Piano Themes

The three main themes in "The Piano" are the power of memories, missed opportunities, and being transported by music.


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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

D. H. Lawrence's poem "The Piano" is a short, emotional piece about the poet hearing a piano player and reflecting on his childhood. The poet is remembering a time his mother played the piano and regretting not learning to play the instrument himself. This complicated mixture of feelings—both yearning and regret—are all too common among those who feel they could have done or accomplished more in their youth.

Idealizing Childhood Memories

One of the key themes of the work deals with the power of memories. Few would say that their childhood was perfect, but in looking back, they may mostly recall feelings of content and reflect on what seem like perfect times. It is all too common to look back on our past with rose-colored glasses, making everything seem more beautiful and exciting than it may have been. The speaker, in reminiscing about his youth, breaks into tears because of the joy he had and how idyllic it all seemed.

The Pain of Missed Opportunities

Another theme in this poem is the idea of missed opportunities. The speaker feels like he missed out on his chance in his younger days to learn the piano. Hearing the beautiful music, he wishes he knew how to play and laments the fact he didn't learn when he was younger. This is another very common human experience: it is easy to look back into your past and see all the things you were unable to accomplish and mourn those facts.

Being "Transported" By Music

A final theme in the work deals with the ability music to transport us. This is all too common in films and literature—to have a character hear a song and be instantly taken mentally to another place or time. The speaker hears the piano's melody and is transported back in time to when he was a young boy at his mother's feet while she played the piano. Music has an emotional quality that links it with certain things in people's lives, which is why a certain song may always bring back very specific memories. Lawrence capitalizes on this universal emotional connection to music to draw a powerful and relatable image.

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