Berniece, the Central Figure of The Piano Lesson

Essay by xnightowlxCollege, UndergraduateA-, April 2014

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Berniece, the Central Figure of The Piano Lesson

August Wilson's play The Piano Lesson is an incredibly powerful story that speaks of the link a piano has with the ancestry of an African American family. This piano is a narrative of the struggles of this family, and how far they have come from days of slavery. The piano has played an instrumental part in the history, even having been traded for slaves. In this story the conflict primarily involves a brother, Boy Willie, and a sister, Berniece. Throughout the play, Berniece takes on a certain role as expectations are placed upon her, making the struggle to find herself that much more difficult.

The focus of the conflict involving the piano involves the fact that Boy Willie, who is not always the most noble of men, wants to sell the piano and get money and hopefully pull himself up in society.

Berniece is insistent that the piano never be sold because it possesses the history of their people, their struggles, and ultimately has a spirit of its own. She has not played the piano since their mother died, but she is still unwilling to part with it. The Piano Lesson could possibly have told Berniece's story, the attempt of a strong woman to salvage the family history from a brother who would sell it. Through this statement one can see that one of her roles, and what she expects of herself, involves being the keeper of the history of the family. There is likely many elements within her character that believe that, if she were to sell this piano, their history would be gone and that it would demonstrate a lack of respect and appreciation for where they came from and the struggles of previous generations.

Berniece firmly believes in...