The Piano Lesson

In: English and Literature

Submitted By amie426
Words 1955
Pages 8
The Lesson the Piano Teaches The play, “The Piano Lesson”, takes place in Pittsburgh in 1937. It uses The Great Depression as a backdrop and hints of the black migration from South to North after the end of the Civil War and before desegregation in the South. The play is about a dispute between a sister, Berniece, who has moved to Pittsburgh and her brother, Boy Willie, who still lives in Mississippi. The brother wants to sell a family heirloom, a piano, to buy land down south. The sister wants to keep it in the family because of its family history and association with tragedy. The piano has carvings on it done by their great-grandfather and depicts important events in the lives of the Charles family during slavery. There is also the ghost of John Sutter, a member of the Sutter family who owned the Charles family during slavery times. He hovers over the piano and seems to not want the piano to be disturbed. The title of the play suggests that the play is about someone teaching a piano lesson, but the story is really about the lesson the piano teaches. The piano teaches this family that their ancestry and history are important but that one should not dwell in the past or base the future on dreams of symbolic retribution. Berniece and Boy Willie are the great grandchildren of Berniece and Willie Boy Charles, slaves owned by Robert and Ophelia Sutter. “Chattel slavery contributed significantly to pre–Civil War economic growth in the United States. The invention of the cotton gin (1793) dramatically increased the demand for slaves by lowering the cost of cotton production and inducing landowners to expand production beyond coastal areas. Approximately one million African Americans were redeployed from the upper to the lower South via a well-organized urban-based internal slave trade (African Americans).” As slaves they were not entitled to own property because they…...

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