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Brief introduction

The piano lesson is a play by playwright August Wilson. This particular play is the fourth of this particular author that talks about African American experience in the 20th century. It was first dramatized at Yale repertory theatre way back in 1987 and sometimes later on Broadway.  Just like the other Wilson's works explores African American's association especially at family level.  Particularly the "piano lesson" looks at the history of 20th century black Americans. The play may have been set during the 20th century but all that is contained there-in is relevant to the people (black and white) living in the 21st century.


The "piano lesson" revolves around two main characters who are Bernice (a woman) and Boy Willie. The two characters are siblings who have lived together through the good and the bad.  What has been brought out particularly about these two0 characters is the period that each of them is living. Boy Willie is a person who wants to live in the future while his sister Bernice lives in the past. Bernice insists that they should not sell their piano so as to preserve it as a legacy. Boy Willie on the other hand is of a very different opinion. He feels that they are living in abject poverty and this thing "piano" holds the key to financial liberation.  As expected the male character wins over the female character and the piano gets to be sold. One thing is very clear from the arguments that surround the selling/not selling of the family piano. It is expected that Bernice is fighting a losing battle and before long her brother Boy Willie would eventually be on top of things.

As a woman, Bernice feels that she has a role to play in her society. She feels that selling the piano would not necessarily emancipate them from poverty. She is very cautious on the way she does her things. She already has gone through a lot but she would rather encounter economic hardships but preserve what once belonged to her ancestors. Unlike men, Bernice represents that crop of women in the society who would walk extra miles to preserve what other people have worked so hard to achieve.   Women (as represented by Bernice) do not want to forget their history.  According to her, history is part of the present and the future. If you cannot recall or even preserve history, it then means that you do not know where you are coming from and most probably you cannot know where you are going. Precisely, the author wants to show us that the link between the past and the future is very important and women will always be there as custodians of this link.

Bernice has even more problems other than the sale of the piano. She has problems with her marriage and at some point in the play we are made aware of the fact that she has divorced with her husband. Now, she is single and she has a daughter to look after.  Here, Wilson shows us that the role of women is to try and bring families together. In her marriage, before she parted ways with her husband, she had gone through a lot of pain but she tried to do all what she could to let her family remain together. After the divorce, she tries to do her best to ensure that her daughter does not go through rough times in her life. As a woman, she wants to give her all to ensure that her daughter lives a life that is normal just like other children who are brought up by both parents.

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