The Piano Lesson responses

What do you think “the piano lesson” is?
I think “The
Piano Lesson” is about learning to accept the past and moving on. Bernice and
Boy Willie are the two characters that get the most out of the lesson. Bernice cannot
let go of her family’s history, more specifically, the burdens her family
faced. For that reason, she does not want to sell the piano and cannot overcome
her fear of playing it. Boy Willie believes that Bernice is wasting an
opportunity by keeping the piano and not doing anything with it. He wants to
build on his parents’ legacy by buying land. In the end, they both learn to acknowledge
the past and move on in their lives. Boy Willie realizes how much the piano
means to Bernice and Bernice learns that it is unnecessary for her to keep her
family’s burdens inside of her. Together, they are able to accept their family’s
past and learn from it.

Why did August Wilson choose this title?
            August
Wilson chose this title because the lessons the characters are taught in the
play relate to the piano. The play does not have anything to do with an actual
piano lesson. Wilson uses the piano as a center piece in a conflict between
Bernice and Boy Willie. By the end of the play, all of the characters learn
something because of the main conflict. Each character learns different things
that affect them greatly.
 

How is it that Boy Willie comes to
understand the importance of the piano in the final scene of the play?
            Boy
Willie finally understands the importance of the piano when Bernice plays a
song. In the beginning, Boy Willie does not understand why Bernice does not make use of the piano. He wants to build on what his parents left him by 
selling it to purchase land. However, after Bernice plays a song on the piano, he
comes to understand how much the piano means to
Bernice. He realizes that nothing will be able to replace the sentimental value of the piano
since it carries so much of the Charles family history. 

What is significant about Bernice
calling out the names of her dead family members?
            Bernice
plays on the piano only after she sees Boy Willie and Sutter’s ghost wrestle.
She realizes that to get rid of Sutter’s ghost, she must overcome her fear of
playing on the piano. When she plays on the piano, she sings a song that calls
out the names of her dead family members. This is significant because by
calling their names, she is able to address the burdens that are inside of her.
Bernice accepts the fact that they are just her ancestors and she should not be
mourning over them. Bernice feels free after she releases her feelings in the
song and is able to move on. 

What purpose does this serve?
            By
overcoming her fears and playing the piano, Bernice’s perspective on the
Charles family changes. Bernice learns that she does not need to worry about
her family’s history and carry the burdens of her ancestors. She figures that
she is strong enough to let go of the past and continue on with her life.
Bernice also realizes that it is possible to remember the past without keeping
the burdens trapped inside of her. In the end, she is ready to live a better
life and not dwell on the past. 


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