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Climax in the Piano Lesson

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Climax in The Piano Lesson
The climax in The Piano Lesson comes when Berniece is driven to play the piano that she has not touched in years. This action causes a cascade of changes in the main characters.
The protagonist in the play is Berniece. From August Wilson's stage direction, "Thirty five years old, with an eleven year old daughter, she is still in mourning for her husband after three years" (1.1.62-63) In describing the Charles house, the stage direction adds, "although there is evidence of a woman's touch, there is a lack of warmth and vigor" (1.1.4) This last statement could just as well be describing Berniece. Having lived through the tragic loss of her father and more recently the loss of her husband, she does not want to deal in the past. We get a feel for her detached and cold existence when her brother shows up.
Boy Willie, primarily the antagonist, is the polar opposite of Berniece.
[He] is thirty years old. He has an infectious grin and a boyishness that is apt for his name. He is brash and impulsive, talkative, and somewhat crude in speech and manners. (1.1.16-18)
Having driven two days from Mississippi, he shows up at the Doaker house before dawn, waking the house with an abnoxious childlike exuberance. Unaffected by her brother's happiness to see her, Berniece sees no joy in this reunion. The news that Boy Willie delivers—that Sutter, a descendent of the slavers that owned their family, has been pushed down a well by ghosts of the past—is just another unwelcome link to events Berniece would rather forget. Without as much as a hello, it's not long before Berniece asks, "When you and Lymon going back? […] That's what you need to do and you need to do it quick." (1.1.147,150) She does not yet even know the true reason for his visit, so the situation only worsens when she find out that he came intending to sell the family's heirloom piano. It is this intention to sell this very personal piece of their family's history that drives the action throughout the play.
Almost worthy of being considered a character itself, the piano is the central object around which all of the action rotates. Beautifully carved in the likenesses of her ancestors, it is a work of art that holds the charge of generations of pain and triumph. Berniece has a particular closeness to the instrument.
"When my mama died I shut the top on that piano and I ain't never opened it since. I was only playing it for her. When my daddy died seem like all her life went into that –piano. She used to have me playing on it … say when I played it she could hear my daddy talking to her. I used to think them pictures came alive and walked through the house. I don't play that piano cause I don't want to wake them spirits." (2.1.368-376)
Now, Boy Willie wants to sell it to purchase the land that the Sutter family owned. From Boy Willie's perspective, it is not only the ultimate form of justice to claim the land that once lay claim to his family, it is also what he believes his father would have wanted. These actions seem to have attracted the ghost of the recently deceased Sutter, who has been increasingly terrorizing the Doaker household. Sutter's grandparents purchased the piano in exchange for some of their slaves, including Berniece's grandmother. A generation later, the piano was stolen from the Sutter family by Berniece's father, and act that ended up costing him his life. It was widely believe that Sutter has something to do with it, if not directly responsible. This is part of the justification Boy Willie sees for selling the piano, as he believes it is earned money due to the loss of their father and decades of slavery.
The play's climax comes when Boy Willie is finally ready to take the piano. In the final scene of the play, all hell breaks loose when Boy Willie and Sutter's ghost end up in a violent wrestling match. In the midst of all this chaos and violence, Berniece realizes that the only way to exorcise the ghost is to call upon the spirits of her people. Playing the piano awakens something that had gone dormant for far too long, the spirit of her lineage. These spirits chase away the negative energy surrounding the piano, and the paranormal events come to a stop. More importantly, playing the piano reawakens something in Berniece. As past and present are allowed to meet, change sweeps over everyone in the house. WORKS CITED
Wilson, August. "The Piano Lesson." Living Literature: an Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and drama. John C. Brereton. New York: Pearson, 2006. 1918-1975. Print.…...

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