History in August Wilson’s Piano Lesson’’ in the New York Times, April 17, 1990, p. C13.

Simon, John. ‘‘A Lesson from Pianos’’ in New York, Vol. 23, no. 18, May 7, 1990, pp. 82-83.

Further Reading
Genovese, Eugene D. Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made, [New York], 1974. Genovese’s exhaustive account of slave culture can be used as a source book for focused research. It provides detailed background for the culture in which Wilson’s character live in the 1930s.

Honey, Maureen. Shadowed Dreams: Women’s Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance, 1989. This valuable collection of women’s poetry from the Harlem Renaissance also includes a readable introduction to the period.

Morgan, Edmund S. American Slavery American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia, [New York], 1975. This ground-breaking work of scholarship outlines the economic basis to the development of slavery in colonial Virginia and its connection to white citizens’ increasing equality.

Nadel, Alan, editor. May All Your Fences Have Gates: Essay on August Wilson, University of Iowa Press, 1994. This collection of essays on Wilson’s major plays is a good source for secondary criticism on the playwright.

Raboteau, Albert J. Slave Religion: The ‘‘Invisible Institution’’ in the Ante-bellum South, 1979. Raboteau uses a rich variety of sources for his fascinating investigation into slave religion. His study also includes interesting discussion of slave religion in other colonies, such as the West Indies, and of African religious practice.

Savran, David. In Their Own Words: Contemporary American Playwrights, Theatre Communications Group, 1988, pp. 288-306. Savran includes an informative interview with Wilson in this collection, which he recorded in New York just after the completion of The Piano Lesson.

Bibliography

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Henry, William. “Exorcising the Demons of Memory.” Time, April 11, 1989, 77-78. A profile of August Wilson, his life, his work, and his beliefs. Surveys his work to this date.

Migler, Rachael. “An Elegant Duet.” Gentleman’s Quarterly 60, no. 4 (April, 1990): 114-144. Wilson and Lloyd Richards, the director of Wilson’s plays, are profiled. They discuss their effort on The Piano Lesson. Biographical information on each is given.

Savran, David. “August Wilson.” In In Their Own Words: Contemporary American Playwrights. New York: Theatre Communication Group, 1988. A probing interview of Wilson conducted by Savran on March 13, 1987, at the West Bank Cafe in New York City. Wilson talks freely about his beginnings in theater, his work, his experiences, and his political, social, and historical views.

“Two-Timer.” Time, April 18, 1990, 99. A discussion of Wilson on the occasion of his second Pulitzer Prize for The Piano Lesson. He has transcended the label of “black” playwright, but comparisons with Eugene O’Neill may be premature.

Wilson, August. “August Wilson’s American: A Conversation with Bill Moyers.” Interview by Bill Moyers. American Theatre 6, no. 3 (June, 1989): 12-17, 54. Interview focusing mainly on Wilson’s view of history, American society, blacks’ position in that society, and the way in which Wilson’s views relate to his work.

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