Why is the piano itself such a powerful symbol to the Charles family? How does it come to carry such a heavy meaning? Provide at least three reasons. The piano itself is such a powerful symbol to the Charles family because it symbolizes their family history of slavery and the spirit of Sutter. In the time of slavery, Sutter’s grandfather liked Nolanders piano but he could not pay for it. From his perspective, black people were solely objections and was able to obtain the piano by giving Nolander 1.5 slaves. After they completed this trade, Miss Ophelia regretted it because she missed the company of her slaves. Boy Willie then carved their faces into the piano to help Miss Ophelia. In this situation, the physical piano demonstrates the dehumanization of slaves by Sutter.
Sutter's ghost becomes attached to the piano. The piano carries such a heavy meaning because Berniece has to overcome her fear of playing the piano in order to let Sutter go. The central conflict of the play is between two siblings. Describe this conflict on a literal AND a metaphorical level. What two philosophical stances does the conflict reveal? Provide details to support your analysis. The central conflict of the play is between the two siblings, Berniece and Boy Willie. Berniece believes the spirits of her ancestors are connected to the piano. She does not want to sell the piano or even play the piano because she fears waking up her family's spirits. Boy Willie, however, is uninterested in the piano's symbolism and family history.
He solely wants to sell the piano to obtain land without thinking about it. Similarly to the way Sutter traded to obtain the piano, without thinking too hard about it. Ultimately, it is revealed that Bernice was correct when she plays the piano to let Sutter go and help Boy Willie against Sutter. This demonstrates the philosophical stances and differences of ancestral connections. In what ways might the ending of the play represent a triumph of bravery over fear? (Or, if you disagree with Morrison, why does it not?) Write 2 paragraphs in which you defend your assertion. I agree with Toni Morrison in her statement that the play represents “the triumph of bravery over fear” most specifically at the ending of the play.
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Throughout the play, there is a constant struggle between whether or not there is an ancestral connection to the piano, whether or not to play the piano or even sell the piano. When Doaker and Boy Willie finally plan to sell the piano and physically move the piano, Berniece warns them of its ancestral connections but Boy Willie disregards her warning saying that he is not afraid of death. Boy Willie feels that because he killed a cat as a child he has conquered death and has no fears. Bernice then conquers her fear, plays the piano, and releases Sutter's ghost/spirit. The ending of this play was an ultimate moment of triumphing bravery over fear because even though Boy Willie to an extent caused this terrifying situation, Berniece knew what she had to do to save him. She played the piano even though she was scared, this brought up so many emotions and it was something she had stayed away from for so long. Berniece was brave, overcoming her fear to liberate Sutter’s soul.
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